My takeaways from the Macworld keynote

by Volker Weber

Now that The Steve Show is over and all the Apple sites are abuzz with how great the new gear is, I want to take the time to sit back and look at what has been presented today.

Apple is now a successful music company that sells way more iPods than Macs. So let's start with the new iPod shuffle, a tiny flash based player for $99 (512 meg) or $149 (1 gig). Flash player, wasn't that the market that Jobs dissed in 2003 and 2004? Connects via USB (no Firewire), has no display, no scrollwheel. You can't see what it is playing, and Apple touts this as an advantage. Now combine this with this iTunes feature and life is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you're gonna get:

If your iTunes library exceeds the iPod’s storage capacity, you can let iPod create a playlist to fill your iPod to capacity

Next up is the Mac mini, a really tiny computer, sized like a small stack of CDs. What they don't show you is that there is an external power supply. And it is priced like a car in the German market. You get the basics (256 meg of RAM, 40 gig HD, CD burner) and then you add the options: keyboard, mouse, memory, larger disk, WLAN, Bluetooth, DVD burner. Starting at $499 a maxed out Mac mini is not quite as mini. And that is before you add the screen.

iLife gets an update and is now iLife 05. Big surprise. :-) The only app I am using in iLife (besides iTunes of course) is iPhoto. The biggest upgrade this program needs is more speed. It is getting too slow now that I am quickly approaching its design limit. Sadly, there is no mention of an upgrade to its capacity on Apple's site or during the keynote. Please, surprise me. While iLife 04 was $49 the new version sells for $79. No upgrade pricing available. iLife 05 comes with all new Macs and if you get one that still has 04, you can upgrade for $19.

Keynote gets a feature upgrade and is now available as 2.0. It is no longer sold separately but comes together with a new word processor called Pages. Apple calls this bundle iWork. A presentation program plus a word processor is not yet an office package. That would require a spreadsheet. Is the world waiting for a new word processor? Not so sure. Look at the bright side: Keynote 2 plus Pages is less expensive than Keynote 1. So this definitely is an improvement.

This summary is not all fair. There is a ton of new stuff that I have not touched on. High definition video, a much improved Garageband. It's just that I have no use for those.

Update: While I am wearing my flameproof underwear, I feel like mentioning one thing that Jobs has not mentioned: The success of the color iPod. Or I'd rather say, the lack thereof. Apple apparently is having a hard time selling the 60 gig iPod Photo and even more so the 40 gig color screen model. The price uptick is just too much. Watch them adding more capacity (60/80) and/or drop the price.


My thoughts exactly!

Bjoern Ognibeni, 2005-01-11

I am not a Mac-head, so please humor me. Where is Apple headed? It is becoming quite apparent that Apple is wanting to be an end-user consumer type of company - and from the outside it appears that the business user is second in priority. I have vascillated back and forth as to whether I would try to "live" on a Mac laptop, even though I predominately do Domino development (and therefore must use Domino Designer - Win32 only). I know the Win32 emulation is good on a Mac, but to be honest I am not sure that this is a wise move in the long run. It appears to me that Apple is serving the home user first and foremost, and the business user/power user is really a secondary concern. Based on this, I think I need to stick with Win32 (and trust me, this isn't my desire), at least for awhile.

Am I guaging Apple's interests correctly?

Rocky Oliver, 2005-01-11

Fair points. I still like what Apple are doing though: iPod has been a run-away success for them, they’d be crazy not to capitalise on that. Personally, I would buy an iPod shuffle like a shot, display or not. Why?

I use a battered Sony MD player every day on my walk to / from the train station and office. It’s the most basic model you can get: no display, nothing. But it does did its job well. Constantly burning mini discs in “real time” is really starting to bug me, as are a number of issues with the player now that it’s getting old (stuttering, “forgetful” re settings, etc).

I’m a prime candidate for the new iPod: the price is right, and it’s not too fiddly. I’ve always been wary of carrying around stuff that costs a lot, and this is why I have the £70 MD player and the ageing, similarly-priced Palm m100 rather than hi-falutin’ digital music players and Treos / XDAs / whatever.

As for the Mac Mini, I see this aimed at people who may well already have PCs (and therefore the required peripherals) — if they fancy trying out the Mac, price is no longer a barrier.

(I’m also tempted to ditch the ancient Win98 box my wife uses and replace it with one of these, but ssh, don’t tell her).

Ben Poole, 2005-01-11

In response to Rocky's comment, I consider the Win32-only Domino Designer issue a failing of IBM/Lotus rather than a lack of commitment to business users on Apple's part.

Not that I think it's the wrong impression to get that Apple is turning more towards the home user. It makes sense. They're making a killing on the iPod as previously mentioned. IN my world, there's no mixing of 'home' and 'work' IT..I can't (enforced policy) connect home gear to the office network (either a laptop, or peripherals...ipod, usb drive, etc.). If I need to work at home, I get an issued laptop and we're an all Dell shop so Apple's completely locked out anyway.

I'm excited about the iPod shuffle, actually. I don't want to shell out $250-300 for something with too much space that I'm only using at the gym or doing yardwork. I want to say that $99 is too much for a 512meg device but I'm still getting used to Apple's tendency to 'premium pricing'.

I probably wouldn't get the Mac mini, but I can understand why they're doing it (if you need bluetooth, and a DVD burner, WLAN, you don't need the's a low-barrier replacement for the old crusty Windows box that is only getting used for web and email).

I'll be getting iWork. I don't do spreadsheets at home but I need a decent word processor. I don't want to buy Office 2004 ($350?) and I don't like OpenOffice. I'll probably get iLife too (5 is bigger than 4 afterall, but no upgrade pricing?), but haven't checked out the details yet. To me, $79 is a lot to pay if they're not making huge improvements.

Scott Gentzen, 2005-01-11

Hei, finally you get an USB-Stick in Appledesign with built in mp3 Player for that money - no need to use these ugly non Apple Sticks anymore. :)

Nicole Simon, 2005-01-11

You are comparing the iPod shuffle and the iTunes playlist feature with a box of chocolate?

"Do not eat iPod shuffle." - The 2. warning on the end of the iPod shuffle page.

Markus Haack, 2005-01-11

I am disappointed, but not surprised, at the continuing price differential between the US and us lot in Europe. I hate to belly-ache about it since of course it is cheaper than anything else from Apple, but the UK price is going to be ¢339 for the baseline model, versus the ¢289 tops implied by the exchange rate, and that is a painful difference that will turn off many potential purchasers here - difficult to see the justification for it. Dell will not notice a dent in their sales, I suspect...

Still, with my tired old blue G3 offline at the moment and relying as I am on an even more decrepit 9600, I can _almost_ justify the cost......

Nick Daisley, 2005-01-11

um... that's the Mac mini I was talking about, of course....sorry.

Nick Daisley, 2005-01-12

Actually the Mac mini is AIMED at fence sitting Windows users who own an iPod and a PC with said missing peripherals. Hence no keyboard, no mouse and no screen, the users use what they already have. When you look at it in that context i'd say it will be a hit. As this product was never mean't to try to compete with low-end PC's, it is mean't to compliment the iPod and generate interest in other Apple Mac products.


Zoran Stavreski, 2005-01-12

I hardly think Apple is changing their focus off of the high or middle-end marketplace and focusing strictly on the consumer. The G5 is a very formidable machine as well as the XServe, XRAID and XSan solutions. If anything, you could say they are diversifying their product line. But I would never go as far as to say they are dropping or losing their high-end user base.

Dester Wallaboo, 2005-01-12

Nick, don't forget to add the sales tax to the US price. When you add UK's 17,5% VAT/customs duty you get a much lower difference.

Unless you go and buy it yourself in the US and tell the customs why you're carrying a desktop machine on vacation ;-)

Oliver Regelmann, 2005-01-12

I'm at Macworld this week. What do you want me to ask them?

(I'll ask about capacity for iPhoto, but I don't know how much you've used up.)

esther schindler, 2005-01-12

The 'Mac mini' would make an excellent audio/video server, if you need that sort of thing. No display required, although you'll need a dongle to drive your TV, and the external power supply somewhat reduces the neatness of the package. Seems like a very low-risk way for Apple to test the 'media center' waters.

'Pages' is best described as a page layout tool, more like Stone Create and MS Publisher. Yes, I do think the world needs something that allows elegant printed output with minimal effort. Word certainly doesn't do it and most people are not going to use Tex.

David Richardson, 2005-01-12

And for those having Windows XP, but wanting to enjoy MacOSX-Look:

Christopher Semturs, 2005-01-12

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. A fake OS X look does not change anything in XP.

Volker Weber, 2005-01-12

I'd guess the Mac mini will be a success because more and more computer owners are willing to switch. The iPod brought attention to Apple and many consider buying a Mac because there's much less hassle with viruses and all that stuff. There are some really good features the Mac mini offers that you won't usually get in an entry level computer, like a DVI connector. The price tag still is somewhat Apple-like heavy. Add some features, and the price easily doubles. It's pretty clear that the 499$-price is marketing driven. And yes, the Euro prices are a... bummer. Also, this Mac is about software. People will most likely buy iWorks and upgrade to Tiger later this year.

Speaking of marketing. This was the first time I was following the news and rumors around a Macworld Expo and I must say that Apple's marketing machine is working quite nicely.

Joerg Richter, 2005-01-12

The Mac mini will sell, I am sure, and it might outsell the e and iMacs. As mentioned in the previous comments buyers will want to integrate the mini in their current environment - at home and in a small business environment.

I am managing the IT for an association with 4 workplaces. We are currently on XP running on shuttles and TFT screens. If I were to buy iMacs, it would cost the association around 5,200 EUR. Four minis would cost around 2,000 to 2,500 and we would continue using the existing periphals. RAM is not relevant in comparison because the iMacs need to be upgraded as well. So for the first time in years Apple has become a serious contender.

I like the size of the mini, similar to Digital Logics Microspace PCX (and another small PC which name I forgot). If the case is solid enough, the screen can be placed on top of it
Apple claims the mini is silent: "whisper-quiet sound level"
the OS is included

Try to find a similarly sized, specced and silent PC including XP at the same price. Coming back to my association example, Linux is not yet an option (desktop is not quite there yet and there is no Lotus Notes client, and no, I don't want to run Notes using wine/crossover).

My question to Steve Job is, why only 32MB of Video RAM? The machine would be perfect for home entertainment. Will there be a Super Mini? BMW is already an iPod friend, why not calling it Mini Cooper S featuring a selection of colours and a white top?

Pages and Keynote nicely complement OpenOffice in our SMB environment.

And the iPod shuffle? Dissing the flashplayers sounded suspiciously like the denials of German carmakers until the launch of their own thing (BMW "we'll never build a 12 cylinder engine", VW "no need of Diesel filters", Mercedes & BMW "we'll never build a Golf-sized car or smaller", Porsche "no more than 2 doors" and so on and so forth)

When will Apple finally re-enter the PDA market, or even better, launch a smartphone, maybe in cooperation with a phone maker?

Moritz Schroeder, 2005-01-12

With a G4 1.25 it's already more powerful than my 12inch G4 867Mhz powerbook - and it's a lot smaller. I'll probably buy one, after the early adopters have found nothing wrong with it (hopefully).

I would just like the harddisk to be a bit more bigger - could we self-upgrade that ? Say 160GB would be great to store all my itunes on there.

I can also see myself buying one for my mother in law, who expressed a desire for a pc - since I'll be the one who'll has to support it, it makes sense to use a mac there.

Alex Boschmans, 2005-01-12

Another reason why the Mac mini will probably sell well: It's the one and only Mac you can easily buy in the US, bring back to Europe and don't have to worry about where to get the keyboard for your country. So, given the current exchange rate for the Euro, it might even pay to buy a cheap airline ticket just to buy a couple of Mac minis in the US and resell them over here ... customs might be a problem, but: no risk, no fun ;-)

Stefan Rubner, 2005-01-12

Alex, you add storage outside of the box. Firewire HDs are now becoming a commodity item. RAM is a different story. As I understand the Mac mini has only one memory slot.

Volker Weber, 2005-01-12

Volker, yes, adding a firewire drive is definitely a solution, however, it's yet *another* powerbrick to my growing collection of powerbricks. Some company should bring out a powerbrick collecter edition that has 1 mains plug and multiple leads / power levels for different devices !!

As for the memory, the prices for getting 1 Gig of memory are stupefying !!

Apple shop prices : add 430 euros to the base price, so thats 949 euros for the base model. Hopefully we can upgrade the memory ourselves using crucial or what.
(I haven't really read all about the minimac yet)

Alex Boschmans, 2005-01-12

I dont' understand the really high price for the Gig of memory. I'll buy a mac Mini for sure, but I think i can only afford to buy 512 MB Ram.
Of course I'll need a better USB-Hub with 8 Slots.

Martin Hiegl, 2005-01-12

My iPod skips when I exercise (except for the walking) so I wound up with a cheap (not inexpensive, cheap) flash device. It has a user interface that only its mother could love and a display I can only read when the moon, sun, and planets are perfectly aligned. The Shuffle looks good to me at this point because it is exactly how I use my current piece of crap.

I agree that the new computer user is going to be best served by buying the entry level iMac. But there are tons of computer users with an extra display downstairs. And don't forget, a KVM can be had for $30.

Rocky - corporate is going to be a hard nut to crack. But the fact is any machine running OS X with MS Office is perfectly poised for the office. OS X Serve is a serious business server. There are some pieces to the corporate puzzle still missing but the IT issue at this point isn't Apple's is IT inertia. Windows security and malware are proving to be effect in pushing IT to take a look elsewhere.

David W Bee, 2005-01-12

Moritz, a rumour has been wafting around since just before Christmas that a smartphone, manufactured by Motorola and designed & badged by Apple, has been doing the rounds at the UK office of Motorola.

Of course, these proofs of concept are forever being built by technology companies, and even if the story is true it need not mean very much - a case of 'running it up the flagpole to see who salutes it' to use the lovely American phrase. But there is perhaps some prospect of progress on that front. I have to think that it is a very different market sector than either computing or MP3 players, and a risky move to make - but then, so was the iPod.

Nick Daisley, 2005-01-12

Hi Nick, yes there have been runmours for some time, the interesting quation is would Motorola be a good partner as they seem to go into bed with MS? And what Smartphone OS would that phone be using? An own phone OSX or would Apple concentrate on user interface and apps and then use Symbian or Linux? Surely they wouldn't choose MS Smartphone/PocketPC...

Moritz Schroeder, 2005-01-12

I come from a Linux and Windows background. But at that (mini) price, I'll pick one up just to see what the OSX fuss is all about!

Tony S Lee, 2005-01-12

Volker, you might recall my earlier blog about having to repair my parents' Wintel box (spyware). The Mac Mini is a perfect fit for my situation, as I wrote here. I'm sure I'm not the only person who definitely wants to get rid of Wintel (or get it out of a relative's house) but doesn't want to by an all-in-one iMac. My folks have a perfectly good 19 inch monitor that they love. Now they can keep it, and I can get them onto an OS that is much less likely to be attacked. I'm pretty happy with the announcement. The Mini wouldn't work for somebody like me, but for my parents it's perfect (even the relatively low spec box will be fine).

Rob McDonagh, 2005-01-12


I read your blog post with great interest when you first put it out there. Last week, my parents asked me about upgrading their old Win98 machine. I told them "Get a Mac." But last week, the price point was too high. Now, like you, I am going to lobby for the Mac Mini. :-) The best part? Not only can I help them with their issues, but their grandson can as well!

Gregg Eldred, 2005-01-12

I think we're on the same wavelength here. I've always hates Macs and anything Apple, but will be recommending this to family/friends who are continually plagued with spyware/viruses etc.
Also if I've never owned or used one I genuinely won't be able to help them when they phone up ;O)

Ben Rose, 2005-01-13

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