Phillip Schiller's Apple Keynote - so what ?

After a rather soggy walk, with a slightly huffy dog, I sat down with a cup of coffee to watch the latest MacWorld Apple Keynote with Phillip Schiller taking the place of Steve Jobs. If the iPhone is the god phone, then Jobs must be the god CEO.

Of course picking up the baton from Steve is a thankless task, as his keynotes are outstanding. That said, from comments he has made, it is not something that comes easily, even for iCEO Jobs, there is a lot of hard work that goes into these seemingly effortless presentations.

Technically Phillip was fine, the audience looked at little stoney faced throughout, and let's face it, we all knew that there was not another iPhone waiting in the wings. In fact even the sort of stuff the pundits were predicting were small beer, so it is pretty amazing the level of world wide media coverage for a presentation by a single computer company. I certainly don't imagine Dell or Microsoft getting the same sort of coverage.

Of course I already knew roughly what was in the presentation, and without Jobs to edge us from vaguely impressed to feverish hyperbole, the stuff seemed worthy, but a little dull.

So we got, upgrades to iLife, and iWork. There was a new 17inch MacBook, and the one more thing was that iTunes was going DRM free.

On the one hand this does not sound terribly exciting. More functions on a spreadsheet is not really the sort of thing that sets my soul on fire, and longer battery life, zzz. Coming away I did not feel terribly wowed.

On the other hand, the upgrades to iLife look quite useful, I can see the faces recognition being a real asset, I was starting to think that I do need to organise my photos by person a bit more, so that when required I locate mutual friends. The tutorials on Garageband sound like the sort of dodgy Bert Weedon video you could pick up, but just really well done, and effortlessly integrated.

That is the thing with the iLife improvements, they are not the sort of thing that will change your life, but they are the sort of thing you were starting to think might be useful, and they are done in a no brainer/effortless sort of way, when of course we could all think of slightly more cumbersome ways to do it cheaper, but they would be a little too much effort, so we will probably just end up getting the upgrade.

It is interesting that Apple has put the emphasis on creativity and usability, they are encouraging you to learn to play an instrument through Garageband, they are making it easier to share photos with your friends through iPhoto.

The upgrades to iWork seemed quite dry. The standout item for me, was the online sharing of documents. Initially I thought, well why not just use googledocs, and who knows an exclusive band of Mac-Users, such that online collaboration need only entail fellow Mac Users. But the implementation did seem pretty slick, it looked effortless and the sort of no brainer stuff that you could actually get other people to use, and being browser based, computer platform should not be an issue.

So it might be possible to start to shift the world of work to a mixed economy model, where there are some people with Macs, some with PCs, online collaboration through web based tools, some Macs running windows, some linux based netbooks, with always on internet access the glue that sticks it all together.

The new laptop, with a whizzy new battery. Well probably too pricy for me, I prefer a cheap laptop that does not cost as much as a small car. But longer battery life will be handy for folk, and if it will last five years, then the fact that it is not readily replaceable should not be that much of a worry. Who is running about with a five year old laptop these days. I guess with laptops it is always possible to carp at something, this one lacks ports, that one does not let you hot swap batteries, this one is too dear, but let's face it, people buy more laptops than desktops these days. Laptops are entitled to come in all shapes and sizes. That way folk can pick the one that suits them best. Just imagining that there is a single yardstick to measure a laptop against is pretty daft these days. If anything, it is the desktop that can safely come in a small mix of shapes and sizes, while there is a justifiable diversity to the laptops available.

Then the "and finally", DRM free, iTunes, and a ready way of swapping all your existing music onto DRM free. Well I checked mine, and for a little over a tenner, I could switch it all. Not something that worries me greatly, but for a tenner, I'll probably just do it.

So, in the end, I was not terribly blown away. But, I will probably upgrade iLife and iWork, I will probably upgrade my iTunes library, I'll probably have a good look at the online document sharing option. So, in the end, although I was not terribly blown away, I am probably sufficiently impressed to stick my hand in my pocket, and spend a bit more on Apple stuff. Maybe not the price of a whole new computer, but a decent software upgrade that lets me get a little bit more use of out my existing set up. Probably not a bad pitch, for these credit crunched times.

And that is the beauty of where Apple is now, it is not just a computer company, it is not just about hardware, it is not just a software company, it is not just about applications, it is not just a media company, or a retailer. It is not just about working effectively, or high status items to show off, or family computers, or geek computers, or creative stuff. Somehow Apple is very good on the boundaries, the stuff we have not quite thought through, the edges where we kind of sense something useful lurks. That big friendly round apple, I guess you kind of trust it even when it is a little out there.