This year's Macworld keynote presentation was not the most exciting event Apple has ever put on, but there were still some noteworthy announcements. Here's a quick look.
For all of you who weren't able to follow our live coverage of Apple's keynote address at Macworld 2009 earlier Tuesday from San Francisco's Moscone Center, here's a quick recap of the highlights.
• DRM-free iTunes: As first reported last night by CNET News' Greg Sandoval, Apple announced plans to lift DRM technology from its entire catalog of 10 million iTunes songs by the end of April. Eight million songs are DRM-free as of today, and labels will be allowed to charge different prices for their songs, in a departure from the previous iTunes Store policies.
We're not exactly sure at the moment how the details will work with this announcement, but it sounds like a big win for iTunes customers. One downer is that you'll have to pay 30 cents to replace existing DRM-laden tracks with the new DRM-free versions, essentially upgrading those songs to iTunes Plus tracks. Check out this story from Greg for more details. The iTunes Store was slammed in the aftermath of the keynote, and service was spotty.
• New 17-inch MacBook Pro: Apple completed its notebook refresh with this new model, which brings the unibody design, trackpad button, and new displays to the company's largest laptop. It will cost $2,799, the same price as the current 17-inch MacBook Pro.
The most interesting part of this announcement, however, is the notebook's battery. Apple is using a new type of battery that it says will allow the notebook to get between seven and eight hours of battery life, depending on which graphics chip is running.
In order to get that technology into the notebook, however, Apple had to make the battery completely enclosed within the chassis: like the iPod and iPhone, you won't be able to replace it yourself. Apple representatives did not have details on how the battery replacement program will work, although it won't ship until later this month. Apple expects the battery to last five years.
Update at 2:08pm: Gizmodo reports the battery will cost $179 to replace, and it can be done at Apple stores or Apple resellers.
• iLife '09: There were some nice improvements with to the components of the iLife suite, such as geotagging support in iPhoto '09, improved editing capabilities in iMovie '09, and rock star instructors in GarageBand '09.
Are they compelling enough to upgrade? That probably depends on the individual. Travelers will like the geotagging, budding musicians will like the lesson plans. One sour note: it doesn't appear that anybody who bought the new MacBooks released from October onward will be able to upgrade to the new software without paying the full $79 fee.
• iWork '09: Does anybody actually use iWork? Easily the most underwhelming section of the keynote, the latest version of Apple's office software didn't appear to have anything compelling enough to cause a mass upgrade, other than perhaps Keynote Remote, which lets you use your iPhone or iPod Touch to control Keynote presentations.
But iWork.com will be interesting to watch evolve. It's in beta form for now, but if Apple works out the kinks, it could increase the usage of iWork especially if Apple finds a way to hook it into MobileMe.
• The Philnote: Phil Schiller acquitted himself well in the starring role, usually accustomed to playing the role of Steve Jobs' sidekick at these events. He wasn't Jobs, although to be fair I've been covering technology events for eight years and haven't run into an executive with anything even approaching Jobs' presentation skills. But he engaged the crowd, made the proper offerings to the demo gods the night before, and ensured that the show would go on.
• The rest: No Steve Jobs sighting. No new Mac Mini. No new iMacs or
Power Macs Mac Pros. The line outside the keynote seemed smaller than in years past, although it also seemed that IDG did a better job moving the line along.
And Tony Bennett is the true ageless wonder.
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