Apple’s Last Hurrah

Apple gave its last keynote at Macworld today. There’s been a lot of buzz about the fact that Apple was going to pull out of Macworld, and even more buzz about the fact that Uncle Steve wasn’t going to deliver the swan song. However, at the end of the day, Apple went on stage today, and spilled the new goods. My opinion?


Three big things were presented, plus “one more thing.” Updates to software were two of those — iLife ’09 and iWork ’09 — along with a new 17″ MacBook Pro and the announcement of the death of DRM in the iTunes Music Store.

The software updates to iWork didn’t grab me. However, the updates to iPhoto (part of iLife ’09) really impressed me. Apple has introduced face recognition in images — a kind of holy grail for archivists, I think — that will allow iPhoto to find all photos with a specific person’s face in them… within reason. If someone’s face is distorted — being kissed on both cheeks, for example — then it appears it may not work as well. But gosh, the number of images it will work on is going to be such a wonderful thing! There’s also support for geotagging, Google Maps, and all kinds of things that will make the iPhoto experience that much better.

For me, this brings a pretty good quandry to the surface. I’ve been using Adobe Lightroom as my DAM tool. However, it doesn’t have some of these nice bells and whistles promised in iPhoto. iPhoto couldn’t handle big image catalogs like mine, although I hear it manages large catalogs much better nowadays. LR also does a great job of non-destructive editing, and iPhoto seems to touch on that a bit, but I’m not clear on just how well that’s handled. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to playing with iPhoto later this month when it’s released.

On the hardware front, I fully expected to exhale a giant “D’oh” after the MacBook Pro announcements. However, the only thing announced was the obviously-needing-to-be-updated 17″ MBP, and frankly, for about $300 more than my 15″ MBP, you don’t really get that much. Bigger screen, sure, but the rest of the things that make the machine work bigger/better/faster/more just don’t seem to add up to the difference in price… and the extra pound of weight to carry around. So yeah, the new machine is an incremental improvement over my 15″ MBP, but it really does seem to be just a tiny evolutionary wiggle.

As for the DRM free iTMS… well, it’s about time. I hate that it’s 30¢ per track to “upgrade” existing purchases to DRM-free formats, but I think it’s gonna be well worth it. Higher sample rates and more freedom to use tunes I’ve purchased on gear I own will make this a worthwhile uptick. Frankly, I’ve got less than 200 tracks that I’ve purchased through iTMS — I’ve always just bought the CDs and pulled them into iTunes. With the new future of iTMS though, I may be a bit more inclined to purchase full albums digitally. It does seem as though the record companies have finally come to terms with electronic distribution, and I’m pleased that I’ll be able to take advantage of it with iTMS.

So, in general, meh. But there were some jewels today in iPhoto and iTunes that will bear some watching.