Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard that Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone at the Macworld Keynote on January 9, 2007. I did actually speak with someone a week later who hadn’t heard of the iPhone—so perhaps I may be wrong about a person’s dwellings. Macworld is huge—Apple’s largest annual gathering of the Mac-faithful and there were some notable new products and notable absences.
Before getting into the iPhone, I should apologize for joking that we would all eventually be doing our work on iPods – Apple’s ubiquitous portable media player. I’m sorry because it turns out that I may have been correct—the iPhone is the next generation iPod that will run Mac OS X and will eventually run applications. Apple had been expected to introduce a telephony device since they registered the domain name iphone.org back in 1999. In fact, I remember reading a criticism of the Apple Newton pda that said it should have also included a cellular phone 14 years ago. So I suppose it was only a matter of time. Many pundits knew Apple would most likely introduce a phone this year—but I don’t think that anyone fully appreciated how promising it would be. For those of you under the rocks, Apple stock rose quickly after the announcement and RIM and Nokia’s stock both dropped.
Once again Steve Jobs took to the stage and pulled a rabbit out of his hat. He had just finished introducing the AppleTV, a device that streams movies and music from your iPod and computer and displays it on your television—another product that will change the way we pay for and watch TV shows and movies. The AppleTV was quickly eclipsed by the iPhone, which combines a widescreen iPod, a cell phone and an Internet browsing device. But wait you say, “Aren’t there already cell phones that store music and can browse the net?” Of course, there are but the difference here is the way that Apple has combined them. (Go to Apple’s web site, http://www.apple.com/iphone , if you’re interested. The AppleTV and iPhone were also awarded Best of Show 2007.)
In a nutshell, the iPhone includes a widescreen display for viewing photos and watching movies which senses when the phone is rotated and rotates the image on the screen. The screen is also touch sensitive so that the buttons and controls can be arranged in many configurations—unlike current cell phones with small, fixed plastic buttons. Apple has also developed and copyrighted a gesturing technology called “Multi-touch” which allows the user to manipulate the phone with one or two finger gestures. Pinching and spreading your fingers zooms in and out. Scrubbing across the screen flips pages or scrolls up and down long pages.
The iPhone also introduces visual voice mail that displays voice messages like email—so you can pick and choose which messages you need to deal with first. Browsing the web is similar to browsing pages on your computer. Currently cell phones display the content on a web site unformatted. The iPhone displays a site in reduced size so that the formatting is maintained—you zoom in to view the content. The controls on the iPhone are based on “widgets”, which means that developers will be able to quickly create new applications and enhance the iPhone further.
Apple’s booth at the expo, about the size of a football field, showcased the AppleTV and iLife products—which are products targeted at consumers. Noticeably absent were Apple’s products for professionals—there were no Mac Pros or larger laptops. (One had to go three block north to San Francisco’s Apple Store to see the Pro Macintosh line.) The booth was dominated by theatrical presentations on the iPhone, Apple TV and the upcoming Mac OS X 10.5 (aka Leopard). In fact, Apple changed the company name to Apple Inc. to further separate themselves from the computer market. The Macintosh, once a mainstay of the company, has been dethroned by the iPod and possibly soon the iPhone as Apple seeks to diversify its identity. Apple has also buried the hatchet with the Beatles (Apple Corps) whose music will be available for download on iTunes music store any day now.
I did see the device at the show that I’ve been hoping for—a Macintosh tablet computer—but it wasn’t at Apple’s booth! Other World Computing has teamed with the German engineers at Axiotron to bring us the ModBook—another of winner of Best of Show 2007. The ModBook is a modified MacBook with the keyboard, trackpad and LCD screen removed. Then they attached an upgraded Wacom capable touch screen and an anodized aluminum top. The screen is extremely tough and has a higher contrast ratio and wider viewing angles. Using a stylus as the input device, the slate-style computer enables Mac OS X’s handwriting recognition and true pen computing, with 256 levels of pressure sensitivity. They’ve also redirected the iSight camera so it focuses on the center of the screen. It’s just like the tablet Captain Kirk uses and it’s a Mac!
Another promising aspect of using Apple’s Intel Macintoshs is their ability to run Windows. We visited three of the third-party developers who have developed products for running Windows applications while simultaneously running Mac OS X. Apple has Boot Camp which lets you run Widows natively but without access to the Macintosh applications or files. Another Best of Show, Parallels Desktop runs the entire Windows XP ( and Vista) on top of Mac OS X and at the Expo they introduced the ability to hide the Windows desktop. It appears as if you are running the Windows application side by side with your Mac OS X applications. In fact running Windows this way is more secure as your applications are hidden from hackers by the Mac OS. Each application is also self-contained so that it is virus-protected.
One of the Canadian companies that were at the Expo was Xsilva, based out of Montreal. They were showing their point-of-sale application Lightspeed. Lightspeed is a tool for retail and inside sales developed to run on the Macintosh. It is very well thought out and utilizes the Macintosh’s ease of use. It is targeted at any company that is seeking to automate sales, call centers, small businesses or light manufacturing. Lightspeed can also get your products up onto the Internet with its integrated web store.
Google was also at the Expo, with its much anticipated Google Earth for Macintosh. If you’ve spent much time on the web lately you have more than likely seen Google Maps on various web sites. Google Earth works in concert with Google Maps and provides satellite images of the earth. Apple used Google Earth to show the Washington Monument, Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum in Rome while demonstrating the iPhone.
Adobe and Quark were present at the show, as well as all of the printer manufacturers: Xerox, Brother, HP, Epson and Ricoh. Adobe was showing Acrobat 8’s new features and new collaborative web conferencing PDFs. On the side stations they were they were showing Photoshop CS3 Beta, as well as Premiere Pro – both winners of Best of Show and optimized for the Intel Macs.
If the Macworld expo had not been named after the magazine that sponsors it, this may have been the last “Macworld”. Even the rival magazine MacAddict has re-launched under the name Mac|Life, acknowledging how the Apple brand has evolved. Every second or third exhibiter was showing some form of iPod carry case or ear phones, mirroring the back page ads of the magazines, which have been focused more and more on the iPod. With Apple’s name change and obvious focus on consumer product offering, the Macintosh may have already become Apple’s “other” product. For the time being you can still use your Macintosh to manage the songs on your iPod. However, when the iPhone ships, you’ll be able to download your iTunes directly onto the phone. I wonder when we’ll see QuarkXPress for iPhone or when Apple will ship the iPhone with a two-page display?
Tim Mitra, President
Mitra-tech.com – Software Consultant