10.1.07

MacWorld Expo Keynote

This morning featured the Steve Jobs keynote for the annual San Francisco MacWorld Expo, a favourite vacation destination of mine (I've gone 6 times in the past dozen or so years). Nothing says welcome to January like the San Fran pilgrimage by the Mac faithful.

There's no shortage of content out there regarding the transpirings of the event, so I'll be brief with my remarks. Basically, I'll restrict myself to why I don't care about what was introduced.

AppleTV: It's a good start, I suppose. A set-top box for the rest of us, to borrow a phrase. I'm currently in a position where I have a very viable system in place for viewing downloaded content on my TV. For better than 3 years now, I've had a DivX-capable DVD player which quite easily handles DivX/XviD, MPG, MPG2, etc. No WMV (thank God!), no fringe stuff (mkv containers, etc.). Just the basics, just the formats in which most downloadables are distributed. Download, burn to DVDRW, watch, erase, repeat. So, I don't need a set-top box.

720p maximum resolution... uh, what? Jobs proudly stood on stage at the 2005 (that's two years ago for those counting) San Fran keynote and declared that to be the YEAR OF HD. So... it's now 2007... and the Apple set-top box can't even do full HD resolution? Sorry, not acceptable. Amazingly enough, I've not seen this comment/complaint mentioned on any news sites I've read (maybe I'm not reading the right ones?). 1080p TVs are finally plentiful and are entering the realm of nicely priced, and Apple ships... uh, this. Okay, so my TV doesn't support higher than 540p (I don't count 1080i, which it does support) so if I were to use an AppleTV I'd get downsampled content (kinda like with a PS3, if I had one). Some might say I bitch because I can't even get the 720p offered by the device, but that's not the case. I bitch because the thing is incomplete at best.

No raw MPG/MPG2 playback? No VOB playback (yes, yes, VOBs are just MPG2 files, shush)? I can understand the lack of DivX/XviD playback due to the stigma attached to it, but come on, not all of us have video purchased from the iTunes Store. I live in Canada, by definition I *CAN'T* have video content purchased from the iTunes Store. If I buy a set top box (and wow there's no shortage of much cheaper options with much wider capabilities) and it can't play back what I want to see, then what use is it?

So much for "the rest of us."

iPhone: This is a sweet, sweet product. I won't deny that. It's so sweet, it's completely useless to me. Lack of Canadian availability aside, I dig the swiss army knife concept, but it's overkill, man. I don't want the cell phone I have now; I don't want a cell phone, period. I don't care about portable video; I'm quite content with music when I'm out and about. I have a USB flash drive if I want to carry around photos, and yes Virginia, loads of DVD players have USB ports for uses just like that. Internet on the go? I love the net, don't get me wrong, but I can go days without using it or checking my mail... I have no use for the ability to remotely see how many penis enlargement spam emails I have sitting in my mailbox.

GSM... that might be a good thing for the Yanks, but up here, at least from what I'm told, that's not a great idea. The sole GSM-capable carrier here is Rogers/Fido, and last I checked, the Rogers network was abysmal at best. I'm told the data costs on the network are also obscene. No, for Canada we need a 3G phone IIRC. Jobs in the keynote said Apple was investigating 3G handsets, but if they released such a thing, wouldn't that have an adverse effect on the internet capabilities when not in range of a WiFi hotspot (I don't actually know the answer to that)? GSM and the SIM card slot will be wonderful for the European market though, and I'm glad to see Apple at least endeavouring to make a product that can be used globally. It sucks to see cool cell phones and smartphones out there whose abilities are restricted to a given geographical region or mobile carrier.

The coolest part overall would have to be the interface. It rocks. Nothing comes close to it. I won't get into details, but for the curious, make sure to check out the video stream of the keynote to see the cool nuances offered by the interface. Oh, and the random access voicemail is very cool... but that's nothing which will be available outside the US, unless Apple/Cingular license or sell the technology to Rogers, Orange, Vodafone, whoever. That's assuming I'm getting things straight with the network infrastructure requirements for that capability.

So. One thing is severely inadequate for today's market, the other is extreme overkill. Mash the two of them together and you meet somewhere in the usability middle.

AppleiTVPhone? Nah, go with what Eric Schmidt said... AppleGoo!

802.11n Airport Extreme: While not covered in the keynote, Apple also released a draft-n spec router. Which looks just like the form factor of the AppleTV. Coincidence? Hmm. Still... draft-n. I don't own any 802.11n devices, and if 802.11b & g have taught us anything, USB adapters with wireless n capability will be few and far between for Mac availability, if we see any at all. I just bought a new router 6 months ago anyway, I don't want to spend MORE money on another one. Certainly not for $200. While other companies have far cheaper alternatives, nothing is as sleek-looking as Apple's offering. Oh, and after selling wireless routers for like 7 years or so, Apple has finally thrown in some ethernet ports on the back of the router. Way to join the party, guys.

The upshot of all this is I have zero urge to part with my money. I love Apple, but the more stuff they release, the more I realize I'm well outside their target demographic. My needs/desires are either vastly greater or lesser than what they offer.

The downside... all the stuff that should have happened but didn't. How about a progress report on Mac sales? Market penetration? Leopard progress? New displays? The options scandal? There are a dozen stories crying out to be told which weren't. Instead, we get products that miss the mark for a whooooooole bunch of people.

I love Apple, but, baby, why you always gotta make me hit you?

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