No Macworld Surprises this Year

In the second straight Macworld keynote that was largely about Apple's non-Mac products, Apple CEO Steve Jobs discussed improvements to the iPhone, the iPod touch, and Apple TV. But take heart Mac fans, he had one nugget for you as well: A new ultramobile MacBook notebook.

Expectations were high that Jobs would outdo the excitement from last year's show, which focused on the iPhone and the Apple TV. However, the world's great keynote presenter didn't have any surprises up his sleeve, and no "one more thing" drama to fall back on: Virtually everything that Jobs revealed during his keynote address Tuesday had been leaked to the Web over the previous few weeks.

Jobs talked up past successes before looking to the future. Apple's latest Mac OS X version, dubbed Leopard, is the most successful version of the system yet, with over 5 million units sold. The iPhone did almost as well, with 4 million units sold in the first 200 days, about one million fewer than projected. Jobs mistakenly said that the iPhone is the second best-selling smart phone in the US after Blackberry; actually, Microsoft's Windows Mobile-based phones outsell the Blackberry.

Most of Jobs' presentation concerned improvements to existing products. While he curiously didn't mention expected changes to Leopard, which has been criticized for data corruption and functional lapses, he did talk up a free iPhone upgrade and a paid iPod touch upgrade. He also touted an upcoming free update to Apple TV, the company's set top box. Beginning in about two weeks, Apple TV users will be able to rent movies and purchase other content directly from the device, and not need to rely on their PC as before.

Jobs also talked up his company's long-expected movie rental service, which will be hosted via the iTunes Store. Like the Windows-based alternatives that have been on the market for almost a decade, the iTunes Store will now allow customers to rent movies for $3-4 and HD movies for $4-5. Of course, the big selling point to Apple's scheme is that the rentable movies will work with iPods.

Jobs declined to discuss the upcoming software development kit (SDK) for the iPhone. He did mention that it would ship in late February.

As for new products, Jobs had two: A network-attached storage (NAS) device called Time Capsule that comes in 500 GB and 1 TB version for $300 and $500, respectively, and the MacBook Air, an ultramobile addition to the company's notebook computer line. The MacBook Air features a full-sized keyboard, a large, multi-touch trackpad with iPhone-like features, a 13-inch widescreen display, and an Intel microprocessor. Though pricey--the Air runs $2000 to over $3000, depending on configuration--the device should be a hit with Mac enthusiasts who need or want an ultraportable machine. The hyperbolic Apple bills the 3 pound MacBook Air as the "world's thinnest notebook."
Despite the lack of surprises, the Jobs keynote still surpassed that of Bill Gates at CES a week earlier. During that address, his last at CES, Gates talked up Windows Vista, Xbox 360, Media Center Extenders, and Windows Mobile.

TAGS: Windows 8
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