Pre-Macworld 2009 Thoughts and Rumors

The good news is that with the keynote almost upon us, the Mac community has switched primarily from crying about Jobs not giving the keynote to instead focusing on the usual rumors and speculation. This is as it should be.

I’ve written about what I think of the change from Jobs to Schiller for Apple’s last Macworld keynote, so let’s talk about what we may see tomorrow. So many rumors, so little time…

Software

It seems there are three likely announcements on the software front:

  • An update to iLife appears likely. I haven’t seen much rumor or discussion on this, but it’s been over a year and it’s due. Unlike many who hated iMovie ’08, I rather like it, but would very much like to see enhancements in the area of titles and transitions. I’d also like to see the rather anemic sound controls updated.
  • I also see an update to iWork likely. Like iLife, it has not been updated in over a year. To me, it’s a testament to how solid Numbers was as a “1.0” product that it didn’t need a major “update” (as iMovie ’08 did) in order to make it more acceptable. Still, it needs some beefing up to help sell serious number crunchers, if that’s what Apple is after. As for me, I’d simply like to see more polish and more templates. When iWork ’08 came out, there was much discussion about how Microsoft’s Office had features 90 percent of users don’t use, so iWork was a better substitute. However, if Office is more than 90 percent need, then surely iWork is more than 85 percent need? In short, I’d rather iWork continue to focus on usability, and making its power more accessible, than getting more Office-like. There is some speculation that Apple will take iWork online with web apps. I think this is a great idea, but I sure hope that they can have performance about 20 times better than MobileMe. I’m hopeful MMe performance suffers because the service was so “broken” upon launch that tuning it was last on the priority list.
  • The third software announcement likely is news about Snow Leopard. Maybe a demo and some discussion of a release date, though I suspect that will be a very general release date.

Other software announcements we could see or hear about are for Apple TV or even the iPhone. The former seems more likely than the latter to me. It’s been a while since we’ve heard about Apple TV, so it’s due. My thinking is that ATV is going to get more and more like a merger between itself and Front Row. In fact, the rumor that Apple TV software may be able to run on a regular Mac seems like a worthwhile goal for Apple to shoot for. I’m especially interested in ATV because sometime this quarter I’ll be entering the HD TV world and am wondering if ATV or perhaps a Mac mini would be a good addition to my video system.
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What About iWork and iLife ’09 Tomorrow?

OK, I’m just going to throw this out there: I understand all the talk regarding Apple’s event tomorrow is about hardware (rightfully so, Apple has said the spotlight is on notebooks), but there’s a lot more to Apple’s value equation than just high-quality hardware.

Think back to when Apple introduced the aluminum iMac models in August 2007; they held a special event then, too. The Mac world by that time “knew” the focus was going to be on re-designed iMacs, and it seemed pretty conclusive that they would be aluminum. That’s exactly what they ended up being, and they were so compelling that I bought the 24″ Extreme model for myself. 
But at the time of that event the Mac world had also been waiting for refreshed iLife and iWork suites for quite some time. Apple had been in the habit of updating them at Macworld in January, but did not do so in 2007. Rumors predicted they would do so in February, then in Spring, then for back-to-school in early Summer, but none of these were true.
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How To: Access your iPhoto ’08 Library from your browser

Since iPhoto ’08 came out back in August, I’ve had mixed feelings on its new features.
I’m not a huge fan of Events and there are lots of little things that just annoy me now. One of which is that the iPhoto library now exists as a “package” instead of a readily accessible set of folders. Even after doing “Show Package Contents” on the library file it can get pretty hairy trying to actually get to the raw photographs.
Generally the only time I really have a desire to get to said files is when using a browser to upload photos. You can’t just navigate to your library files and grab the picture you want. There is a way to make it possible, though and it’s fairly straight forward.

1. Access the iPhoto Library Folder

iPhoto Library

Control-click (or right-click) on the iPhoto Library file and choose “Show Package Contents.”
iPhoto Library

2. Create Folder Aliases

After doing “Show Package Content” you should now see the folders and files contained in the package.
iPhoto Library
You’ll see two folders, “Modified” and “Originals,” which contain the actual photo files that iPhoto uses. These folders contain sub-folders which seem to be, for the most part, identical to the Events you might have set up. These are the folders we want access to when getting single files to upload in a browser.
What we have to do is create a folder alias to give us access directly to these folders outside of the iPhoto Library package.
Control-click on the “Modified” folder and choose “Make Alias” from the contextual menu. Leave it named “Modified alias” and then drag the new alias folder to the same directory that your iPhoto Library is in.
Repeat this for the “Originals” folder.
You can then rename the aliases to whatever you choose. You should end up with something like this:
iPhoto Library

3. Access the Files

Chances are the aliases still won’t give you access to the files when you are just in the Finder, but they will work when you are using a browser to open them.
Take a site like Flickr, for example. I’d like to upload a few of the original photo files to my account. I’m presented with the “Choose File” upload buttons and I can now access the files from within the browser:
iPhoto Library
And there we have it! It’s definitely a bit of a hack job for what should be a simple task, but until Apple changes this format we seem to be stuck with this solution.

Death to QuickTime Pro

Death to QuickTime Pro There might have been a good reason, at some point, for Apple to try selling QuickTime Pro. Not that I can remember such a time. While Apple forges new ground constantly in the digital media arena with innovative hardware and software such as the iPhone, iPod, Aperture, and Final Cut, the online store still attempts to sell QT Pro with the taglet “Upgrade from video watcher to video maker.”
Yeah, right.
I’ve already alluded once that almost all of QT Pro’s functionality is easily emulated with iMovie ’06 — and I’ve verified that it continues to be with the completely redesigned iMovie ’08. What exactly are QT Pro’s big selling points according to the Apple Store?

  • Convert media formats. So? We can do that with freeware, donationware, charityware, or shareware that is actually worth the asking price.
  • Edit with ease. Isn’t this what iMovie is all about? Did I miss a memo?
  • Create stunning video. Um… Ditto. Also, iMovie ’08 will export directly to YouTube, while QT Pro does not.
  • Build your QuickTime video library. With QT Pro you can save movies from the web. Here’s a hint: You can do that anyway with Safari, Firefox, and most other browsers without even having to open a media player at all.
  • Record your podcast. Now that’s just silly. Apple gives us iMovie and GarageBand for that one.

Even the QT Pro product page reads like it hasn’t been updated in two years. I honestly wonder how many people have ever chipped in the $30 Apple asks for the Pro license. QT Pro is superfluous and it couldn’t possibly be contributing to Apple’s profitability. All new Macs come with iLife pre-installed. I rushed out and bought iLife ’08 the day it dropped, like many others; the $80 price tag for iLife is reasonable, but $30 for QT Pro is inane. Can they even continue to justify the costs of sustaining development and marketing?
I say the answer is a big, flat thud of a no. So I call today for Apple to drop QuickTime Pro from their software offerings, and instead of duplicating code across products, to spend those person-hours on more innovation. While there are probably few person-hours spent on QT Pro, why spend any at all? What scarce features still unique to Pro (if any are left) could, and should, be integrated into QuickTime and iLife.
Death to QuickTime Pro! Who’s with me?

Is iLife 07 not going to happen for reals?

A year ago I wrote that Apple should wait on iLife ’07. Here we are, and I have to wonder did it work? I mean, Steve Jobs did comment on considering the wait!*

I thought I would take a minute to reevaluate this post, and reflect on the developments since then. It seems we are halfway through 2007 and there hasn’t been a peep about the next version. Oppenheimer said ‘Stay Tuned” which makes me think Apple TV is the key. Something tells me this next version is going to blow us away. Read More about Is iLife 07 not going to happen for reals?