MacWorld expo Keynote recap

One word is on everyone's lips: iPhone. Love it or ... well, does anyone hate this product?... the big question seems to by "why Cingular?" Click though for more of a blow by blow.

Carol and I arrived at 4am outside of Moscone West convention center with 250 of our "closest friends" who had been there for hours before us. Way at the front of the line were three people sleeping on the sidewalk and a couple of tents full of Google people. The three people appear to have arrived before the Google crowd at 9pm the previous night.

Meanwhile, at the no-longer-back of the line, we stood chatting with the folks around us: a young woman who had started working part-time at an Apple store in LA and trucked up north for her first dose of the keynote, a guy from Houston who was here to get the scoop for the Baylor College of Medicine, a Berkeley High School AP Chemistry teacher who was here on a PTA grant to find out what was new in the world of Mac, and many more.

I'll not bore much further with tales of the line, except to say the following: the folks from Microsoft Europe (apparently many from Denmark and elsewhere) are not doing anything to foster good will with the rest of the world or with Mac users. In front of us, the two placeholders managed to drag 10 of their friends in before the line finally was locked down by security and they seemed to think they had the right to butt in front of everyone standing outside for hours. Further, they seemed completely incapable of cleaning up after themselves, leaving newspapers, cups, and food wrappers on the sidewalks and floor as they migrated from place to place. A certain sign of people and an organization that is not interested in thinking about the world or others.

There was also quite a bit of sharing in line. People politely allowed others back in after short bathroom breaks and to go down the street to Starbucks. Returning people often brought things for people they didn't know or purchased large quantities of coffee and allowed anyone in line to grab them. Google, for their part of being a good citizen not only had everyone camp out ahead of time, but they shared their morning coffee with the people around them when it was delivered by a sleepy VP.

One last line story, and that's about the guy in the #2 position who received a phone call at 10pm notifying him that his wife had gone into labor. He headed immediately to the hospital, only to return at 6am once the mother and child were fine... I believe he was convinced to go back to the hospital... but on the other hand, who would want to miss the Stevenote?

I'll refrain from attempting to build the suspense. If you want to see how it went, you should go check out Apple's site, but unlike the WWDC in August, Steve was completely on his game yesterday. The room was his and he was doing what he loves. The Reality Distortion Field was in full effect.

With that said, I'm not sure that even a day later the RDF had it's usual impact, as the iPhone really appears to be all that and a bag of chips. It is sleek, appears solid and easy to use, and most interestingly to me, the entire demo was done with just one phone. This means that all the software was working on the one phone and that the phone never crashed (which can't be said for the slide clicker, which had some problems 2/3 through the talk). This thing is my next phone and the next phone for almost everyone in the hall. It is, hands down, the most amazing mobile device that I've ever seen.

Here are the basics:

  • 3.5" wide screen
  • "Multi-touch" UI for gesture and finger-based pointing
  • Running a version of OS X
  • Phone, iPod, and Internet device all in one
  • Touch-centric version of Safari, with preview and zooming
  • Accelerometer for determining when you have changed the orientation of the screen
  • 5 hours of video or web surfing
  • 16 hours of audio playback
  • 4 or 8 GB of storage

After the keynote there were many questions about the iPhone that we'll have to see answered over the next few months. These include availability of SDKs for 3rd party developers (or even if developers will be allowed to write code for the iPhone; the name of the iPhone, since it is well known that Cisco already has a product with such a name; the specifics of network provider lock-in; the battery situation (it looks like it's soldered in); and much more. But, that's what the net is for. I'm sure there will be plenty of speculation about it.

Enough with the iPhone, tell me something else

Besides the iPhone, Apple announced the particulars on the Apple TV (formerly iTV) that had been announced in September. It looks like a nice piece of work, and I'll talk more about thoughts on it later, but important to note are the 40GB hard drive and the ability to do auto-syncing.

Not mentioned in the speech, but sneaking out on the sly was a brand new Airport Extreme with 802.11n and capable of talking that protocol to any device that Apple's sold with the appropriate chipsets this year (uncertain what that means in particular, but I have it on good authority that anything purchased since June qualifies). It has a 4 port hub, improved admin utilities, improved security functions, higher speed, longer range, and the ability to serve disks that are plugged in to the USB port. Not bad for $179, shipping in February.