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MacWorld 2008 Keynote Highlights

January 21, 2008

By Greg Gazin - Apple Gaziní - G4 Canada

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For the Mac Enthusiast, one of the greatest things about a new year, after New Year’s Eve, is the always anticipated Keynote from Steve Jobs, the CEO, Apple Inc.   Prior to the keynote, which this year was on Jan 15th, rumours had run rampant including supposed leaked drafts of Steve’s keynote. A new MacBook, a Tablet Mac, a sub-notebook and iPhone part-deux were all part of the mill. But Steve has been playing this game for a long time. Perhaps it was Steve himself that let slide these vicious rumours.

Truth be told, we’ll never know. And as always, Jobs, never disappoints. There is always something in the air - especially this year. That message, adorned banners hanging outside Moscone Centre in San Francisco, the location of MacWorld Expo.

At 9AM Pacific Time, Jobs graces the stage in his black turtleneck and blue jeans and reminisces about the successes for Apple in 2007 and thanks everyone showing his excitement and pleasure that Apple had sold 5 million copies of Leopard ( Mac OS 10.5) in the first 90 days since it’s release.



Time Capsule

The first new product announcement was Time Capsule, a companion product to one of the new features introduced in Leopard called Time Machine.  (Time Machine gives you the ability to automatically backup your computer to an attached external Hard Drive).

Time Capsule, as Jobs says  “ is a backup appliance that will allow you to do away with that wire forever” and as well,  backup all computers in your house- wirelessly. Keep it in a locked up in a closet, if you will, as it’s an external device that has a built-in WI-FI 802.11n wireless networking, an Airport Extreme base station and a server grade hard drive. It ships in February and will come in 2 configurations; 500GB for $ 329 and 1TB (1000 GB) for $529.   Watch the ad here.


iPhone/iPod Touch

Jobs was happy in telling us that in the first 200 days, Apple had sold more than 4 million iPhones, on average 20,000 per day, ranking them only second to RIM with their Blackberry.

Sadly, there is still no official word for an iPhone for Canada. Nevertheless, for the handful you here in Canada that managed to get your hands on an iPhone, there were no major upgrades announced, despite rumours of an iPhone 2.0, but there is a software update  that added some neat enhancements.  These include:  The ability to customize and keep up to 9 different home-screens; the capability of sending SMS  text messages to multiple people at once; a new feature called Webclips - which allows you to take clips from the web and add them to your home screen.  Furthermore, the iPhone now also supports Chapters and Subtitles in your movies and if your music has lyrics, those are supported as well. And finally, Maps with location. This allows you to find places and get directions to those desired locations. Since iPhone does not have GPS, a major criticism by some of the iPhone, it cleverly utilizes technologies from Google & Skyhook wireless using a method called triangulation from both a series of cell towers and WiFi Hot spots to achieve this feat. The software update is available now and is free for all iPhone owners.

On the iPod Touch front, which uses the same operating system, sans cellar radio, 5 new applications were introduced. These are:  Mail, Stocks, Maps (like iPhone), Notes & Weather. The Touch also gained the iPhone’s homepage, Webclips and audio visual enhancements as well.  For existing users these new features and enhancements can be had for a mere $20.00 and is downloadable from iTunes Store.



iTunes Movie Rentals

In the US, with the support of every major studio, Apple introduced movie rentals, including first run films (those that you can get on DVD) , through the iTunes  Store.  This is certainly a natural extension of the iTunes on-line marketplace that has evolved from more than just music. They’re expected to have over 1000 movie titles available by the end of February. Rentals are US$2.99 for library titles and US$3.99 for first run flicks.

Instead of buying titles outright, you rent them.  Jobs stated that rental made sense for movies since few people watched movies more than once, but preferred to listen to their music over and over.

Once you hit the “rent” button, you can start watching in less than 30 seconds.  ”There are rules“, Jobs says. Basically, you have 30 days after you rent it to start watching it and once you start watching it, you have 24 hours to finish viewing and you can watch your selection as many times as you like during that period. You can even transfer while watching. So if you are in the middle of a movie, Jobs says, you can transfer the flick to your iPod and you’re on your way.  You can also watch it on your Mac, PC, iPhone and all video capable iPods.  Jobs did not announce a date for Canada stating a ”later this year“ launch for International.



Apple TV

Since its launch last year, Apple TV was one item I had my doubts about, especially because of the lack of content here in Canada and its necessity of being tethered to iTunes running on your Mac. But during his presentation, as Jobs bridged from iTunes movie rentals to Apple TV, he said,  ”What about our widescreen TVs?“  He conceded that ”we“, referring to Apple, Amazon, Tivo  Microsoft, Voodoo and Netflix have all tried to successfully get movies over the Internet to widescreen - ”But we all missed!“ Apple’s donation to this cause was of course, Apple TV.

Jobs explained that Apple TV- was supposed to be an accessory for iTunes and your computer but concluded with, ” But that’s not what people wanted...what people wanted was movies! Movies! Movies!“   Hmm! I guess not every Apple product is a whopping success - initially!

Enter Apple TV - Take 2.  ”It syncs beautifully with your computer“ Jobs says, ”but no computer movies directly on your Widescreen TV“.  Renting can be done in both in DVD Quality (and HD - High Definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound for US$1 more on selected titles).

But there’s more. With Apple TV, you can now also watch audio and video Podcasts, view photos from Flickr and .Mac and videos from YouTube. From your TV, in addition to renting movies, you can also buy TV and music from the iTunes store and sync it back with your Mac and then play them from your Mac.

To make this all work nicely, Apple has totally enhanced the user interface. Thank You Steve!  All these features, will now make Apple TV useful. If you already own an Apple TV, good news! Your upgrade is totally free! For those who have not taken the plunge, you too have good news.  Apple has extended the carrot and dropped the price of the 40GB model to $249 and the 160GB to $349.



MacBook Air

That ”Something in the Air“ we eluded to earlier on was the foreshadowing of the announcement of the worlds thinnest notebook - MacBook Air.  At only 0.76“ at its widest point and 0.16” at its thinnest, Jobs unveiled this wedged-shaped incredible piece of engineering to the world by pulling it out of an inter-office envelope.

The all-aluminum ultra-thin case ports a 13.3“ back-lit LED display, full-size backlit keyboard designed specifically for MacBook Air, built-in iSight camera and a 1.8” 80GB hard drive (the same type used in the iPods) with an optional 64GB Solid State drive. The processor is a specially redesigned, at 60% smaller than its predecessor, Intel Core 2 Duo running at 1.6Ghz with an optional 1.8Ghz chip available. “ A width of a dime and thick as a nickel”, says Paul Otellini, CEO, Intel Corp.

The trackpad supports multi-touch, taking a page out of the iPhone manual. A drop down door exposes a USB 2.0 port, a Micro-DVI connector for external video and a headphone jack.  It also has built-in wireless 802.11n & BluTooth 2 and Apple’s patented Magsafe power adapter. Whats absent from this featherweight is a FireWire port, an Ethernet jack and an optical CD/DVD. 

So how do you install software that comes on CD or DVD?  Easily! No problem!  Steve thinks of everything. Apple does assume there is another computer within reach somewhere. They will include a utility called Remote Disc that will allow you to wirelessly “borrow” the services of an optical drive on another Mac or PC “in the vicinity” as Jobs says.  Tres Cool!, Sadly, Jobs gave no further explanation at this time. If you do want your own drive, an external Superdrive is available is an add-on for US$99

At $1899, the MacBook Air is priced between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro line, unless you would like to upgrade to the optional 1.8Ghz model with a 6GB solid-state drive.  That will cost you $3248.

Unless otherwise specified, all prices are in Canadian Dollars. For more details, you can hit

Watch the Entire Keynote in standard def or HD, including some entertainment from Randy Newman. It’s free and certainly worth the investment of 90 minutes.


Greg Gazin can be reached at gadgetguy “at” telus “dot” net.

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