Macworld Expo 2008 in SF

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/

SAN FRANCISCO — The Annual Macworld Expo and Conference kicked off at the Moscone Center in San Francisco Monday, Jan. 14.  The much-anticipated event of every tech geek and Mac addict is said to be the largest single gathering of the business, computer and technology industry, particularly Apple enthusiasts.  This year, the five-day event offered in-depth training and educational content, new solutions and coolest products in the Mac marketplace, with the latest innovations from more than 450 exhibitors.

But aside from all the training, gadgets, new features and applications on exhibit, the most awaited event in the expo was the keynote address of Apple’s CEO and creator Steve Jobs on Tuesday morning, Jan. 15.  Industry experts, the media and bloggers alike have been speculating since last week what Jobs has in store for Apple.

The keynote address started with a new Mac/PC commercial — something that has gotten quite a number of laughs from the audience.  Jobs’ entrance received a great applause from the audience, composed mainly of the media.

Jobs opened his presentation with a rundown of 2007, indicating an extraordinary growth for Apple’s products which were introduced in the previous Macworld Expo.  This included the Leopard OS X, which he reported to have 5 million copies delivered.  He also announced that Microsoft is shipping the Office Mac 2008, the last big application to go native on Intel.  Also announced was the Time Capsule, a wireless external hard drive designed as a backup solution with Apple’s Time Machine backup software in 500GB ($299) and 1TB ($499).

iPhone’s market capture

After announcing that it has sold 4 million iPhones, Apple is adding new features to its existing software package.  These include webclips, (a web page zoom and a pan feature to let you place them on your home screen), multiple recipient SMS and lyrics support for iTunes.   Although many say it is not big news, it still is a welcome upgrade to the existing software.  You can also get the same upgrade for the iPod Touch for an extra $20.

Movie and music rentals

The wide rumor about Apple’s possible launch of a movie rental service was confirmed to support its TV and movie sales service as part of iTunes, with the participation of big major studios like Touchstone, MGM, Miramax, Lions Gate, Fox, Walt Disney, Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Sony.

“We’ve never offered a rental model in music because we don’t think people don’t want to rent music. But your favorite movie — most of us watch once, and renting is a great way to do it. It’s a great way to do it,” says Jobs.

Movie titles will be available 30 days after its DVD release and can be easily viewed on a Mac, PC, iPod or iPhone.  Rules are that you have 30 days to start watching and 24 hours after that to finish, as many times as one wants.

Take two on Apple TV

“We learned what people wanted was about movies.  Movies.  Movies.  We weren’t delivering that — we’re back with Apple TV Take 2 — It still syncs to your computer, but no computer is required,” explained Jobs.  With this, he continued to present the same rental features for the flagging Apple TV, without the need for a computer.   One will also be able to get photos from Flickr and .Mac, podcasts and YouTube videos; and will still sync via iTunes, but is not a requirement if you just want to watch web content.

It also does high-definition for $4.99 each. The Apple TV features will be a free software update to existing boxes (available in two weeks). New boxes’ prices drop to $229 from $299.

Something in the air

Running with the tagline “There’s something in the Air,” industry experts and bloggers had been speculating for weeks that the biggest announcement from Jobs is a new laptop. As widely expected, Apple launched the MacBook Air, claiming that it is the “thinnest notebook in the world.

At 0.76″ thick at its widest point, the three-pound Air has a wedge-like shape that tapers down to 0.16” thick at the front base and can easily fit a Manila envelope.   It offers great features like rotating photos, all in the touchpad, a backlit keyboard and LED backlighting on its 13.3-inch screen.  The Air’s specifications are pretty decent — 1.6 or 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (cleverly shrunken by 60% by Intel), 2GB of RAM, and an 80GB hard drive (or 64GB SSD option). Although it has no optical drive, a new feature was built into the Air called Remote Disc which essentially enables users to “borrow” the optical drive of another machine on the wireless network and pass along the data.  Another option is to purchase an external USB-powered optical drive which will cost $99. The MacBook Air sells for $1,799 — which many say is inexpensive for an ultralight notebook with the mentioned specifications.

The Macworld Conference and Expo runs until Jan. 18 at the West and South Hall of the Moscone Center, San Francisco.


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