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MacWorld Predictions

by Rob Friesel

With pretty much the rest of the web making all sorts of preditions and proposals etc. — all just generally speculating up a-flurry with pre-MacWorld stuff, I figured I’d join in. In my own way, of course.

I’d rather not spend too much time on the headless iMac or the Think Secret lawsuit or even *shudder* iWork. However, since there seems little point in ignoring it all together also…

Like Everyone Else

The Think Secret lawsuit seems to confirm the headless iMac. I’m right on board w/ Gruber in as much as:

When Steve Jobs announced the $249 price [for the iPod mini] during the keynote [last year-ish], the audience’s disappointment was palpable. If Think Secret had been in cahoots with Apple regarding this leak, surely the rumored price would have been higher than the real price, not lower.

It’s not necessarily “QED” but it does provide a very concrete example to shrug off the rumors that this was all staged. Staging product scarcity? Perhaps. But this is a bit different and echoes of the iPod mini is a freakish way. Headless iMac is coming. Good luck getting it at $500.

iWork is coming, too. Just check out Apple’s own site. Not enough at face value, but consider the source as with all things. iWork is going to come and it’s going to flop. Raise your hands if you’ve dropped Powerpoint for Keynote? I’m not saying that the app suite is going to suck. I’m saying the response to it is going to be a lot of smiling and nodding, ooo’ing and aah’ing, but not much buying. The app is going to feature the new UI theme that Tiger is supposed to have and this will be Apple’s way of easing us into it. It’s going to bring to mind Gruber’s article on themes and we’re all going to frown at it a little bit. It’s going to feel like the pro apps. However, unlike those apps (e.g., Final Cut Pro), they aren’t going to do anything that we don’t already get with Office. If you’re like me, you’ll grudgingly admit to yourself that you don’t want to learn new apps. That Word bolds text just fine. That Excel calculates means just fine. That you’ve already invested time and/or money in these products and don’t want to do it over again. That is sucked when it was called AppleWorks. That if you’re going to do any of this, you’re going to do it when OpenOffice.org is working on the Mac the way you’ve always wanted it.

As for the rumored iPhone, we’re not going to get that. At least not right now and at least not the way we expect. It won’t be branded as “the iPhone”. It’s going to come as the “Motorola V-somethingorother”. The hardware will be all Motorola. The UI will be all Motorola. It’s just going to plug in to the iTunes Music Store in some way. It’ll have improved sync’ing, it will play your Sampo Method top 10 as ring tones, and you’ll be able to slip it into your pocket for some musical goodness. This phone is the “flash memory” iPod — but it won’t do well b/c it’s going to be a disappointment on all fronts. The memory capacity will stink for songs. The sync’ing will be great but will go unnoticed b/c ppl want the music on it. Oh, and the UI will classically suck.

What We Really Want

So we’re going to get a headless iMac pre-loaded with iWork. And the app will flop and the (pizza) box will get a small cult following but be discontinued after a year b/c its mission will be complete. Sort of. Maybe later this year, they’ll give us the so-called iPhone. But that’ll wind up being more of a Motorola thing. It won’t get front page billing on Apple’s site. But it’ll get some “top 10 items sold” lovin’.

Where the energy would be better focused is on the iLife suite. An upgraded version will come this year though I have my doubts we’re going to see it announced at MacWorld on Tuesday. In particular, I’m talking about iTunes and iPhoto. I’ll admit right off that I don’t really give a rat’s sphincter about iMovie or iDVD; GarageBand just sort of bugs me out. But anyway…

iTunes needs some work still in a couple of areas. A while back, I referenced a Davidson article on this same subject. Davidson talked a bunch about playlists, play counts, and getting all those things in sync across multiple devices. For the most part, I concur and for now will leave it at that (to avoid being redundant). What has occurred to me as a potential compromise (given the particular technical and/or legal challenges that complicate the above), let’s focus on the sync’ing aspect and turn our attention to … oh, let’s call them “remote directories”. If iTunes isn’t going to be smart enough to “client-in” to a remote instance of iTunes, pull from its shared library, and properly increment the counts and update ratings etc. (and don’t anyone mention AirPort Express or AirTunes or else I will flip out) let’s at least be able to have iTunes sync up and re-scan directories. The scenario as I see it is the following:

  • central computer typecast as the server; features capacious hard drive that holds in the neighborhood of a lifetime’s worth of music (all purchased legally from iTMS or else ripped down fr/ legitimately bought CDs)
  • home is equipped with AirPort (or other such WiFi)
  • nice home stereo is at a distance away from the “server” that exceeds reasonable cable length
  • however, shared library(s) are played through nice home stereo via AirPort/WiFi by way of iTunes through some portable (e.g., an iBook)

This works to an extent. But given what we know about shared libraries in iTunes, we’re severely lacking in our ability to update playcounts or ratings. /sigh Instead, let’s change things up a little. Let’s create a user (“iTunes”) on the portable. That user’s sole purpose is to play iTunes via WiFi as described above. However, instead of the traditional library sharing, let’s alter iTunes prefs to set its default music directory to a shared/mounted drive (which we’ll calls “/VOLUMES/SharedTunes” for now). “SharedTunes” just so happens to coincide with the directory on the server where that instance of iTunes puts its 50,000 songs (from Mozart to Monster Voodoo Machine). Where this breaks down quickly is that as we add songs to the server, the portable “iTunes” user gets out of sync. There is currently way to re-scan that home directory.

But now I’m just rambling and going off on all kinds of tangents. I suppose my point comes right back around to the need for a better “client-server” model for iTunes w/r/t/ folks with big libraries. The current way isn’t cutting it.

As for iPhoto, I guess I just want it to be stable. And to not “beach ball” every time I change a title. And to export photos to CD-R in a way that’s easy for non-Mac folks to browse.

And like I said before, the other iLife apps can go to hell.

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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