Macworld Expo: Jobs vs. Gates

Macworld Expo: Jobs vs. Gates

Summary: Apple CEO Steve Jobs strides across the stage of the Macworld Expo keynote on Tuesday and the computer industry pauses for an hour and holds its collective breath. Again, Apple delivered the goods, in hardware innovation, in services and in partnerships. What a contrast to last week's pathetic performance of Microsoft — the industry leader, right? — at the CES show in Las Vegas.

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TOPICS: Banking, Apple, CXO
126

Macworld Expo: A tale of two keynotes

Apple CEO Steve Jobs strides across the stage of the Macworld Expo keynote on Tuesday and the computer industry pauses for an hour and holds its collective breath. Again, Apple delivered the goods, in hardware innovation, in services and in partnerships. What a contrast to last week's pathetic performance of Microsoft — the industry leader, right? — at the CES show in Las Vegas.

"I always root against corporations, because that's the way I am, but not this one. Not this one, it's not the same," said composer songwriter Randy Newman between songs at the Macworld Expo keynote. He was talking about Apple, of course, and the crowd ate it up.

Newman added that it was hard to follow an act like Apple CEO Steve Jobs. For most other acts in show business and for most other businessmen in the world, this statement would be just seen as politeness to the host. But today, it had a ring of truth.

Apple continues to innovate and work with its partners to carry that innovation forward with real products, software and services. This strategy creates real user value. From the reaction of the buying public — and not just from the Mac faithful — they appreciate this innovation.

But more importantly for its customers, Apple doesn't talk about its innovation: it executes on its technology.

Let's look at a couple of examples demonstrated in the keynote on Tuesday:

MacBook Air. Instead of waiting for its chip partner Intel to shift to a new, faster process (or use a current-generation lower-performance processor), Apple worked with Intel to shrink the packaging on the Core 2 Duo by 60 percent. Jobs said this was what let Apple reduce the size of the notebook's logic board.

According to Intel CEO Paul Otellini, Apple came to Intel to request the change over a year ago. "When we started this project we didn't think it was possible. The product that we ended up building for [Apple] is about the width of a dime, it's as thick as a nickel; it has 400 million really fast really efficient transistors. It is state of the art."

Is the processor in the MacBook Air a Penryn? From the comments in the keynote, it didn't sound like it. We will soon see. In addition, the new notebook introduces Remote Disc, a software install for Macs and Windows machines that lets MacBook Air owners "borrow" the optical drive of a remote machine. It's clear that Remote Disc leverages Apple's Bonjour wireless discovery and configuration technology.

Macworld Expo: A tale of two keynotes: MacBook Air

iTunes Movie Rentals. Instead of getting just a few studios to come along with their content, Apple appears to have them all. Jobs said, "We've got it all together," pointing to the rental plan, as well as the revamped set-top box.

Jim Gianopulos, chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox described the new online store as a "transformative version of the retail model."

"VOD, video rentals, are not a new thing. They are certainly available in other ways and continue to be, and people may make those choices. But there was music and then there was the iPod; there was the phone and then there was the iPhone. So, Apple does things in very intuitive, insightful and innovative [ways] ..."

But the Apple connection with the content provider continued. Shipping each of its new DVDs, Gianopulos said, would be a digital copy that customers can play on their iPod and computer.

Macworld Expo: A tale of two keynotes: iTunes Movie Rentals

(Note that Apple offered the new capabilities of the Apple TV for free as a software update. And the same thing was done for the new features added to the iPhone and iPod Touch. Would a PC vendor have done the same?)

Here's the problem for the rest of the industry (and it's why everyone else hates Apple): The company keeps innovating and keeps executing. It's that simple.

Now, Microsoft likes to think it's the thought leader in the industry. It thinks big, but often keeps coming up short, meaning that we may or may not wind up seeing a particular technology in a product for sale.

Or worse, the company and its products look silly. Case in point, we're all growing tired of MS Surface.

The buzz meter isn't rising with half-baked demonstrations of Microsoft Surface, a product that seems to have plenty of applications but no buyers.

According to Mary Jo Foley in All about Microsoft, the "only truly futuristic technology that Gates showed during his hour-plus CES appearance was a piece of visual-recognition software under development by Microsoft Research that, some day, may be integrated into cell phones and other devices."

Gates pointed a black-box mock-up device at faces and the software instantly recognized and identified them, providing all kinds of related information (like how much money they owe you). Point the device at a theater and it provided the theater name, address and a list of movies playing. Gates showed a slick, 3D interactive interface that would act as the central focal point for all of the visual data stored on a device, organizing it into browseable categories.

But that's the problem isn't it? Microsoft and Bill Gates (and the rest of the captains of the tech industry) are busy showing off their great technologies.

Apple, on the other hand, just shows off great technology in products as well as partnerships that solve customer problems. That keeps being Apple's differentiator.

Topics: Banking, Apple, CXO

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126 comments
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  • Solving Problems

    The Air is stylish, but what problems does the thinness of this laptop solve? The laptop is not supremely light nor does it have a significantly reduced footprint. On the other hand, the laptop is more fragile. Mobility has actually suffered when one considers a dead battery cannot be swapped out for a fresh battery. The lack of an optical drive may on occassion prove to be a problem, like when trying to install an app while on the road. The single USB port no doubt will result in use of an external hub. Lack of an Ethernet port means network file transfers will be slower.
    carrilion
    • NO... NOT QUITE.

      All you need to do is charge or recharge the system with an external battery. I bet the first to enter the market with this will make a killing.
      Hard Cider
      • Sure make the notebook thinner and lighter ...

        ... and make the user carry a bunch of external devices which add weight and bulk. Brilliant!
        ShadeTree
        • How many external devices do you need?

          Most places now have Wireless. No?

          USB Ethernet Dongle for those who don't
          USB Hard Drive for extra files.
          USB Super Drive for those pesky CDs.
          AC/DC Adapters.

          Although if you think about it, you don't really ned the Super Drive with the drive sharing technology.

          So that leaves you with 4 devices.
          nucrash
          • You forgot the USB

            sharing hub. That is a lot of extra baggage. For the few pounds you save on the device, you make up for in extra baggage. I think it would be more convenient to carry an ultralight that includes everything than to try and hook up 4 or 5 external devices everytime you sit down to use your PC.
            It's more of a novelty than a practical device.
            xuniL_z
          • Innovation?

            I don't think the Macbook Air is innovative at all. Or, better yet, it's the same innovative as roll-up keyboards and trackballs you can hold and use with just two fingers. It's thin, but so what? I have a 5-year old Sony with just a slower processor that is 3/4 inch thick... The only think I think these need is an innovative charging cord that is built into the laptop. At the price point and feature set, a Sony using the new Intel chip is just as good.
            Again, how thin should a laptop be? Make me a laptop using an oled display that's the size of a treo with a foldout screen to 7". That's what I'm talking about.
            plovelace@...
          • Where do you share that drive from while ....

            you are in your hotel room ???
            mrOSX
    • Mac Users are strange

      We measure our computers in terms of processing power and capacity. We measure our laptops in weight (or lack of it), length of battery life and screen resolution.

      So what benchmark does Apple choose to attack? Thinness!!

      Apple Air users can't claim, the most powerful, the fastest, the most capacity, the most built in features, longest battery life, lightest weight or anything vaguely useful.

      They can though in typical Steve Jobs fashion claim to be the thinnest - now there was a problem we never saw coming up - I never saw all those people yelling out 'darn it - this laptop is just too thick' or 'rats - this laptop has too many interfaces and drives'
      paul@...
      • my thoughts exactly!

        It's a nice thin notebook, and nevermind buying a sturdy case, a plain vanilla shipping envelope works fine. This baby is not for the road in any case. Thin does not make it portable.
        Form over function, Apple strikes again, A few years back, it was those wild colors, then the Cube, then we got that goose-neck-lamp-thing iMac, and now? Color is out, white is back in vogue, and you pay $200 more to get your Mac Book in black? Jobs is indeed an artist, some may even say he's the ultimate con artist.
        Boxarox
      • You sound like a dilbert stereotype.

        [i]We measure our computers in terms of processing power and capacity. We
        measure our laptops in weight (or lack of it), length of battery life and screen
        resolution.[/i]

        [i]Apple Air users can't claim, the most powerful, the fastest, the most capacity, the
        most built in features, longest battery life, lightest weight or anything vaguely
        useful.[/i]

        Probably because Mac users are aren't trying to impress our friends with Mhz
        ratings. You list a bunch of benchmarks as if that anybody really cares if one
        computer is 2.1% faster at floating point calculations than another. The Macbook
        Air is beautifully crafted with cool features and is vastly capable for the needs of a
        consumer level laptop.

        A few points:

        Processing power: 1.6 or 1.8 Ghz Core2 Duo processor is faster than most of the
        subcompacts out there is more than capable for everyday computing.

        Capacity: Can you name another subcompact laptop that has a larger capacity solid
        state HD?

        Battery: 5 hour battery life while not record breaking is not bad considering this is
        the smallest battery to ever fit inside a laptop.

        Resolution: Macbook has a widescreen 13.3 TFT LED with 1280 x 800. I did a
        quick comparison to a few comparable Wintel laptops and here's what I found:
        Dell XPS M1336: 13.3" screen 1280 x 800
        HP TX2080P: 12.1" screen 1280 x 800
        Lenova Thinkpad X61: 12.1" screen 1280 x 800
        Just about where everyone else is.

        Weight: 3lbs. nuff said

        So, the Macbook Air doesn't beat every laptop on every point. (No one claimed it
        did and more importantly no one cares.)
        Tigertank
        • Totally missing the point, as usual...

          Nobody cares about what's inside (so long as it's not terrible).

          The entire point of this is to be able to pull it out of your briefcase at meetings and make everybody else feel clunky.

          Period.
          jinko
          • You mean the point on your head?

            Nyuk nyuk.

            I don't know if it's the whole Mac Vs. PC B.S. that taints discussion on these talkbacks, but I think the average person is not trying to make other other computer users feel bad when they buy a nice computer.

            Now I am an architect not an IT guy, so I am always thinking about design but I think most people are attracted to beautiful things because it makes them feel good.
            Tigertank
          • Right, up until the point

            You try to connect to the wired network in the boardroom (hold on whilst I get my dongle) and hook up the the projector (hold on, I need another dongle) to play the dvd you were just handed (here, do you mind installing this on your clunky laptop, I don't have a media drive).

            Yeah, you'll be cool alright.
            rtk
          • Right, up until the point? you missed it, RTK

            Talk about reaching. The Mac Air is clearly targeting home users and different business types that don't sit in boardrooms. They are sitting on couches, coffee shops, trains, and airplanes. All places that don't need those all of the extra crap Apple has thrown out for this model. Most laptops I see never use all those connections anyway. If you need those types of connections you obviously buy one of the other two types of Apple laptops. I bet the sales on this thing creams other laptops from HP, Dell, Gateway, Sony et all, then it will be cool. I have an HP Tablet, love it, and won't be switching, but I wish it had the design and features of the Mac Air. I rarely need my ethernet, optical drive, or VGA, would love to have that weight off and the extra space in my briefcase.
            The Ash Man
          • He may have been addressing the blogging about how this gets Apple into the

            Enterprise.
            xuniL_z
          • so, just to be clear.

            This is not targeted at business and "road warrior" types. It's designed as a secondary laptop for a home user.

            Got it. The market's even smaller than I'd imagined.
            rtk
          • oops. wrong machine

            Gosh, if you want to do all that, and you bought a Mac air, then I think you bought the
            wrong computer. Fortunately for Apple, lots of people don't want to hang out the
            boardroom and play DVDs over the LCD projector.
            springerj
          • it's the wrong machine for most people.

            It's targeted at so small a market segment as to be non-existent, a secondary laptop for a home user.
            rtk
        • No, you're trying to impress b/c it's pretty

          To which I say, "who cares"

          You said:
          [i]Mac users are aren't trying to impress our friends with Mhz ratings. You list a bunch of benchmarks as if that anybody really cares if one computer is 2.1% faster at floating point calculations than another. The Macbook Air is beautifully crafted with cool features and is vastly capable for the needs of a consumer level laptop.[/i]

          I'm not going to buy a computer as a jewelery accessory, I buy it for its functionality. But maybe I'm crazy for being practical.
          If the computer doesn't do what I want it to do, it's useless to me, regardless of how pretty it looks.

          I read you're an architect. Perhaps that's why you just care about how it looks. Perhaps that's why you also need structural engineers to approve your drawings.

          I do admit that I like the multi-touch mouse pad thingie on the MacAir. And I so because I actually see some functionality to it.


          Regarding one of your points:
          [i]Capacity: Can you name another subcompact laptop that has a larger capacity solid state HD?[/i]

          Oh I don't know, any laptop you can open up, maybe? It's not really that big a deal, it's not as if Apple is the only manufacturer that uses 64GB hard drives... All you need to do is buy the hard drive. In fact, I would recommend you do that with your Mac Air, but since you can't really open it and upgrade it at will then that's not really an option for you, now is it? You'll just have to overpay Apple to install the HD for you.

          pretty indeed
          tikigawd
          • Don't project your insecurities on me.

            [i]No, you're trying to impress b/c it's pretty[/i]

            That was whole point I made in my last post. People like beautiful things because it makes them feel good. It's actually built into our DNA on a basic level.

            Some bitter trolls who lurk around these message boards like to insult everyone who doesn't use the same computer they use, but it has been my experience that the average person outside of ZDnet does not.

            [i]I read you're an architect. Perhaps that's why you just care about how it looks. Perhaps that's why you also need structural engineers to approve your drawings.[/i]

            This what I mean by bitter. Personal attacks because I like the Macbook Air and you don't. (By the way, it's the opposite: structural engineers don't approve architects drawings; architects approve the engineering drawings. And as a further side note I am also an engineer.)

            [i]I'm not going to buy a computer as a jewelery accessory, I buy it for its functionality. But maybe I'm crazy for being practical.[/i] and [i] I do admit that I like the multi-touch mouse pad thingie on the MacAir. And I so because I actually see some functionality to it. [/i]

            So first you insinuate that the Macbook Air is not functional (or at least compare its functionality to to a jewelery accessory) but then you go on to list the reasons why you like it's functionality. One or the other, but if you really think that it is not functional you should provide a link to some studies that prove this.

            Finally,
            [i]Regarding one of your points:
            Capacity: Can you name another subcompact laptop that has a larger capacity solid state HD?
            Oh I don't know, any laptop you can open up, maybe? It's not really that big a deal, it's not as if Apple is the only manufacturer that uses 64GB hard drives[/i]
            64GB is the highest capacity SSD drive available for any laptop Mac or PC. I asked if you could name one with larger capacity. The point is, The Macbook's general specs are similar to most other high-end subcompacts out there and even have some features that they do not. So it's a little disingenuous to call it functionless and just a fashion accesory.
            Tigertank