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Ruminations: Polishing the Apple, San Francisco Style

Ruminations: Polishing the Apple, San Francisco Style

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It may be hard to believe, but thirty years is quietly approaching for that little company with a bite out of its logo fruit. It all started on April 1, 1976. A date usually reserved for jokes, especially elaborate practical ones.

All those years later, the joke may be on all of us. The concept of "insanely great" products seemed a bit much for some pundits of the day. The concept of a personal computer? Now who would ever have need of anything as esoteric as that?

And how about a simple four-letter word that has managed to define music in our culture today? Just try walking anywhere and not seeing someone wearing the little white ear buds that identify them as an iPod owner. In an urban setting, that's an even money bet.

So it should come as no surprise that after a day walking the aisles in Moscone Center's South Hall that the products from Cupertino just keep getting better and better. Yes, we got Steve Jobs (again in his trademark black shirt and blue jeans) preaching to the choir at Tuesday morning's Keynote Address in an event that had the fever of a tent revival meeting. It just wouldn't be Macworld without either one of those traditions.

The new iLife package.
Image courtesy Apple Computer.

One particularly promising item was the addition of a web design application to the iLife suite. iWeb does for the Internet what iPhoto has done for digital photos. Namely, they both make it simple and easy for any Mac user to make the most out of their own content. iWeb makes use of a series of pre-designed templates that can be modified by the "drag and drop" method to create pages with everything from slide shows to blogs to even a place to host your very own podcast. And using the Garage Band application, producing that (podcast) is easier than ever before.

A sample page produced by iWeb.
Image courtesy Apple Computer

iTunes did merit a brief mention. First was the addition of sports video content by ABC and ESPN (with the BCS Bowl Games). Second was additional moments from Saturday Night Live. A medley of clips starting with John Belushi in Samurai Delicatessen got plenty of laughs from the crowd. Those should prove popular with fans of the classic shows as well as the more recent ones. There is even a Steve Jobs iPod parody among them!

Strangely absent, however, was any mention of Disney bringing content from its vaults to the current content in the iTunes store. Last week, Disney released a statement describing the additional items soon to be available.

In addition to the ESPN and ABC Sports content, more programming from Disney ABC Television Group will also be available later this month on the iTunes Music Store, including such cable programming as ABC Family's original series "Wildfire," Disney Channel's popular animated series "Kim Possible" and "The Proud Family" and SOAPnet's original biography series "Soapography," as well as ABC Entertainment and Touchstone Television library product including "America's Funniest Home Videos" and the popular 1970's Saturday morning "School House Rock" vignettes and episodes of Buena Vista Television's "Ebert and Roeper."

Additionally, free, ad-supported video podcasts from ABC News will be available, including daily segments from "Good Morning America" and the "World News Tonight" webcast, as well as ABC News Now's "Money Minute," "Medical Minute" and "Buzz Cut."

"We look forward to building upon the success of our initial iTunes offerings and are dedicated to providing consumers with a variety of high quality entertainment and news content that they can view at their convenience, regardless of time, place or platform," said Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and President, Disney ABC Television Group. "We believe that making our content available on iTunes results in incremental viewing opportunities and also furthers awareness of our programs and brands."

Classic animated shorts produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and featured on Buena Vista Home Entertainment's upcoming "Disney at the Academy Awards", including the 1933 Academy Award-winning "The Three Little Pigs" and the 1935 Academy Award-winning "The Tortoise and the Hare" will also be available.

"Our animated product has always been the touchstone of The Walt Disney Company," stated *** Cook, chairman, The Walt Disney Studios. "We are pleased that in addition to offering our classic animated shorts on DVD, we will now reach an even broader audience with programming on Apple's iTunes Music Store. It is certainly gratifying to know that consumers of all ages will get to experience first hand the remarkable and award-winning works from some of the most gifted animators in history."

After how much Disney and Bob Iger were part of the special event in San Jose that introduced video for sale on iTunes in October of last year, it was interesting to note how this passed quietly by at Macworld.

But the bigger news of the day was the introduction of Apple's first computers to use Intel processors. For many years, IBM had produced the Power PC processor. As good as they were, that line had reached an end. When Apple and Intel announced plans for the new collaboration, it was expected that a full year would pass before the first such product would hit the streets. Leave it to Apple (and Intel) to beat those expectations by having them ready ahead of schedule. Adding the Intel Core Duo processor to the popular iMac makes for a machine twice as fast as the Power PC G5 version. And as much as consumers have been clamoring for a newer fast laptop, Apple answered the call with the introduction of the new MacBook Pro, coming in at four times faster than the Powerbook G4. (And no, there was not an "Intel Inside" sticker on either of them.)

The new iMac with its Intel Core Duo processor.
Image courtesy Apple Computer.

Out and about on the show floor, there was plenty to keep attendees looking. In the coming weeks, I will have a few things to share that found me. But if you were looking for accessories for your iPod, there was no shortage of them. If the show floor could have been reorganized, there are enough products from various vendors that an iPod World Expo could have been held all by it's self.

By the end of 2006, all of the lines of Macintosh computers will have been upgraded to the new Intel processors and there will be a great deal of software running native to that. Even Microsoft is staying the course, committing to continue development and support of the standard Office suite for the Mac for the next five years.

The coming year looks like a great time for the Mac and it's enthusiastic supporters. And from what Steve teased, it is very likely that 2006 will see more "insanely great" products from Apple. Just what consumers want!

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