Macworld is always a traumatic time for me. So many new toys, so little time (and money). Let’s take a look at what Stevie J announced:
- Time Capsule – I’ve been holding off on buying an 802.11n wireless router, well, largely because my laptop doesn’t support this faster speed. Time Capsule basically merges a router with a hard drive, ostensibly for backup. Prices are reasonable, but I worry a bit about the non-replaceability of the drive. If the HD dies, I’ll have to replace the whole thing. On the other hand, at the rate I upgrade these sort of devices, it probably is not an issue. Verdict: probably what I’ll get when I need both more space for backup and faster wireless.
- iPhone update – Well, I already have an iPhone, so this is a no-brainer. While the update is not Earth-shattering, this free software update adds some nice new features including:
- The ability to find your current location in the maps application based on nearby cell towers and Wifi base stations. This has already proved useful to me, since I am highly skilled at getting lost. Maps gets a better interface as well, but this is the biggest change.
- The ability to send an SMS to multiple people. I don’t really do this, but I can see how some people might find is useful, at least once in a while.
- The ability to have multiple “home screens” of icons is useful now that you can create icon shortcuts (“webclips”) for websites. It will become considerably more useful once 3rd party software is available starting next month. Rearranging icons is nice, but again, doesn’t mean much until 3rd party apps appear.
- Lyrics – Should have been there in the first place, since older iPods had this. Good they finally added it. I don’t think songs generally include lyrics, so you’ll have to enter your own in iTunes (you can easily copy/paste from the web).
- Simultaneous key presses – There are some subtle changes to make two-thumb typing easier, but the most obvious effect is the ability to hold down the shift key while typing to get capital letters (previously you had to push shift before each capital…a pain for typing acronyms.
- iTunes Movie Rentals/Apple TV update – For me, this was the biggest announcement of the conference. Basically, Apple is getting into the video on demand market, and the Apple TV becomes a critical tool. Instant rentals are tremendously appealing in the same way Netflix was more appealing that going to local video store. With Netflix, the idea was that you could always have a few movies around that you would want to watch. That was fine most of the time, but if you want to watch a specific movie, you’d still have to wait for it to arrive in the mail. The next step has been video on demand. Some cable companies offer this, but with limited selection. Competitors like Netflix allow you to rent movies on your computer instantly, but you still have to pay a monthly subscription fee (not good for those who only watch occasionally) and you have to be sitting at your computer to watch. Some folks hook their computer up to their TV, but this is small group of people. Apple raises the game by allowing you to transfer movies to your iPod/iPhone or to your Apple TV (essentially a small computer that connects to your TV). The Apple TV is improved now in that you can not only use it to watch content, but also rent or buy content directly over the internet. Plus, HD movies are now an option. This is fantastic and I will be getting an Apple TV. The only downside is that you only have 24 hours to watch a movie after you start it. This is fine for living room viewing, but for iPod viewing a longer viewing period would be better. I usually have a small amount of downtime each day to watch something. If I could spread my viewing over several days, I might actually be able to watch a whole movie. With a 24 hour limit, it’s a bit harder.
- MacBook Air – This is a pretty sweet subnotebook. It’s the classic Apple package where the specs are all wrong, but you still want it anyway. My mind tells me that it’s slower than my current laptop, is missing many ports, has no optical drive, a too-small hard drive, and is not expandable. That said, it is very sleek and the sacrifices are almost worth it. I think it will be a great machine in the next revision, and is fine for most people, but I’m already straining with my MacBook. Most of the limitations are actually no big deal in my mind. If I got one, I’d probably buy the DVD drive anyway for convenience, but it’s nice not to have that extra bulk all the time for the rare occasion you’ll need it to install software. I’m a big fan of the MacBook keyboard (I find the MacBook Pro keyboard too mushy, unlike some people), and I’m glad to see the Air carries on this trend. What I really like is the SSD drive option, but it’s just too expensive at this time.