MacWorld — love it or love it

Robert Dow

Every danged time I got to MacWorld I kill myself trying to get to the keynote. Okay, so I maybe I don’t give myself enough time. But it seems to be that getting on the 7:50 a.m. ferry for a 9:30 keynote, should be enough time. It’s only a 20 minute walk to the convention center.
Unfortunately, the MacWorld organizers have a whimsical sense of humor. They move the press registration every year and then they plant doofusses at key points to send you to the wrong place. Go to the West Hall, all press go to the West Hall said the doofus chorus. And every danged time, I fall for it. I ran around from the North Hall to the West Hall and finally to the South Hall where I belonged (I know this means nothing to people who aren’t familiar with San Francisco, but just substitute your own most hideous trade show experience, multiply it by at least 3 years and you’ll get the idea.) By the time I got my butt in a seat in the auditorium, I was hating life, hating my inability to schedule appropriately for unexpected surprises (well, hello, they were unexpected, right?), hating all the hundreds of people sitting in front of me, and most of all hating Steve Jobs. Dammit, why do I have to run around dancing to Apple’s tune when they don’t give a good gol durned dingity’poop about me.
You’ll excuse my French.
And then the keynote started, Steve Jobs took the stage exuding aging boomer cool, and soon I found myself texting my husband — I want an iPhone, now dammit, now!
Apple finally announced a deal, long in the negotiating, to rent moves via iTunes and smugly told the crowd he’d won over all the major studios. Apple reloaded the Apple TV box so that now rented iTunes can play on TVs connected to the Apple TV, and Apple announced the new Air laptop. It’s a beautiful, thin, 3 lb laptop with a full size screen, full size keyboard, and remarkable 5 hours battery life. I want it. It’s beautiful. It’s Apple. It costs $1799 for the 80 GB hard drive version. It costs, ummm, $3,098 for the 64 GB solid state drive version. The battery is non-replaceable. Who cares? I want it.
Now, for my money, here was the most important part of the show. Steve Jobs told us that we could have an optical drive for this nifty little Air. No big deal, it’s a simple matter of adding an external USB drive. Blu-Ray? HD-DVD? Sure, fine, knock yourself out but the future is the network. You’ll get whatever you want from the Apple network, from iTunes. Download what you want when you want it.
The future is also Adobe Air, Google, and the whole server-centric lot of them, said Jobs. If you’re old enough, and much of the Steve Jobs fan club is, you’ll remember that this was much the same message of the NeXT computer that Steve Jobs tried to sell after he was booted out of Apple for reasons that are way too complicated, arcane, and boring to go into here. Jobs wanted to sell a client computer that was as expensive as a regular computer. It didn’t have a floppy drive, it didn’t have a disc drive, it got everything it needed from the network. It made us really nervous.
The AIR is NeXT again and this time there is a whole infrastructure, called the Internet, to support it and it is beautiful. It just goes to show that if you live long enough all the stuff you thought was going to happen tomorrow really will happen — the day after tomorrow.
So, what’s with all those glum faces on the elevator? It wasn’t enough. You can ask Scott McNealy of Sun and you can ask Larry Ellison of Oracle and you can ask Eric Schmidt of Google, and they will tell you that the network is god but no one really understands the gospel. Steve Jobs has just wandered out into the wilderness.
The early word is that the investment community and others are disappointed with the Apple announcements. Everyone saw movie rentals coming. The Apple TV is an orphan no one loves. And the AIR? Why it’s wonderful, but it’s no iPod, and it’s no iPhone. Steve, what have you done for us lately?
In the end, the prophets in the wilderness will be proved right. They are working behind the scenes to redefine our world, but we won’t really notice just as long as we can watch Banacek any time we please. We won’t really notice that it’s not NBC who’s bringing us our entertainment, it’s Apple, or Microsoft, or Amazon.
The revolution will come but you’ll miss it because you’ll be watching TV.