Journal, Technology

Apple Keynote

All over the world, people are speculating as to what Apple is going to announce on Monday’s Keynote at MacWorld San Francisco. The Apple Hype Machine has been at some impressive levels in the past, but what we’ve seen recently takes the cake. Check out some of the headlines from the Apple web site over the past week:

  • Monday: “This one is big. Even by our standards.”
  • Tuesday: “Count the days. Count the minutes. Count on being blown away”
  • Wednesday: “Beyond the rumor sites. Way beyond.”
  • Thursday: “It’s like a backstage pass to the future.”
  • Friday: “To boldly go where no PC has gone before.”
  • Saturday: “Full speed ahead. Lust Factor Ten.”
  • Sunday: “Just one more sleepless night.”

There’s little doubt that Apple will rev the iMac with an LCD monitor. The product has seen little changes since its introduction in 1998. I remember being at the unveiling of the iMac at the Flint Center in San Jose. It made quite a stir then, but expectations were low at the time for Apple.

Expectations in 2002 are much higher, but no one really knows what Steve Jobs is going to announce. Will there be a new Apple handheld announced? Unlikely, since that market is too saturated with competitors at the moment. If they do announce a handheld, they will position it in such a way to not directly compete with the likes of PocketPC or Palm. Are they going to announce speed-bumped desktops and laptops? Probably, since it’s time for a refresh on those lines (PowerMac and iBook).

We’ll find out all tomorrow morning. I will be at the Apple Store in Palo Alto, where the keynote will be broadcast via satellite. It should be quite the event!

Update: January 7, 2002 @ 13:13

So, the announcements have been made. A larger (14-inch screen) iBook model, iPhoto (the fourth quadrant of Apple’s Digital Hub Strategy), and a stunning revision to the iMac highlighted Steve Jobs’ keynote at MacWorld. Among the things that were not announced were handheld computers or speedbumps for the professional Mac line.

The new iMac is certainly visually stunning. It’s amazing what elegance and simplicity the industrial design team at Apple has created over the past year. The iPod, the Cube, and now the new iMac look like they belong in a museum, not on some desktop!

Jobs mentioned during his speech that their strategy is to innovate. I found that comment highly interesting, especially when compared to similar comments made by Palm’s interim-CEO, Eric Benhamou. In a recent article in the New York Times, Benhamou stated that Palm hasn’t been very innovative recently. “We simply did not innovate enough… We have made it a priority to correct this trend.” Too little too late for Palm? While other companies have been restructuring and laying off employees, Apple’s been hard at work at redefining the personal computing experience. Jobs said, “We think we see the future, and that is in the digital hub.”

That’s a blow right in the face of companies like Palm, which becomes but a component within this digital hub in this view. The company has seen its share of hardship over the past year, but I think much of it has been self-inflicted. We’ll see if they can right the ship over the next year with the current management team. If not, we might be seeing another Palm executive on stage at MacWorld San Francisco 2003! I did feel bad for Todd Bradley, the COO of Palm’s Solutions Group Division. Jobs called him Tom Bradley when announcing him onto the stage. Ouch!

Service done right

I received an email this morning from Palm, in which they reminded me that they were shutting down the Web-PIM portions of the MyPalm Portal. In a news.com article several months back, Palm stated that one of the reasons for shutting down the service was that it was not providing a positive revenue stream for the company. By relying on advertising to be the primary revenue stream, Palm tied its fortunes to the advertising boom which never materialized. And, like hundreds of other Internet companies that are no longer, the Web-PIM portions of MyPalm will be gone on January 10, 2002. Sigh.

Now, compare that with what Apple has done with iPhoto. They are taking the photo printing business and tying it deeply with their hardware and software. While it remains to be seen whether or not Apple’s photo (and book printing) service will succeed, it appears like it’s the right way to create and sustain a service revenue generator.

Apple Store impressions

I arrived at the Apple Store in Palo Alto around 7:30. There were few people in line, unlike at the opening of the store on October 6, 2001. When they opened the doors around 8:40, the line had wrapped around the corner with people of all ages, many equipped with video cameras and digital cameras.

During the keynote, there were over a hundred people crammed into the back of the Apple Store, eagerly watching and applauding Jobs’ every intonation (including me!). A collective “wow” came from the crowd when he presented the iMac commercial. Although I think some people would have liked to have seen more from Apple, I think that everyone was generally pleased with the new products. I for one am looking forward to testing out iPhoto. It looks like a great tool for organzing the thousands of photos that I’ve taken with my digital camera. I only hope that it supports the Firewire connection on my 1D. If not now, then soon, Apple?

People

I met a few interesting people while standing in line. Mark turned out to be a fellow Symbolic Systems graduate (like me). Mike was travelling from Montana and was in the Bay Area to watch the keynote. The three of us talked extensively about digital photography and digital video, two components of Apple’s Digital Hub Strategy. Jobs mentioned that authoring is the media of the new generation. Kids like Alex are going to take this concept to levels that us old-timers can’t even begin to imagine, I feel. Most people my age grew up with the DOS Prompt or the Atari 2600. These kids are growing up with XBox, iMacs, and digital media. They have access to enormous creative authoring potential. I’m a bit jealous, but then again, I have access to those tools as well!

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