In a ritual that is as old as Macworld Expo itself, Macintosh loyalists lined up yesterday in the pre-dawn hours to get the low down on the latest offerings from what is arguably the most creative company in the computer industry.
Breaking with its tradition of “silent running” in the days leading to a keynote presentation Apple pulled out all the stops in promoting this event on their website, going so far as to tell people to “Count the days. Count the minutes. Count on being blown away.” That is of course precisely what many people did, spending untold hours scouring rumors sites and scouring media outlets and going so far as camping out to assure a place in line.
Users jammed the hall at Moscone center to see the event live, crowded the Apple stores to watch a satellite broadcast, and logged on for a Webcast of the high-energy presentation that touched on the Mac OS, iPhoto, iBook, and the revolutionary new iMac.
A euphoric crowd showed their support time and again as Jobs demonstrated the features of iPhoto and presented the successor to the venerable iMac. Applause, cheers and whistles interrupted the presentation on several occasions and at one point brought a smile to Jobs’ characteristically poker-faced visage.
With a day for the news of keynote to sink in, both attendees and industry insiders alike have begun to sound off on the latest offerings from Apple. From both industry representatives and Mac fans (as well as the gushing Time Magazine, which spoiled the surprise with an early release of their coverage), reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I think the iMac is sensational,” commented Michael Rubin, senior product manager, Consumer Products for Nikon. “It’s stunning looking, incredibly powerful, and makes a great workstation or home setup. Anyone doing digital photography can just pick up a printer and have a complete digital darkroom.”
Rubin explained that Nikon knew a digital photography product was coming from apple, yet didn’t know the specifics. “I think it’s exactly what was needed, on either platform,” he added. “When [Microsoft] released XP, that was a good start… iPhoto has such a great Mac interface. The promise that digital photograph has always had is starting to be delivered at the OS level.” Rubin is looking forward to further enhancements with iPhoto (for example it does not currently support the D1X’s proprietary format), the same way many did with iTunes. “We saw what happened from iMovie to iMovie2. These products take care of the needs of about 90 percent of the consumers, and we’ll [look forward to] their evolution.”
Epson’s Director of Photo Imaging Keith Kratzberg is also impressed with iPhoto. “We think this is great,” he commented from company headquarters after reading about iPhoto online. “We’re happy to see that Apple is pushing things another leap forward in terms of ease of use and value for the consumer. Epson has been at the forefront of the digital photography revolution, especially in printing at home, and it looks like iPhoto is going to be one of the great new tools.
“Digital photography is funny in that we’ve been dealing with it for a long time, but there’s still a tremendous amount of growth, and tremendous amount of innovation ahead. We’re on the precipice of replacing [conventional photography]… and I think that this is a great example of how some fresh thinking can make a big difference in a user’s experience.”
Slightly overlooked in the hype of iPhoto and iMovie was the fact that OS X will now ship as the booting operating system on the Mac. Microsoft’s Erik Ryan, of the Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit, is positively thrilled about the state of OS X acceptance. “The fact that OS X is the default system on all machines is encouraging. The strategy of being fully OS X focused is a positive thing, and the industry is excited.”
Tim Mcdonough, director of marketing for Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit sees this as a tremendous advantage. “The most exciting thing from my perspective is that 10.1 is the default boot. That gives us a great market for our products.” Not surprisingly Tim feels that the new iMacs help to attract new users of all sorts. “I think this will broaden the Mac line. Apple will be able to hit a range of price points.”
Industry executives aren’t the only ones pleased with the new releases. Mac users have been blown away by the cutting edge design of the iMac. Foster Bass, a Java developer, watched the satellite broadcast with dozens of other enthusiasts at his local Apple retail store at Palisades Center in West Nyack, New York. “The new iMac is amazing looking,” said Bass. “I see so many people with monitors on phone books to get the height right for them. It’s about time someone in industrial design took note.”
Bass however took Apple to task for some limitations he discovered in iPhoto after rushing home to download it. “I can’t find a way to view existing files [that I’ve imported] by their real names so I can’t easily find them on my hard drive. And I can’t add them as an attachment in email, which is probably the most common form of picture sharing.”
“More troubling,” he adds “is how it handles my files. After importing my media folder, I now have a folder called ‘iPhoto Library’ in my ‘home/username/pictures/’ directory. Size? 1.29Gb.” He points out that unlike iTunes, there’s no way to make iPhoto link to separate media sources which means pictures can’t be stored on second drives, or in multiple folders. He also pointed out that iPhoto keeps a copy of each file manipulated through the browser. “This means that if I were to import a batch of files, and then rotate them, I would end up with the original folder of images, and copy of that folder that would be twice as large.”
Gilbert Irias, senior graphic designer for Grafxdude watched the streaming webcast of keynote from his office in Redwood City, CA, and also was impressed with the new machine. “As a designer, I need more internal expansion and a larger screen. But for a consumer, the iMac is perfect. I’d buy one for my mom or my girlfriend with no problem.”
Despite all the excitement though, not everyone was thrilled by the announcements, the least of all Irias. “The iMac is great but Apple’s site said ‘Beyond the Rumor Sites.’ I don’t think so. I expected gigahertz speed bumps to the rest of the product line based on the great specs for the new iMac.”
Irias isn’t the only one. With unprecedented hype from Apple comes unprecedented dissatisfaction at what was painfully missing. “I’m disappointed that there was nothing new in the pro line,” commented Dylan Neid, who traveled from Toronto to attend Macworld. “[The desktops are] really lagging behind. It would be nice to see a gigahertz G4 or a G5.”
These comments echo the feelings of many surveyed leaving Moscone center, that something was missing from Apple’s keynote, some item that would have made these announcements, as Apple’s website put it, “Big. Even by our standards.”
Still one can’t help but to bask in the glow of a new product like the iMac. It’s not every day that Time Magazine puts a desktop computer on its cover, and it’s not every day that consumers get treated to the release of the most groundbreaking computer (or dare we say, Digital Hub) introduced since… well since the original iMac.
As members of the media gathered in Apple’s booth after the keynote, Phil Schiller, Worldwide Director of Marketing summed it up best. “We worked hard to make the new iMac something great for Mac users, and PC users as well. Hopefully millions of people will see that this is the coolest thing we’ve ever done.”