Steve Jobs is on stage at Apple's headquarters introducing the new iMacs. I am sitting in the second row and prohibited from taking photos unless I move to the back row with the professional photographers snapping away with motor drives. Steve looks the same as last time so you aren't missing anything.
He touted the high quality glass, plastics and aluminum of the new iMacs, as a way to give them a more professional look. It's a refresh, with the 17-inch is going away, and the price going down, starting with a 20-inch system for $1,199 and up to $1,799 for the 24-inch model, which is $200 cheaper than the version it replaces. "It's stunning, even thinner than before," Jobs said. The iMac also sports a new wireless or wired keyboard, with dedicated keys for the dimmer, Expose, volume control and other functions.
The new iMac...check out the Engadget play-by-play coverage by Peter Rojas and Ryan Block of the event
Jobs said that the laptop and desktop Macs are growing at 3x the rest of the industry.
Jobs announced iLife 08, a completely new version of the suite for $79 and available today. "It's the biggest jump in iLife since we first introduced it," he said. iPhoto now catalogs photos as events, and allows you to "skim"(patent pending) through the thumbnails like slideshow. "We think events will dramatically enhance ability to enjoy photos," Jobs said. The 'event' feature is common to services like Flickr.
Apple has 1.7 million .Mac subscribers, Jobs said, as a preface to announcing .Mac Web Gallery, which integrates with iPhoto 08 and iMovie 08. It has one-button photo sharing for creating Web galleries, rich AJAXy viewing, 'print-quality' downloads and integrated with the iPhone. Not revolutionary, but very slick.
Jobs talked about a brilliant Apple engineer who came up with new way of editing video that is "startlingly better." iMovie 08 maintains its own library of videos and skim to preview feature similar to that of iPhoto. "It's a far superior way to look at stuff and find videos in your library," Jobs said. He showed scrolling through videos in the thumbnail view:"Isn't this incredible," he said.
The major improvement in creating movies is the ability to grab seconds or minutes of video from various clips like selecting text. Jobs demonstrated the ease of creating a movie and adding music with iMovie 08. "You can imagine in 20 minutes you can make a really cool movie like this," he said.
iMovie 08 allows you to share videos with iTunes, .Mac Web Gallery, Media Browser or YouTube, and videos can be saved in Mobile, Medium and Large (better than DVD resolution) resolutions.
You get the idea that Jobs hopes to turn the .Mac service, which he said is growing at a "nice clip," (which means not great given he typically uses words like "stunning" or "spectacular") into a Web applications platform to attract users. The .Mac service is available for $99.95 per year and now provides 10 gigabytes of storage.
I would expect Apple to move strongly in the direction of creating a more full fledged Mac application platform for the Web that integrates with the desktop apps.
The new iWeb 08 now includes mashups with Google Maps and integration with embedded code and widgets. Nothing new on that front--Apple is catching up on this front. Google AdSense has been integrated into iWeb 08. iDVD has been enhanced with faster performance and new themes. "For people who still want to make DVDs, we are going to make it better," Jobs said, intimating that making DVDs are passe. GarageBand O8 has also been updated, including Magic GarageBand, an easier entry point into the software.
Jobs continued with the software update, introducing the $79 iWork 08, with updates to the various components in the suite. He said the iWork has sold 1.8 million copies to date. Pages includes contextual formatting, change revision bar and 140 Apple-built templates. Keynote has new effects and transitions that Jobs loves.
Filling out the suite, Jobs introduced a "spreadsheet for the rest of us." Numbers allows several sheets on a canvas, for editing or viewing multiple spreadsheets. "You can import and export almost all Excel documents," he said, acknowledging that a spreadsheet in today's world must be friendly with Microsoft Excel. However Numbers will not import Excel macros.
All of the demos Jobs gave of Mac software were consumer-oriented. He doesn't appear to be making a case for iWork as a competitor to Microsoft Office 08, which has been delayed.
During a Q&A session,I asked about the Mac as a business tool. "Generally our share is moving up in every way. Eleven of the last twelve quarters the Mac business has outgrown the industry--and 3x over the last three quarters," said Apple COO Tim Cook. "Clearly consumer and education are much larger."
"There are a lot of other apps that run on the Mac, such as Microsoft Office," Jobs added. "Don't discount the fact that a big part of business is communications oriented. A lot more business have to sell internally and these tools are useful." He pointed to creating movies with the Mac as a way that business sell ideas internally.
Jobs also said, "A lot of Windows customers will switch because of this stuff." He was asked if his goal was to overtake the Windows PC in market share. "Our goal is to make the best PC in world and be proud to sell and recommend it to family and friends...and at the lowest price. We just can't ship junk. There are thresholds we can't cross because of who we are. There is a very significant slice of the industry that wants that too. Our porducts are not usually premium priced...the difference is that we don't ship stripped down, lousy products. If you move those aside and compare us, we compare favorably with competitors."
After the presentation, I asked Jobs about bring more of iLife and iWork to the Web. He said he can't make the applications as interactive as he would like on the Web. The Web as an application platform clearly hasn't the reached a threshold where Jobs can build build what he wants yet.
Instead, Jobs will let Google, Zimbra, Zoho, ThinkFree and others (Microsoft) pioneer the hybrid application world that marries the Web and desktop with a collaboration foundation until the bandwidth, tools and horsepower can handle to core of an Apple application like Keynote.