Tuesday, January 15, 2008

MacWorld Keynote Reaction

Well, the speculation is over, the rumor and anticipation is done, Steve's Keynote has been delivered. There were a number of updates, and two new products, that were announced. Let me go over them one by one, and give you my reaction to each of them.

Time Capsule
Time Capsule is a new device that Apple has that combines the Airport Extreme with a backup drive already on board. So, instead of getting another drive and adding it to your Airport Extreme, you have just the one device. Very handy, very popular, very much in need when using Time Machine to back up your data. If you don't already have a server running at home that will let you back up your machine, this is a great idea.

At the time of the announcement, I was rather luke-warm about this device, since it is kind of a watered down home SAN, but it didn't really grab me. Now, I think it's something that I would like to have. It integrates with Time Machine well, so there isn't a lot of configuration and thought that needs to go into backing up your system. It just does it for you. Of course, you can save a lot of space if you only back up your Users folder, which backs up all the user folders and configuration files. ^_^

iPhone Updates
Great idea, adding a lot of functionality to the already popular phone. But I don't have a phone, and I'm not sure I will ever get a phone. Why wasn't there an option to tether a Bluetooth keyboard? That, in my mind, would have been a much needed/wanted ability for the iPhone. Perhaps in future, as new software becomes more popular and functional with the SDK.

iPod Touch Updates
This was very much needed. It's about time! The update will be welcome for everyone that want's to have the functionality of the iPhone without wanting an actual phone. For the first time, I am seriously thinking of getting an iPod Touch. Course, if you already have one, the extra $20.00 seems a bit steep. Why charge for the upgrade?

iTunes Movie Rentals
We all knew this was coming, particularly since a lot of studios have been rather loose-lipped about the whole thing. It's a good move, in my mind. There are a lot of movies I have ripped into MP4 format that sit on a DVD somewhere, never to be watched. All the DVD's that we have purchased and have only watched once... It's a good move. And the price is about what I expected. The HD rental idea was pretty cool, though I wonder what the download rate would be.

Do I think it will change the industry? Not really. I think it will be more popular, easier to manage, and more natural for people because of their current use of iTunes, but ultimately the industry is too young to say that it will be changed forever by this announcement. But it does make using the current industry more simple to use. ^_^

Apple TV Take 2
Yes! It stores it's own media! Yes! The upgrade is free! Yes! This was the real announcement for me. The Apple TV had so much potential, but it felt like those of us using it for so long had been pretty much left out of the loop. It was great for sharing media from my wife's Mac, and still will be. But now we can rent movies to it easily, watch them, and have the movie automatically delete once we've watched it. Also, video podcasts can be downloaded and watched without having to use another machine. This was a great idea, and I'm glad Apple went with it. ^_^

The price drop was also nice, though not significant enough to warrant another purchase of the 160 GB model (yet). Yet again, price begins to drag on my wants, reminding me of the needs that are more pressing. Oh well, perhaps soon.

Macbook Air
The rumor was pretty strong on this one, and I thought it would be something similar to the Eee PC by ASUS. The devil was in the details, depending on the type of drive, size, and features it carried. It turned out to be the same, much the same way a Honda Civic is the same thing as a Mercedes Benz. Here are the points:

1. Size: It's perfect for what I want. I need something small, easy to carry around in either a backpack, briefcase, or even a portfolio. That's why I wanted an iPod Slate to begin with. Something like that would have been perfect, and they have given me basically a Slate with the keyboard attached. It's nice and compact, if wider than I would have wanted (in comparison to my 12" Powerbook).

The thing is, I don't really need a 13" screen. I can deal with a 8" screen (I did with my NEC 120LT for a couple years, and it was great!). So the screen size isn't actually a benefit for me. It could be, if I needed to see something that big, and the resolution is right where I would want it to be. But a small screen I can live with.

2. Weight: Great weight. I like small laptops that are lightweight. My 120LT that I had for years was 2.2 pounds. That was perfect for running around. This gives me the ability to write documents, show presentations, carry my movies/TV shows with me, and having a full OS that will work with the classes I teach. And it's all in a small form device that is about the same size and width of a 30 page document (estimate only). That I like. It's perfect particularly for any instructor in Distance Education, who want's to have the power of a full-sized laptop, but save on space while traveling.

But how does it compare to the Eee PC? The Eee PC is lighter by a full pound. So even though the weight is great for the Macbook Air, it's still not the lightest option out there.

3. Drive: This is what concerned me the most. Solid State drives have a limited number of writes before it fails. Granted, pretty much everything could have the same, but a solid state drive is more limited. With a full OS writing to it constantly (log files, caching, deleting, etc.), it can fail rather quickly.

I had mentioned before in a previous post that if such a thing were to be developed, it would be nice to have an iPod Classic drive in the machine. And that's what they did. It's not really fast (4200 RPM), so don't expect to be gaming heavily on it, or producing video with Final Cut Pro. But it will do the job, and potentially last longer than a Solid State Drive.

Course, if you want speed, the 64 GB (compared to the Eee PC's max of 8 GB) will definitely give it to you...at a cost. That cost? $999. yep, the 4200 RPM PATA drive was a good choice. ^_^

One thing it can't do is boot from a USB drive, unlike the Eee PC. Of course, I could be wrong about that, but that is a huge bonus with the Eee PC. Sure the SSD drive may die on it after a few years, but you can still boot from either a USB drive, or an SD card. Therefore, you have a device that can outlast the SSD drive installed, as well as have multiple versions of the OS for the machine.

4. Peripherals: The Macbook Air was built to be wireless, and use wireless devices. Sure, you can have an external, USB powered Superdrive ($99 extra), or another USB device, but that's it. It doesn't even have a Firewire port, as you might expect. The Micro-DVI port looks interesting (almost like a 400 Firewire port??), but if you lose your adapter you are sunk. No one else will have one that will work with it, unless they have the same machine.

The wireless technology is what you would expect from Apple: 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1. There was a guess that it would include either UTMS or WiMAXX, but neither came about. I wouldn't mind WiMAXX... I like the idea and the technology. Perhaps in future incarnations of the Macbook Air as the technology begins to catch on. We will see.

The Eee PC has three USB ports, and an SD card slot. Great idea, but SD cards are easily lost (particularly if you are as disorganized as I am). But then, the USB ports could easily make up for that. Wireless is the standard 802.11g, which most people support.

5. Design: Quite frankly, the Macbook Air has a killer design. It's sleek, it's fancy, it's impressive. It will turn heads, and be the kind of tech status symbol that many people feel they need in their lives. Personally, it's not as important as a number of other features, but then I still like to have something that looks as good as it performs. The key there is as good as. I don't want something that looks fabulous, but totally bomb in performance. It still needs to do what I want it to do.

The Eee PC doesn't look as nice, but the ability to boot from any Linux distro at any time, while keeping your home folders on the main drive is pretty slick. The geek factor goes up pretty high at that point. Of course you can always tri-boot the Macbook Air, you just don't have the flexibility to move based on new storage.

6. Price: For those (two) of you who have followed my blog, you know that I pride myself on my Scottish heritage. It's in my Blog's name, I show it every April 6th (national Tartan Day!), and I try to show it in my purchasing of devices. I'm very wary of paying a load of money for a new thing just because it is "shiny". I want to have made an informed decision, and gone with the lowest bid.

Now, that doesn't mean that I automatically look at price! I look at quality, life expectancy, and multi-tasking my purchases. if it does one thing really well, but I can't do anything else with it, then I generally leave it be (unless it's under a dollar ^_^). So with high prices comes high expectations. If I can do the same thing with a lesser-priced device, I will go with the lesser priced device. It's simple rules of economics.

The Macbook Air is priced at $1,799.00, with an Education discount of $100. Good price? It hurt my wallet. I want the thing, but that's a bit much for me to muster. I need a new laptop, and I really would like it to be a Mac. It makes a $999.00 Macbook look a lot better. After all, it's just a little thicker, has more features, and weighs just two more pounds. I just can't put it in a Portfolio while on the go.

Course, the Eee PC is priced around $400.00, which makes it a much better purchase. I could purchase two and still have it be less than a Macbook.

Anyway, that's what I thought of today's MacWorld Keynote. All in all, they were all really neat. But I don't think I will be getting a Macbook Air today. Perhaps, if more is known on how it performs with Target Disk Mode, and other support features, I may change my mind and try to talk my wife into letting me get one. Perhaps...

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