BitDepth 662 - January 13

Apple introduces new gear and software at their last Macworld Keynote,
Apple's last Macworld keynote

Garageband, which has always revelled in making musicians out of the untalented, now includes music lessons. Photo courtesy Apple. 

Let this be a lesson to you, or more accurately, me. The minute you talk about your brand new, top of the line computer, the manufacturer will immediately make it obsolete.
I hadn't even had a chance to look at my column in last Tuesday's guardian before my e-mail started bouncing. My well-wisher's note? "Um, I think the 15" Macbook Pro just got creamed."
The hitman pulling the trigger on my all too brief dream was Phil Schiller, taking his first solo turn as Macworld keynote speaker and his last, announcing the newest Unibody Macintosh, the new 17 inch model.

The new Macbook Pro is a scaled up version of the 15 inch model with an additional USB port (total of three), a 2.93 Ghz processor in the build to order model (still just shy of 3 Ghz). Professional users will appreciate a BTO option for a less reflective screen (dubbed Anti-Glare), the only one offered in Apple's entire line of computers and the new RAM ceiling of 8GB. It's hard to be overjoyed by Apple's price for the upgrade, US$1,200, roughly the cost of a Macbook.
The most surprising development in the new Macbook Pro is its kinship with the Macbook Air, the only other Mac notebook that has a battery you can't remove. The new battery is rated to last for seven hours when using the faster video chip and triples the number of recharge cycles it tolerates before it begins to lose capacity.

iLife, iWork anew
The new Macbook Pro, for all it's charms, doesn't woo me. It's still a slab of metal the size of a serving tray, though a skinner one at just .02 short of an inch thick. While I know several users who are blissfully happy with the top of the line Macbook Pro, it's always seemed a little lonely to me without a plate of ribs and a glass of Cola sitting on it.
Schiller's announcements were heavily weighted toward software, with incremental upgrades to Apple's multimedia suite iLife and productivity suite iWork (US$79 each).

Most of the additions and upgrades amount to spit and polish additions and refinements.
Most outstanding in the iLife suite is the new "learn to play" feature of GarageBand '09, which will give non-musicians a better reason to play around with the loop based music composing software. Nine lessons for guitar and piano are included, offering coaching in popular songs by John Fogerty, Sting and Norah Jones. Additional lessons will cost US$4.99.
It's always been possible to make a tune with the Garageband regardless of actual skill, but this option actually encourages learning music techniques.

Working in the cloud
The other components of iLife '09 receive additions that will appeal to general users. iPhoto adds social networking connectivity with Flickr and Facebook and face recognition tools that promise to allow users to gather pictures based on the faces in the images.
iMovie '09 adds image stabilisation to its arsenal of film-making tools and the interface has been adjusted to resemble the popular 2006 version of the movie editing software.
iWork '09 bulks up on themes, adding more of the polished starting points that help the art challenged to get started with professional looking documents. Keynote adds new animation features for text and objects, Pages improves its marginal mail merge features and adds a fullscreen writing mode. Numbers adds simplified formula construction, table categories and new chart options, beefing up the strongest distinguishing feature of the year-old spreadsheet software.

The big news for iWork '09 is the announcement of, a new (for pay) web based extension to the software that allows iWork users to publish their documents to a web page that allows notifications, commenting and downloads.
Publishing is only available to users of iWork '09, but invited collaborators can use any current web browser on any platform to participate in reviewing and editing these documents. The new project is another stake in the ground for a company that clearly intends to play in the cloud computing game, despite the hiccups it's had with its MobileMe service.
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