Today at noon (our time, anyway), Apple put a black t-shirt on Uncle Steve, and like Willy Wonka, he proceeded to extoll the virtues of all the new things we didn’t know we needed.
First off, let me start by saying that I want a guitar like the one they used for the signature image from the keynote:
Now on to the fun stuff. Beck, @braddog and I went to lunch — regular Wednesday occurrence for us — knowing that during lunch, Uncle Steve would begin the presentation. As it ends up, the place we frequent has apparently put in a wifi hotspot. Score!
Apple had announced that they would stream this event live, so with the discovery of wifi, I set up my iPad to watch the keynote live. Jay had his iPad following the Engadget live text feed from the auditorium floor, and I did the same with my iPhone. Yes, it was geekapalooza.
So what’d Steve announce? Well, in no particular order…
New iPods were all over the place. There was a refresh of the iPod Shuffle announced. Apple decided that the pill/hairclip/borg-implant format of the now-previous version of the Shuffle wasn’t exactly a big hit. I mean, there were no buttons on it anywhere. Aside from providing a mystery for our childrens’ childrens’ children when they cull through the landfills we left behind, there’s really no use for a device with no obvious interface. Enter the new Shuffle… or, is it the old Shuffle? It was really a back-to-the-future moment to see the new Shuffle rolled out, looking almost exactly like my old trusty red Shuffle. It’s a tad bit smaller left-to-right, but still sports the great big ol’ alligator clip on the back. Hurray! Nothing new for me though. Mine’s a 2GB, and I think the new one will go to 4GB. For what I use it for, there’s not much need for the extra capacity, Voice Over, Genius Playlists or any of the other new little things.
The refresh of the iPod Nano was definitely a cooler machine… kinda. About the size of an iPod Shuffle, the new Nano has no click-wheel, with everything controlled through a touch-screen interface on a teency screen. This one also has an alligator clip on it, which I think is a great addition for something that small. But — and there’s always a “but” — there are some missing features. The new Nano does not have a camera, leaving the Nano 5G as the oddball of the line for having one. I’ve also been led to believe that you can’t watch video on the new Nano. These are both kinda big things — philosophically — for me. Uncle Steve sold us on a Flip video killer last year with the 5G Nano, with the ability to shoot 640×480 video, as well as watch video shot with the thing or imported from iTunes.
My guess is that the drop of the whole video concept has a lot to do with the success of the iPhone 4, and the introduction of the new iPod Touch. The new Touch has a front-facing camera for FaceTime video chat, as well as a rear facing camera (although my understanding is that it’s not as high resolution as the one in the iPhone 4). Cameras have been rumored for a looooong time on the Touch, and it’s nice to finally see them show up. The Touch also gets a high-resolution Retina display, just like the iPhone 4. I was disappointed though that the capacity wasn’t really increased from the current top end of 64GB. If I remember right, the original introduction of 64GB to the Touch happened mid-model year, so maybe an increase to 128GB will happen a little later.
And to support all this, iTunes 10 was announced. Frankly, these are normally just updates to handle the new devices, but this time, there’s the addition of a social networking element to sorta tweet your music purchases, preferences and likes to an opt-in community of other music fans. This sounds kinda cool, but until I see it, my jury is still out. You see, I kinda expected to come home tonight, and be able to download it. No such luck so far. Even the iTunes site at apple.com is still sporting iTunes 9.2 with a “coming soon” for version 10. Uncle Steve probably said something about it not being available yet, but I missed that.
Another cool announcement was for iOS 4.1, which is available next week. Instantly, I thought my iPad would finally get the benefits of multi-tasking and folders, but this was not to be. That’ll come in iOS 4.2, which is due in November. Bummer. However, Uncle Steve threw us a bone. Along with bug fixes, iOS 4.1 will add an HDR feature to the Apple-supplied camera application. This is cool, cool territory, and definitely a bit of a trendsetting move. Basically, it’ll take three shots in quick succession — not three images from the same pixel capture on the sensor, apparently — and then blend the underexposed, properly exposed and over-exposed images into a single image with a broader range of light captured than a single image can produce. This has been easy to do in software on the desktop for a while, but the addition of this into iOS 4.1 will really rock. Can’t wait until next week to try it out. (Privately, my prediction is that by the end of 2011, it’ll be hard to find a camera that doesn’t have this feature built-in.)
The last big announcement — the “one more thing” moment — was an updated version of AppleTV. This product’s been around for a while, and has sorta been the stepchild of everything at Apple, being called the “hobby” by Uncle Steve. Well, no more. Basically, the new device is a streaming device for your TV, letting you rent streaming content (films and TV episodes) to your TV, stream content from iTunes on your computer, stream photos from iPhoto, and apparently loads of other new things. No storage, a quarter the physical size of the current Apple TV, and no power brick (man, everyone should get that message!), all for $99. No subscriptions, no contracts. Way cool. And yes, I ordered one. It’ll be here in four weeks. At that price, it’s hard to make a mistake in picking one up, even if the thing is incredibly crappy, which I’m not expecting.
Yeah, I know I haven’t mentioned AirPlay yet, but frankly, I’m not sure I understand enough of what it does to describe it yet. One thing it does seem to do is allow you to stream video or audio from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch to your TV through the AppleTV unit. That’s as much as I know about that one so far.
So… what’s the score?
- Thumbs up on the return of the old iPod Shuffle design.
- Thumbs down on the dropping of video and camera from the iPod Nano. (And because of that, my iPod Nano will now be relegated to the “don’t get rid of it” pile here at the Deauxmayne.)
- Thumbs up for the cameras on the iPod Touch, and…
- Thumbs down for not increasing the capacity on the Touch.
- Thumbs up for HDR in iOS 4.1.
- Thumbs down for not bringing iOS 4 to the iPad until November.
- Half a thumb up for the new iTunes 10.
- Thumbs down for not having iTunes 10 available now!
- Two thumbs up and a toe for the new AppleTV.
I think Uncle Steve wins!
EDIT: iTunes 10 is available for download now!!!!!