Apple gets 'Back to the Mac' with iLife '11, Mac OS X Lion (live blog)

Apple is hosting a special press event Wednesday focused on the Mac, which CNET is covering live. There will also be a preview of the next version of Mac OS X.

Erica Ogg Former Staff writer, CNET News
Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.
Erica Ogg
15 min read

Editor's note: We used Cover It Live for this event, so if you missed the live blog, you can still replay it in the embedded component below. Replaying the event will give you all the live updates along with questions and commentary from our readers and CNET editors. For those of you who just want the updates, we've included them in regular text here. You can find a brief summary of what was announced in our followup article here.

Lion it is. This shot, taken today, is from the wall downstairs at Apple's headquarters. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

CUPERTINO, Calif.--Fresh off of crowing about strong iPhone sales, and unloading on Google and Android, Apple is turning its attention to one of its smallest businesses: the Mac.

Join us live as we find out for sure what Apple has in store. Our coverage begins just before 10 a.m. PDT today. You can follow the blow-by-blow account in the Cover It Live module below.

Those of you on Apple devices can watch Apple's own live stream of the event here: http://events.apple.com.edgesuite.net/1010qwoeiuryfg/event/index.html. The stream requires Safari 4 or 5 on Mac OS X Snow Leopard or Safari on iOS 3 or later. It can also be watched on non-Apple products by using a media player called VLC (download here) and inserting the URL into the Open Network Stream option under the media tab.

9:52 a.m. PDT: Hi everyone, thanks for joining us! We're just getting settled inside Town Hall here on the Apple campus. The event should begin in about 10 minutes.

9:56 a.m. (Josh Lowensohn): Hey, Josh here. I'm on photo duty this morning. Ina will be on in a second to corral your comments.

Members of the press and Apple employees wait for the presentation to begin. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

9:59 a.m.: Lights are lowering. Here we go.

Steve Jobs takes the stage to lots of applause.

10:00 a.m.: Thanks for coming, he says. "Fun stuff" to share with us. Because it's a more intimate setting today there will be engineers who make the stuff demoing their products.

Tim Cook, COO, will talk about the state of the Mac.

10:01 a.m.: Putting Apple revenue in context, Mac revenue made 33 percent of it. That's $22 billion Cook says. If it were its own company ("we have no plans to do that"), the Mac business would be #110 on the Fortune 500.

Tim Cook
Tim Cook Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:02 a.m.: The 14 million Macs Apple sold during fiscal 2010 is 3 times as many as they sold five years ago. There are 50 million Mac users worldwide now, he says.

The Mac grew 27 percent last quarter, 2.5 times the market. But it's actually the 18th quarter in a row the Mac has outgrown the market, according to Cook.

10:03 a.m.: There are lots of developers too, says Cook. 600,000 Mac-registered Mac developers. And they're adding 30,000 per month to their ranks.

10:04 a.m.: Cook is talking about developers for the Mac now, and gives Autodesk as an example. "We've coveted this for a long time."

10:05 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): Apple is claiming 20 percent of the U.S. market, but note that they mean retail sales only (useful if you have your own chain of retail stores), not direct sales, such as the customizable Dell/HP/Lenovo model.

10:05 a.m.: What's more meaningful is the customer reaction, he says, citing Consumer Reports and the American Customer Satisfaction Index awards for customer satisfaction.

10:06 a.m.: Retail is huge for them. 75 million visitors went into Apple stores worldwide, says Cook. 50 percent of the people who buy Macs in stores are buying one for the first time.

Tim Cook
Tim Cook talks about Apple's retail stores. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:07 a.m.: He's detailing the architecture for the new stores in Shanghai and Beijing again (we got this same speech at the iPod/Apple TV event last month).

10:08 a.m.: Steve's back. Talking new products. First up: iLife.

"We keep improving it every year." The new version, iLife '11 is here today. Same apps in it, he says.

Steve Jobs introduces iLife '11.
Steve Jobs introduces iLife '11. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:09 a.m.: iPhoto 11 has some changes. Now there are new full-screen modes, more Facebook enhancements, easier to e-mail photos, new slideshows, and a "big leap in books."

10:10 a.m.: You can also make letterpress cards in iPhoto 11.

Phil Schiller, VP of product marketing, is going to take us through iPhoto.

10:11 a.m.: New full-screen mode so you can work your entire time in full-screen mode. You can also see the Faces view in the library in full-screen mode, same goes for the Places mode.

10:12 a.m.: He's detailing the map zooming features of Places. You can click on a push pin and see all your photos from that location. There's also a new "Places" slideshow theme that uses pictures popping up over a map to tell a story.

10:14 a.m.: Now we're diving into Album view. You can see your photos from your Facebook or Flickr account, which are added automatically.

Album view in iPhoto Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:15 a.m.: He's walking us through a few more slideshow themes, including a holiday-oriented one.

10:16 a.m.: If you flag photos in an album you can select them, click share, and an automatic album is created and put into an e-mail. You can change the arrangement of the photos directly in the e-mail.

iPhoto demo
iPhoto demo Josh Lowensohn/CNET

iPhoto demo
iPhoto demo Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:17 a.m.: That includes full size or smaller photos.

10:17 a.m.: Clicking on "info" when looking at a photo will show you where you've sent or shared a photo, e.g. Facebook, including friends' comments from FB.

Sharing photos in iPhoto
Sharing photos in iPhoto Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:19 a.m.: You can also pick an album to turn into a book. You click "Create" in an album, then you get a "book carousel" where you can pick themes or templates for a book. iPhoto will then lay out the book for you, and if you want to go in and make tweaks or edit, you can do that too.

Turning an album into a book in iPhoto.
Turning an album into a book in iPhoto. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

The book-making tool in iPhoto.
The book-making tool in iPhoto. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Book layout in iPhoto.
Book layout in iPhoto. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:19 a.m. (from reader phoenixjn): Can these books be printed?

10:19 a.m. (Ina Fried): Typically you order the books and they are shipped to you, but I believe there is an option to print the pages at home.

10:21 a.m.: There's also a new view in iPhoto called Project View. It's a book shelf showing your past albums or photos you've made into books, cards, etc.

Project view in iPhoto
Project view in iPhoto Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Now we're watching a video about letterpress cards, a kind of printing method Apple has added as an option to make cards.

Letterpress printing in iPhoto
Letterpress printing in iPhoto Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:22 a.m. (Ina Fried): I think we are going to get a lot of iPhoto-made wedding invitations in the future.

10:22 a.m.: That's it from Schiller and iPhoto. Steve's back.

10:23 a.m.: Next up: iMovie. "A great release," Jobs says.

Steve Jobs talks about iMovie.
Steve Jobs talks about iMovie. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:24 a.m.: We strive for really sophisticated editing real simply, "so mere mortals who don't want to learn FinalCut Pro" can use it, he says.

You can make news and sports themes, movie trailers, and more. Randy Ubillos, chief architect for video apps, is up to talk to us about it.

10:25 a.m.: Audio editing is now highlighted and easier to see in project mode. You can see the audio fade-in change as you're editing it, he shows us.

iMovie editing
iMovie editing Josh Lowensohn/CNET

iMovie audio editing
iMovie audio editing Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:26 a.m.: iMovie 11 now has audio effects. You can float your mouse over different effects like Darth Vader, robot, etc. and hear previews live.

Sound effects in iMovie
Sound effects in iMovie. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:28 a.m.: You can also select a scene and choose "instant replay" from the Clip menu, and an instant-replay title will be automatically added to your video. There are other effects, too, like "flash and hold" or "Ken Burns."

10:29 a.m.: You can also make your own movie trailer now. There are templates to choose from, with titles, fade-ins, effects, sounds, etc.

Movie trailer templates
Movie trailer templates Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:30 a.m.: You add your own titles (movie name) and cast (people in the photos), as well as your "studio" and your own logo. "Credits" for your movie are pulled from your address book.

Credits in iMovie
Credits in iMovie Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:31 a.m.: There are original scores that Apple recorded at Abbey Road studios in London from the London Symphony Orchestra you can pick for your trailer.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:31 a.m. (Josh Lowensohn): Is that FaceTime I see in the dock?

10:32 a.m.: Face detection from iPhoto now works in iMovie.

10:33 a.m. (Josh Lowensohn): I'll be honest, this seems like a lot of work to make this movie trailer. I don't see myself wanting to go through it, but I suppose it's nice to have.

10:35 a.m.: And Randy's movie trailer gets a round of applause. He's going to show us a few more he's made.

10:35 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): Boy, my Flip cam videos never look that good...

10:36 a.m.: Vimeo, Facebook, and CNN's iReport join the export options.

Exporting movies from iMovie
Exporting movies from iMovie Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:38 a.m.: Steve's back now, and says iMovie 11 is "a real breakthrough." You can post on YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo. He didn't mention CNN iReport.

Steve Jobs
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

GarageBand gets an update too. Xander Soren, product manager, will demo it for us.

10:39 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): Garage Band seems to be blurring the lines between it and the pro-level Apple music app Logic with time-stretching tools, etc.

10:41 a.m.: Xander shows us how you can take tracks of a band that plays at different speeds and get them in time together with something called "GrooveMatching." Hover your mouse over the tracks and a star appears. You pick the "groove" track and the rhythm of that track is applied to every other instrument and track in the song. But a "human" rhythm so the songs don't sound "robotic," Soren says.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:41 a.m. (Josh Lowensohn): I wonder if there's auto-tune for the vocals...

10:42 a.m. (Ina Fried): Xander called the feature like an auto-spell check for bad music. I think i would still sound bad.

10:44 a.m.: Now we're going to the part of GarageBand where you can learn to play an instrument. New lessons in iLife 11 for guitar, piano, and in different styles. He shows us Mozart's Minuet in F Major.

Music lessons in GarageBand
Music lessons in GarageBand Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:44 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): Or I'd say it's like Auto-Tune for timing. Not new for Pro Tools, etc., but interesting to see it in a consumer app.

Music lessons in GarageBand
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:46 a.m.: When you're playing along with the lesson it shows you in red where you missed notes, yellow where your timing was off, and it keeps a running score of how you did.

10:46 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): The music lesson scoring (this guy got 95 percent) has a very Rock Band/Guitar Hero vibe.

10:47 a.m.: When you finish a song, GarageBand keeps track, shows you your progress learning over time. The feature is called "How Did I Play?"

10:47 a.m.: Jobs takes the stage again. 5 million people use GarageBand, he says.

iLife 11 is free with every new Mac, Jobs says.

10:48 a.m.: It's $49 to upgrade your existing Mac.

New iLife available today, he says.

Now, we're on to FaceTime.

10:49 a.m. (Josh Lowensohn): Totally skipped over iDVD.

10:49 a.m.: "It's pretty remarkable. The first video calling on mobile devices," he says.

10:49 a.m.: Since then, 19 million FaceTime devices (iPhone and iPod Touch) shipped. The No. 1 request we've gotten has been can we do FaceTime calling to the Mac. Yes, now you can.

10:50 a.m.: FaceTime for the Mac. It takes your contacts from your address list. Pick someone, click on them, and it initiates a FT call between another Mac, iPhone 4, or iPod Touch. He's going to demo it for us.

FaceTime demo on Mac
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:51 a.m.: Click on the FT logo in the dock. He calls Phil Schiller on an iPhone 4. The reception is quite a bit better than the demo of FT at WWDC earlier this year.

Phil Schiller and Steve Jobs chat on FaceTime
Phil Schiller and Steve Jobs chat on FaceTime on the Mac. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:52 a.m.: "I think people are going to like this based on the requests we've gotten." he says. That's it. Short, quick demo.

Watch this: Apple previews new Mac OS X Lion

The beta release for FaceTime for Mac is available on Apple.com today.

Next up: Mac OS X.

10:53 a.m.: We've had seven major releases of Mac OS X in the last decade. "I don't think anyone can match that track record," he says.

Today, we are getting a preview of the 8th major version of Mac OS X Lion.

10:53 a.m. (from reader Nick): Beta?! has apple ever done this before? Seems like they didnt meet the deadline!!

10:54 a.m. (Ina Fried): Apple has done betas before. I think iChat was a beta initially, if I am not mistaken.

10:54 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): Is this the end of the OS X line? What's better than a lion?

10:54 a.m.: The philosophy behind it: started with Mac OS X and created iOS from which it was used in the iPhone. "We've perfected it and it's used in the iPad as well. What we like to do, we were inspired by those innovations in the iPhone and iPad, and we want to bring them back to the Mac."

10:54 a.m. (Ina Fried): Multitouch gestures coming to the Mac--that's a big deal.

10:55 a.m.: We'll get a taste of some of the key new features, he says. Multitouch gestures can be really important on the Mac, too. The App Store can be on the Mac, too, and there's a great home screen, there's also full-screen apps, and "sometimes that's great on the Mac too," like with iPhoto.

10:56 a.m.: Multitouch gestures: we've done tons of user testing and it turns out it doesn't work. "Touch gestures don't want to be vertical. After a short time you start to fatigue. It's ergonomically terrible," he says. Touch needs to be horizontal, "hence pads."

10:57 a.m.: So Apple is going to use multitouch on a Mac in a horizontal way because vertical doesn't work, he says.

Steve Jobs on multitouch
Jobs argues horizontal multitouch interface is best. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:58 a.m.: There have been 7 billion apps downloaded from the App Store. So we're going to have a Mac App Store in Lion, Jobs says.

10:58 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): It's true, laptops with touch screens really only work when they swivel and fold down (as on the HP TouchSmart laptops).

10:58 a.m.: There will be one-click downloads, free and paid apps, 30/70 revenue breakdown for developers. Automatic installation and updates. And apps will be licensed for use on all your personal Macs.

10:59 a.m.: When you get your apps, they all go into the Launchpad, a home screen for your apps.

11:00 a.m.: One other thing, he says. There are four "cool inventions" in Mac OS X Apple has: Expose, Dashboard, Full screen apps, and Spaces. Apple has unified them into something called "Mission Control" so you can see everything running on your Mac and navigate to them.

11:00 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): How will Mac software makers feel about giving Apple 30 percent in order to play in the new Mac app store? It's not the typical PC model...

Mac App Store
Mac App Store Josh Lowensohn/CNET

11:00 a.m. (Josh Lowensohn): Just wanna say I thought Apple might do this with iTunes nearly 3 years ago.

11:00 a.m.: Craig Federighi, VP of Mac OS X, is going to give us a demo of this.

11:01 a.m.: App Store has its own icon on the dock, you jump to a store just like in the iTunes Store. You see top paid and free apps, different categories, and updates.

App Store icon in Mac dock
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

11:01 a.m. (Ina Fried): All this seems to be laying the groundwork for, among other things, dual-booting machines, in addition to bringing the best of the iOS to the Mac.

11:02 a.m.: Federighi shows us how he will install Pages on his Mac. He sees the screenshots of the app, customer reviews, and clicks "buy." A real copy is then downloaded to the Mac.

11:03 a.m.: In LaunchPad, a full-screen grid pops up with your apps, much like on an iPad or iPhone layout on the home screen. You can flick through to see different pages of Apps.

You can also make folders like in iOS. Grab and hold one app over another and a folder is created.

Apps on Mac
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

11:04 a.m. (Josh Lowensohn): Interesting, this exists alongside the Finder. Surprised they're not combining the two somehow.

11:04 a.m.: Now Mac apps will open, and clicking the green button in the frame will make it go to full-screen mode. You can do one multitouch gesture to get to your desktop, you don't have to exit full-screen mode to do that.

11:05 a.m. (Ina Fried): As user "scott" points out. Apple did create a "Simple Finder" option some time ago, so not the first time Apple has tried this.

11:06 a.m.: Dashboard, Spaces, Expose all in Mission Control. There, you can see all the windows open in every app you have open.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

11:08 a.m.: Jobs returns to the stage. "We're really excited about Lion," he says. "I wish we had another 1.5 hours to show you more. Our plan is to release Lion in summer 2011. We're on schedule, we feel really good about it."

11:09 a.m.: The Mac App Store is going to be really great for our users and we don't want to wait for Lion. It will be available on Snow Leopard in 90 days from today, he says.

App submissions from developers will start in November.

11:10 a.m.: Now he's running through a recap of what we've heard so far today.

11:11 a.m.: But there is "one more thing."

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

11:11 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): OK, here's the good stuff...

11:11 a.m.: "It comes back to our theme today, which is Back to the Mac," he says.

11:12 a.m.: That also benefits our hardware, he says. "What would happen if a MacBook met an iPad?" he asks.

Mac meets the iPad
Mac meets the iPad Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Watch this: Apple unveils new, thinner MacBook Airs

11:12 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): So far, this is matching up with our expectations...

11:12 a.m.: An iPad has instant on, great battery life, amazing standby time, solid-state storage, no optical or hard drives, and it's thinner and lighter and more mobile. "These are some great things for notebooks," he says.

11:13 a.m.: What would happen "if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up?" One of the most "amazing things we've ever created. It's our new MacBook Air, and we think it's the future of notebooks."

New MacBook Air
New MacBook Air JoshLowensohn/CNET

MacBook Air
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

11:13 a.m.: It's .68 inches at its thickest point, and it tapers to .11 inches.

11:14 a.m.: It weighs in at 2.9 pounds.

11:14 a.m.: It needs to be thin and rigid, he says. So it's got a unibody construction like the MacBook Pro. Full-size keyboard and full-size glass trackpad.

11:15 a.m.: 13.3-inch LED backlit display, 1440x900 pixels (more pixels than on our 15-inch MacBook Pro, he says), Core 2 Duo processor, Nvidia GeForce 320m graphics, and FaceTime camera.

What it doesn't have: optical drive or hard drive. Flash storage only here.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

11:16 a.m.: That enables instant-on, two times faster than hard drive, "more reliable," and 90 percent smaller, and nearly silent operation, he says.

11:16 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): Some other guys, such as Sony, have also gone SSD-only in some high-end laptop lines.

11:16 a.m.: Some other guys, such as Sony, have also gone SSD-only in some high-end laptop lines.

11:17 a.m.: You get 30 days of standby time, and 7 hours of battery during wireless Web use with the new Air.

11:18 a.m.: Now we're looking inside it. Flash storage is right on the motherboard like the iPad, iPhone, and iPod. 802.11n Wi-Fi, graphics, processor, though the battery takes up the most space.

Inside MacBook Air
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

13.3-inch Air isn't the whole story. It has "a younger brother."

11:19 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): Core 2 Duo and Nvidia 320 GPU--basically the same setup as the $999 white MacBook.

11:19 a.m.: There's also an 11.6-inch version. Smaller, and lighter at 2.3 pounds.

Same specs as the larger version, but with a 1366x768 resolution.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

11:19 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): This is the first sub-13-inch from Apple since they started calling them MacBooks, right?

11:20 a.m.: 5 hours battery life with wireless Web use, and 30 days of standby time.

11:20 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): Also, these are 16:9, important to note...

11:20 a.m.: All notebooks will be like this someday, he said. New price starts at $999.

That's for the 11-inch model with 64GB of memory. $1,199 for 128GB.

11:21 a.m.: 13 inch is $1,299 for 128GB, $1,599 for 256GB.

Pricing on new MacBook Airs
Pricing on new MacBook Airs. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

11:21 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): $999 is a lot for an 11-inch, but the Nvidia GPU is nice extra.

11:21 a.m.: He also runs through the green standards they meet.

Green standards for MacBook Air
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Both MacBook Air models are available today.

11:22 a.m.: And, of course, we get to see the ad.

11:22 a.m. (from reader Andy): $300 gap is a lot for a hard drive between the two 13-inch models

11:22 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): Note that Acer's new 11-inch Timeline is $899 with a Core i7 CPU.

11:22 a.m. (Ina Fried): While these are Airs, Apple is calling this "the next generation of MacBooks."

11:23 a.m.: Video with Jony Ive talking about the design now.

11:23 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): Right product at the right time? I feel like 11-inch is the most useful size right now for portability/productivity balance.

11:25 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): Interesting--the 11-inch version isn't any thinner than the 13-inch.

11:25 a.m. (from reader Miguel): Why wouldn't you cough up a little more and get the 13-inch MacBook Pro instead?

11:26 a.m. (Ina Fried): Size and instant on are big features. Remember the iPad was just a big iPod Touch till people got their hands on it.

But turned out instant-on, highly mobile Web browsing are popular. This could be interesting for some on the fence about iPad or Netbook.

11:28 a.m.: Steve says there's a hands-on room next door, so we'll pop over there right after this.

11:28 a.m. (Dan Ackerman): OK, hands-on time. Stay tuned!

11:28 a.m. (Ina Fried): And Steve exits stage right.

11:29 a.m.: Thanks for joining us, all!

11:30 a.m.: OK, we're off to take a look at the new hardware. But come back to CNET throughout the day for more analysis and some hands-on videos and first impressions of today's announcements.

Editors' note: The original, barebones version of this story was posted October 19 at 1:00 p.m. PDT.