Apple CEO Steve Jobs made the right move in skipping out on his company's last appearance at Macworld: In a Tuesday keynote address at the conference, Apple had no interesting new products to sell, opting instead to spend mind-numbing amounts of time on regularly scheduled updates to existing Mac products. Yep, it was a snooze-fest.
The only news of note for PC users was that Apple was finally following in the footsteps of Microsoft's Zune Marketplace, Amazon MP3, and other digital music services by offering all of the songs it sells without DRM (Digital Rights Management). Though Apple's iTunes is the biggest and most successful online music service, it is the last major service of its kind to move to completely a DRM-free collection. And it did so only after making a major concession to the record industry about variable song pricing, a situation that will result in lower prices overall to consumers, contrary to Apple's earlier claims.
This utter lack of innovation, alas, was a hallmark of the keynote. Apple announced face recognition features for its Mac-based iPhoto application months after Microsoft and Google added similar functionality to their photo management Web services. It finally fixed its iMovie video editing application (also Mac only) a year after releasing a stripped down version that users loathed. And it belatedly added online hooks to its office productivity applications, well after competition from Adobe, Google, Microsoft and others.
Even the company's sole hardware-related announcement was a long time coming. While Apple introduced new 13-inch and 15-inch Macbook notebooks back in October, it neglected to update its 17-inch model at that time. Tuesday, the company announced a new 17-inch Macbook Pro that starts at a whopping $2800, giving further credence to Microsoft's recently revived "Apple Tax" discussion.
Instead of Jobs, Apple carted out the affable Phil Schiller, the company's senior vice president of marketing, for the keynote. Schiller's clearly a good guy, but he lacks Job's panache (and black faux turtleneck). Then again, even Jobs couldn't have possibly turned Tuesday's debacle into a positive. The show ended with crooner Tony Bennett singing "The Best is Yet to Come." It's hard not coming away from this keynote believing that, for Apple at least, the best has already happened.