Back to the Mac thoughts [Updated]

Now that today’s press event is over, I want to comment on a few things. First, the changes to iLife.

iPhoto 11

It’s tempting to dismiss the consumer-pleasing features of iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand as fodder for soccer moms and grandparents. Before you do, remember that this type of user represents a huge number of Apple’s customers. Also, I’m as geeky as they come and can’t wait to try some of these new features.

I like that iPhoto 11 lets you email a photo(s) from within the app. No more being pushed out to Mail, which was potentially time consuming depending on how much incoming mail you’d have to download before distributing your shots.

The improved Facebook integration will be nice for those who use it (comments posted on Facebook to photos shared via iPhoto will show up in iPhoto). Also, picture book creation is greatly improved. Navigating the new carousel view closely resembles swiping in iOS, especially while in full screen mode.

iMovie 11

The fact that I can score video of my son’s T-Ball game with music provided by the London Symphony Orchestra makes me giddy. Some will lament that Apple is giving production tools to amateurs who lack a filmmaker’s eye or aesthetic sense. That’s missing the point.

Today’s iMovie demo had me just as enthused as I was when the software was first introduced 2001. Designing professional-style trailers with dramatic soundtracks and so on will be tremendously fun for me and those who receive projects as gifts. On the technical side, the face detection is extremely impressive. I can’t wait to use this software.

GarageBand 11

The story here is groove track (“spell checker for bad rhythm”). The idea is that you let one track determine the tempo for the others. In the demo, a rock-solid drum track was chosen, and the guitar and bass tracks were synced up, time-wise, through what I suspect is a miracle. I’m eager to see how this works in real life, as I’m skeptical.

I was also impressed with the visual feedback offered while sight reading. I only wish it was available for drummers. I’d love for my Mac to listen while I played on my practice pad and offer the same feedback regarding my successful playing and my mistakes. It would also be nice to compare/contrast performance across repeated attempts at playing the same piece of music.

Full-screen mode

Adding full screen mode to these apps is a huge plus. When you run an app on an iOS device, it essentially becomes whatever that app does. There are no partially-obscured windows, bouncing dock items, etc. to compete for your attention. When I launch Twitterrific, my iPad becomes a Twitter client. Open Outside on my iPhone and it becomes a weather station.

Now, your Mac becomes a photo editor. A book designer. A video editor. This will encourage focus and, I predict, become a part of more and more apps.

FaceTime

I thought iChat would get re-branded as “FaceTime for Mac,” but Apple went with a standalone app (for the beta at least). Unfortunately, I’m unable to get it working on my Mac, but I can see how it could catch on. While FaceTime is a marquee feature of the iPhone 4 and soon the Mac OS, I don’t know anyone who has used the service more than 2 or 3 times. Perhaps adding a few million Macs to the pool of potential participants will change that.

Mac OS X Lion

As Steve noted, Apple has issued 7 major Mac OS releases in the past 10 years. That’s an extremely impressive statistic. I can say that today’s brief glimpse of Lion has me more eager than I was for Leopard.

The important thing to note is that Apple slowly, carefully and purposefully updates its products. It’s clear that Apple’s designers and engineers learn from their experiences and then apply those lessons in meaningful and effective ways.

The features of Lion that resemble their iOS counterparts aren’t there because the iOS is “hot” now or because Apple wishes to glom the popularity of one platform onto another. They exist because they improve the product. That type of attentiveness and growth is exactly why I admire this company so deeply.

The MacBook Air

I can’t say much about these machines until I use one, but I believe the 11.6-inch model could be the machine for me. I write for a living, and that means I don’t need huge amounts of storage. Nor do I run pro apps like Final Cut Studio. The vast majority of files and such that I work with live “in the cloud.”

This machine is small, light and features a full-sized keyboard. It’s much less expensive than I thought it would be. It also lacks an optical drive. The truth is, the optical drive in my MacBook Pro died years ago. I never replaced it and never missed it.

Steve said that the new Air represents the “future of the notebook.” Until flash memory prices come down it will stay exist far in the future (64GB on  storage won’t cut it for many people). Still, Steve has a knack for looking ahead and seeing what’s there.

I believe he’s done it again.

FaceTime’s future

In episode 20 of The Bro Show, Myke, Terry and guest Patrick discussed something I want to expand upon. Namely, the future of FaceTime, the mobile video calling solution that Apple introduced with the iPhone 4. It’s certainly the device’s marquee feature.

Myke 1 made an astute observation: if you consider the television ads that have aired so far, you’ll notice that Apple hasn’t advertised the iPhone 4 per se. Instead, it’s advertised FaceTime. FaceTime is the product and the iPhone 4 is the delivery system. Of course that will change, but how and when? Here are my thoughts.

FaceTime for Mac

During The Bro Show, the guys suggested that iChat will be replaced with “FaceTime for Mac.” I agree and expect it to be a part of Mac OS 10.7. 2 It will allow those without an iPhone 4 to enjoy a FaceTime call with those who have one. Just consider the huge number of machines Apple has shipped with iSight cameras built in. To implement it, Apple can expand upon the video conferencing features that are already a part of iChat.

FaceTime for iPod touch

This is a logical evolution of the touch and I expect to see a demo at Apple’s September 1 press event. The addition of a front-facing camera should necessitate a redesign of the super-thin touch to accommodate the hardware. It will be interesting to see if Apple goes with a flat back and, if so, what it will be made of. As the guys pointed out in The Bro Show, there’s no need for a wrap-around antenna as the touch is Wi-Fi only.

The iPod nano is capable of video, but FaceTime will be restricted to the touch. The nano has long been the best-selling iPod model (as the mini was before it), and the low price is primarily responsible. Plus the screen is too small and adding the camera and Wi-Fi hardware would necessitate a redesign that would turn it essentially into a touch.

FaceTime for iPad

Here’s something that many people are looking forward to, myself included. However, I don’t expect to see it this year. Look for an announcement in January.

3G

You can blame this restriction on AT&T, but I think they’ll soon make this available. Now that the unlimited data plan no longer exists, 3 data-hungry customers switch from being a network-taxing hindrance to a new cost center. Do you plan on making lots of FaceTime calls? Then opt for the higher-priced data plan.

The main problem with FaceTime right now, aside from requiring Wi-Fi, is that both parties must have an iPhone 4 to participate. By significantly expanding the pool of participants, Apple will finally bring the “Jetsons phone” to the masses.

  1. I think it was Myke. Correct me if I’m wrong.
  2. With support for old school text chat.
  3. Except for those who were grandfathered in on plans from 1st-generation iPhones.

FaceTime on iTV

ZDnet:

“I’m betting a FaceTime-equipped iTV device will create entire new legions of rabid, insane, Apple fans.”

Indeed. FaceTime’s biggest drawback today, besides being restricted to Wi-Fi, is that both parties must have an iPhone 4 to participate. As soon as Apple can expand that pool of people, its popularity will explode, not to mention the device that made it happen. Use FaceTime once and you’re instantly hooked.

[Via MacDailyNews]

New iPhone 4 ads [Updated]

As children, my sisters and I teased our mom for crying over long distance TV ads. Today, it seems Apple has gotten hold of that advertising playbook. The result is the polar opposite of the Droid campaign.

Four new iPhone 4 ads debuted this week, each promoting FaceTime. Here is the ad entitled “Meet Her,” in which a first-time dad lets his own father, now a first-time grandfather, see his new baby. In another ad entitled “Smile,” a reluctant teen is coaxed into smiling, and revealing her braces, to her dad.

The third ad is called “Haircut” and features a woman’s hesitant revelation of a shorter-than-expected haircut to her boyfriend. Finally, in “Big News,” a young woman reveals to her husband — over the phone and yet face-to-face — that she’s finally pregnant.

While Droid phones are apparently made for and by robots, the iPhone 4 ads focus on intimate, human relationships: Fathers, sons, daughters, spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends. Babies are featured in two of the four. They successfully use emotion to sell a piece of technology.

This won’t make my mom cry. This will.

Update: As Peter Cohen points out, many of the iPhones in the ad are being held by a left hand.