Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs knows how to get the Macintosh faithful in a near-religious frenzy, and he put on a bravura performance last week during his Conference & Expo San Francisco 2003 keynote address. Jobs introduced new laptops and some interesting new software that lessens his company's reliance on Microsoft. Jobs's keynote, however, conveniently skipped over some basic market realities that now face Apple, the most damaging of which is that the company's high-profile Switch ad campaign, in which real people discuss their moves from Windows to Apple's Mac OS X, has been a complete failure.
Nevertheless, Jobs surprised the crowd with new hardware and software, virtually none of which the hype-heavy Apple press, which had been eagerly anticipating Macworld, predicted. The new hardware includes two new PowerBook G4 laptop computers: a 12" model that's virtually identical to the consumer-oriented iBook line and a mammoth 17" model that's apparently the laptop equivalent of the Ford Excursion. Both new PowerBooks eschew the build-quality-challenged Titanium casing of previous PowerBooks for a new aluminum-based design. Both computers are also available with optional AirPort Extreme wireless networking, which uses a preliminary version of the 54Mbps 802.11g wireless specification; Apple also introduced an AirPort Extreme base station.
On the software side, some of Jobs's announcements seemed more designed to anger Microsoft than fill particular product needs. For example, he announced an Apple-branded Web browser called Safari that's based on KHTML technology from the Linux K Desktop Environment (KDE)--even though the Mac OS X already has several available browsers--and Keynote, a presentation package that focuses on Microsoft PowerPoint.
But not all of Apple's new software announcements are superfluous. Jobs announced a new $50 digital-media suite called iLife that bundles iTunes 3 with new versions of iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD, all of which will be available with new Macs for free. Apple iPhoto 2 includes new one-click photo enhancements, a Retouch tool, photo archiving to CD-ROM or DVD, and email integration. Apple iMovie 3 features a completely overhauled interface, new special effects, and a way to add DVD chapter marks to movies. Apple iDVD 3 adds 24 new pro-quality themes, integration with iMovie 3's chapter marks, and new theme customization features. The iLife package will be available January 25, as will free downloads of iPhoto 2 and iMovie 3.
Because Jobs gave his Macworld address just days before Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates presented his 2003 International Computer Electronics Show (CES) keynote address, not comparing the two events is impossible. The most obvious difference is support: Apple appears to be interested in going it alone, even to the extent of creating applications that don't break new ground or introduce new product categories but instead compete with existing third-party applications. Meanwhile, Gates's address continually touted Microsoft's many industry partners, such as the hardware makers working on Media2Go and Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) devices, Media Center PCs, and Tablet PCs. All of Microsoft's initiatives appear to be collaborative efforts, whereas Apple is basically circling the wagons and seizing any lucrative (and in the case of Safari, nonlucrative) businesses for itself. Put simply, comparing the reality of these two companies with way the public perceives them is astonishing.