Steve Jobs delivered his keynote address at Macworld at 4 AM Sydney time last night. Here's the executive summary:
The Macbook Air is the world's smallest ultraportable. It's got a single USB 2 port, a headphone jack and a single-link mini-DVI output (with a maximum output resolution of 1920 x 1200) with integrated audio output. Optional adapters are available and can provide VGA, S-video and composite connectors. Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR and 802.11n networking are included. There is no optical drive, but included software for Windows and Mac will let the Macbook Air mount an optical drive over the network. The touchpad includes gestures similar to those used on the iPod Touch and iPhone.
Its 13.3" screen is lit with LEDs and a camera is built into the bezel and its full size keyboard is backlit. It's powered by either a 1.6 or 1.8 GHz Core2 Duo processor which Intel retooled into a smaller package roughly the size of a one dollar coin. The 80GB or 64GB solid state hard drive uses the same 1.8" form factor used in classic iPods. 2GB of RAM is standard, the RRP is $2499, and it ships at the beginning of February.
Ipod Touch and iPhone
The iPod touch now ships with five additional applications, and existing models can be upgraded for $25. They include stocks, notes, weather, mail and Google Maps with an Apple front end. It includes a positioning system provided by Skyhook, which works by triangulating prelocated Wi-Fi hotspots; a necessary workaround as neither the iPod Touch nor the iPhone includes a GPS receiver.
A free update for the iPhone will include this positioning system, and will be more accurate because it will use Google technology to triangulate GSM towers and combine this information with the Skyhook system. Bulk SMS sending is included as part of the update, and an iPhone SDK will be released late in February.
iTunes and Apple TV
Jobs proudly quoted some iTunes download statistics and then unveiled a new movie rental service. Although the system is not yet available internationally, Jobs stated that he wanted it to be released internationally later this year. Rented movies can be stored for 30 days, and will expire 24 hours after the first viewing. They can be transferred to and watched on any Apple product that can playback video during that time.
All the major studios (that's Fox, Warner Brothers, Disney, Paramount, Universal and Sony Pictures) are on board. Film rentals will be available 30 days after their DVD release and cost US$2.99 or USD$3.99 for new releases in DVD resolution, and HD versions will cost an additional USD$1.
Jobs admitted the Apple TV was initially a flop, and that a software update (which will be released in two weeks) would allow HD streaming of rented movies as well as a new interface. Amusingly, when Jobs tried to access a Fliker photo library from the Apple TV he was greeted with a black screen, but was able to say "Isn't that incredible?" immediately afterwards and still be rewarded with applause. Reports suggest that you can't buy movies from an Apple TV, and can only stream them from Apple's servers or your own collection.
Analysis by David Field: They say HD, but they mean 720p. This makes sense as an engineering problem because Jobs stated that films would be streamed after a 30 second buffer. The massive data rate increase in the jump from 720p to 1080p combined with bandwidth limitations would increase this buffer exponentially if full HD was streamed. 1080i content may be half the data rate of 1080p, but it's harder to encode because interlaced footage stresses the motion prediction algorithms in codecs which lead to a decrease in overall picture quality.
This happens because the scan lines in the source aren't consistent: compression works best when it has a uniform progressive frame to analyse (like a still photo), and interlaced frames are made up of alternating half pictures that move from side to side slightly, creating non-uniform zig-zag patterns throughout the images. To compensate for this, more motion prediction information has to be written, leading to the sacrifice of overall picture quality. Hence, 720p is the correct engineering trade-off.
Time Capsule is a companion to OS X 10.5’s Time Machine, and is a NAS combined with 802.11n wireless. Time Machine’s backups are sent wirelessly to what Jobs described as a server grade hard disk, in 500GB or 1TB variants. It can handle multiple computers. It also functions as an 802.11n base station and has 3 LAN ports, a WAN port and a USB 2.0 port. The 500GB version retails for $429 and the 1TB version retails for $699.
Analysis by David Field: Jobs’ server grade storage quote is a lie. Currently there are no server grade drives available in either of the capacities that Time Capsule will ship with. Seagate has claimed to come close with their latest line of Barracuda drives, however they are still consumer grade SATA drives.
Jobs also mentioned that a new 8 core Mac Pro was released before Macworld, Office 2008 is ready and the last major application to be natively x86 coded, and 5 million copies of OS X 10.5 were sold in the first 3 months since its release.