Reviewing the Apple Macworld Keynote

Yesterday, Apple delivered what they say will be their last Macworld keynote address. This has always been the event that Apple has blown away fanatics & critics with game changing product offerings. It was at this event two years ago that Apple announced the iPhone.

Most will say there wasn’t any game changers this year. Still, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything I’m excited about from this year’s keynote. Apple unveiled new versions of iLife & iWork, a new 17 inch MacBook Pro model, and announced that all music from the iTunes Store would now be DRM-free. I’ll cover iLife & the iTunes announcement, as those are what got my interest the most.

iLife is Apple’s media organization @ creativity suite that comes on any Mac. Most would agree that there isn’t any other suite that compares to iLife, both in what it can do and for the price. The biggest changes, in what’s known as iLife ’09, are in iPhoto and iMovie.

Last year, iPhoto gained a feature called Events, that attempted to group your photos according to the date you took them, figure that pictures from a particular day were part of a particular event. This year, Apple added two major features, Faces & Places. They also added themes for slideshows, and Facebook & Flickr integration. Here’s a run down of these features:

  • Faces – Apple figures that people are often the most important subjects in your photos. So, why not give the ability to organize your photos by the people in them? Makes sense.

    Faces does this in two ways. First, it recognizes where faces are within a photo and asks you to apply name to the faces. Then, iPhoto will ask you to confirm or decline any other queries on faces it thinks might be the same person. Based on that feedback, iPhoto will learn your Uncle Bob from your Uncle Joe. This can come in useful if say, Uncle Joe would like to see just the photos of himself, as well as some other things I’ll get to in a minute.

  • Places – More and more consumer level cameras are coming with GPS chips that enter a geotag into a photo’s metadata. iPhoto ’09 comes with support for these geotags with Places. What Places does is organize photos depending on the place you took them, so all your photos taken while on vacation in Puerto Rico will be grouped together.

    This makes it easy when uploading your vacation photos online, or creating a slide show or photo book within iPhoto.

  • Slideshow have gotten some things added to them this year. Before, slideshows were basically a flip through of your photos with some transitional effects on them. With the addition of themes, slideshows in iPhoto are suddenly not so boring. Slideshow themes include Classic, Shatter, Snapshots, Scrapbook, Ken Burns, and Sliding Panels. Also, every slideshow uses face detection to position photos correctly and keep the faces onscreen, so nobody is cut off.

    Very cool.

  • Facebook & Flickr integration – Facebook is by far my favorite social networking platform. It allows me to keep up with my friends and former classmates are up to, see when get togethers are happening, and it’s accessible from just about anywhere, like my iPhone.

    Now, iPhoto offers a direct link with an option to upload those photos straight to Facebook with a click. Any album you upload to Facebook shows up on the sidebar like any other album you create, so you can see what photos are in each album. It also takes advantage of the Faces feature and translates that info into Facebook tags, so you can see who everyone is in a photo. Further, if you don’t happen to know who someone is, your friends can tag that person on Facebook and that information is then send back to iPhoto the next time it syncs.

    The Flickr integration works much in the same way, except it uses Places info instead, since Flickr also supports geotags.

iMovie ’09 is basically a continuation of where iMovie ’08 took off. I’ve been pleased in how quick you can edit video within iMovie ’08, without having to be a total geek to do so.

In this years version, they’ve added some really cool audio and video editing tools, a theming option, and a video stabilization feature. All of which are better explained if seen, so feel free to check out Apple’s iMovie tutorials.

Garage Band, the music making and podcasting app, received one major upgrade; music lessons. Now, you can actually learn how to play a guitar or keyboard, with basic lessons that you can control at the pace you desire. When you get through those lessons, GarageBand has a feature called Artist Lessons, that feature musicians such as Ben Folds or Norah Jones, where they’ll walk you through one of their hit songs. Pretty cool.

Moving away from iLife, Apple’s last announcement was that every song sold on the iTunes Store would be DRM-free, a move music lovers have been waiting for. It wasn’t that Apple didn’t want to do this before, they did, but they also wanted to control the price of music where the big four music companies want to set their own prices. Apple finally compromised, so there’s now a tiered pricing system in place. Individual song prices can now be $1.29, $.99, or $.69. There’s also a $.30 per track upgrade fee on any tracks you own from the iTunes Store if you’d like a DRM-free copy.

For the most part, DRM didn’t bother me as I’ve always own some form of iPod for the time I’ve been buying MP3 players. But, there have been instances, such as when I’m streaming music to the PS3, that DRM has become an issue. Taking that limitation off should make a lot of people really happy, as the chains have been restrained.

The talk that Apple didn’t drop anything mind blowing this time around is a little annoying to me in a way. After refreshing the entire line of iPods last September, refreshing the laptop line in October, and doing everything they did with the iPhone within the last six months, what was Apple really supposed to do? We all know Snow Leopard isn’t going to be a major upgrade to Leopard and Apple isn’t going to release that until it’s ready. Outside of updating the iMacs with new graphics, there wasn’t much else for them to touch. Lets face it, upgrading the graphics in the iMac isn’t a whole lot to get excited about, compared to the iPhone or the Intel transition.

What Apple did do, especially in their consumer level suite iLife, was add those things that a lot of companies overlook or do half-assed, and did them right. Really, it’s the finer details that sets Apple above a lot of software and hardware companies, in my opinion. I’d have to see I’m excited about going out and getting the new version of iLife and playing around with it.

For more information on iLife ’09 and it’s features, go to: http://www.apple.com/ilife/

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~ by Steve L. on January 7, 2009.

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