Reality versus the Macworld Hype

Well, the Airport connection wasn’t working inside the main hall at Moscone Center in San Francisco, where Steve Jobs gave his keynote speech for the Macworld show. Jobs’s famous Reality Distortion Field was on high beam, however.

Actually, I don’t mean that as cruelly as it sounded. Apple did introduce some very cool new products — two in particular, the new iMacs and the iPhoto software package — so the event was certainly worth attending. I predict major success for the highest-end iMac in particular, and iPhoto solves problems that amateur digital photographers never realized they had.

But Jobs’ speech didn’t come close to matching the pre-show hype, which was fed not just by the rumor sites but by Apple itself.

The hype came thudding to earth when Time magazine’s Canadian-edition Web site put up the story on Sunday afternoon. You have to hand it to Apple, though, getting millions in free advertising from Time for products that simply don’t deserve it. The Time cover story, coming on the heels of the ridiculous naming of Rudy Giuliani as “Person of the Year,” would embarrass people at AOL Time Warner if they had a better-developed sense of journalistic shame.

Again, this isn’t to say that Jobs’ announcements were entirely vapid. There’s at least some meat on those bones.

The new iMac is beautiful industrial design, no doubt about it. And the most expensive model, which like others comes with an LCD flat screen, also boasts the “Superdrive” DVD recorder and lots of power (G4, 60G hard disk, etc.). At $1,800 it’s a deal. I’ve ordered one.

I’m wondering, at the same time, how Apple expects to keep selling the much more expensive G4 tower models once these iMacs hit the street. Yes, there’s more expansion potential in the PowerMac, and you can run a bigger monitor off of it. But I have to believe the new iMacs could cannibalize sales of the tower machines — unless the widely rumored G5 tower models are just around the corner. Pure speculation, of course.

The bigger iBook didn’t do much for me, though some users will crave the larger screen. I hope they’ve made the keyboard better.

iPhoto, the image software, is a great product, period. It’s free for the download from Apple’s Web site, but I’d pay for it. For amateur photographers this will be a godsend — an easy way to get pictures onto disk drives, sort and edit the pictures and then publish them to paper, the Web, in a book, you name it. This is Apple at its finest.

There are some things I’d like to see in the software, including a slider that let you change the image density and see how it will look on a Web page at higher or lower density and size. Avie Tevanian, head of software at Apple, told me this is on the list for the next version.

But there was no iWalk, the rumored PDA. No G5 desktop. No wireless breakthrough. In short, there was not enough to justify the massive come-on suggesting a revolution.

What we got was good enough in any other atmosphere. Still, reality distortion eventually has its costs.

  • More coverage of Macworld today: Dave lists press reports and blogs here. I’m under Press reports, which is a matter of opinion, I guess… 😉


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