Tuesday, January 15, 2008

MacWorld report: iZap, Apple MacBook Air, iPhone and AppleTV

The picture shows an electric car called the Zap, which someone appears to have decided that it needed a few upgrades to become the iZap. Jet motor, rotor blades and iPod interfaces....

I tracked the MacWorld keynote via the Macrumors site on my iPhone this morning. It worked very well, with updates being pushed every few minutes. Over-all there was some good stuff released, but I think expectations were higher.

Later in the afternoon I dropped in on MacWorld for an hour or so, which was plenty of time to check out the interesting stuff.

The MacBook Air is another hit product, destined to become a geek status symbol. It looks good, feels good to use, and has the option of a solid state disk. I had some hands-on time, and I want one.... They are expensive, but the format is very well designed, and I expect it will come down in price and get new options over the coming years. To make the case strong enough despite being thin, there are more curves in the case (curved metal is much stronger than flat sheet) and it has no large holes in it. So there is no removable battery pack, and each key has its own small hole in the casing. It actually looks more mechanically robust than my MacBook pro.

I hoped to find some interesting third party iPhone applications but didn't see anything worth mentioning. I played with a demo iPhone with 1.1.3, it had a bunch of safari based games bookmarked on the second page of icons. Once I got home I upgraded my iPhone, its running fine and the new features work well. They were well leaked a few weeks ago, so there is nothing new to report. The iPod touch picked up the missing set of applications as I expected, but Apple want $20 for the privilege. This is the first example of optional applications, and charging for applications, and I expect the mechanism will get well tested by the Touch then it will be introduced for the iPhone and third party applications.

I have had an AppleTV for six months or so, and the upgraded software looks much better. I don't think I will be renting or buying many movies, but the user interface is better, and the ability to browse both audio and video based podcasts could be interesting. I mostly use my AppleTV for YouTube, playing music and sharing photo albums. One new feature is the ability to pull up photo albums over the Internet from the .mac galleries generated by iPhoto. I've been using .mac for years, and the latest (Leopard) version of iPhoto galleries is very slick and well integrated.

Apple also introduced Time Capsule, which is a network backup server combining a 500GB or 1TB of disk with an Airport. The hardware was not on show as far as I could tell, and it looks similar to the AppleTV package, but with more Ethernet ports and no video port. Personally, I don't want two separate products in this space, I want an AppleTV that operates as a Time Capsule and Airport. I want to backup my laptop and be able to play the music and video directly from the backup copy.

I'm disappointed that there was no new iPhone hardware or Leopard upgrade, and no business oriented iPhone software. I guess that's going to be featured in the next show....