Macworld 2006 Braindump

Some thoughts and questions about Apple’s Macworld 2006 releases.

(This post is a work in progress, I stand to be corrected on anything detailed below. Please let me know if there are any corrections/additions by leaving a comment, thanks!)

Radio Remote for iPod

Apple finally rolls over (if I remember correctly, SJ had previously stood firm in his opinion that iPod users didn’t need a radio) and adds an FM radio tuner to the iPod, though I’m not sure anyone was expecting it to be an accessory add-on. Seems like a stop-gap move to me, why?

I own a 5th Gen iPod and am seriously considering adding this thing to my iPod accessory bag, though only if I can get a straight answer to the question - how is thing supposed to work with any existing dock or dock connector-based accessories (e.g. speaker systems)? If the tuner+remote needs to be plugged in to ‘enable’ the radio features on your iPod, then you’re not going to be able to use it whilst your iPod is docked, right? Although I have yet to see anything to suggest that you can’t, you could just plug your iPod as normal into your Universal Dock (UD) and plug the tuner+remote into the other dock connector situated on the back of the UD. Easy… oh. Hang about, then you wouldn’t be able to charge or sync your iPod/UD as the only remaining dock connecter is tied up with the tuner+remote. Huh?

Suddenly I’m glad I haven’t invested AU$499 in a Bose SoundDock. Hopefully Apple will allow third-parties to share the iPod’s new found FM tuner capabilities. But then again, by doing so, Apple would lose out with competing sales of like tuner accessories or even revised SoundDock-like add-ons that ‘enable’ the tuner capabilities in your iPod or iPod nano when they’re docked. To get around these issues, surely the next gen iPod will include a built-in tuner capability.

  • No you don’t have to tune it manually, the radio remote can perform an automatic scan for stations and set them as presets, just like most car-steros made in the past 20 years.
  • The ‘short cord’ between the dock connector and the remote is the antennae for the radio (duh).

MacBook Pro

  • Me thinks the end is nigh for the Powerbook and iBook lines, replaced instead by MacBook (iBook G4 replacement) and MacBook Pro (Powerbook G4 replacement). To quote Steve Jobs:

…A new name because we’re kind of done with power and we want Mac in the name of our products

  • Ships with a single-layer 4x SuperDrive, not the 8x DL SuperDrive that ships in the Powerbook G4, which incidently, remains for sale for the time being alongside it’s newer, Intel sibling. (The new iMacs include 8x DL SuperDrives…). This change is apparently due to the fact that the 8x DL drives are physically thicker than the 4x SuperDrives and therefore could not be packaged into the thinner MacBook Pro enclosure (source)
  • Though unconfirmed by Apple, both the new Intel machines apparently ship with 802.11a support in addition to the regular 802.11b/g support of old (source)
  • Intel Core Duo is the product name for the chip formerly known as ‘Yonah’.
  • Besides rumours to the contrary and the rumoured addition of 802.11a support, the Intel Core Duo shipping in the MacBook Pro is not the same as the Intel Centrino Duo chipset, rather an Apple bespoke chip (source)
  • Both the MacBook Pro and the new iMacs, on face value, appear to be running the same specification of Intel Core Duo i.e. the portables are running the same chip as the desktop, not the usual low-power, portable-version-of chips that usually ship in laptops. Nup, the MacBook Pro chips are the low-voltage variety after all.
  • The single FW800, built-in modem and s-video ports have all been removed, as has one of the FW400 ports. In truth, I find it hard to find much justification for any of these changes, apart from trimming the specs. The MacBook Pro’s case is near identical to the old Powerbooks. Surely be removing so much they could have made is smaller or thinner still.
  • The screen resolution is quoted as 1440x900 which represents a decrease in real-estate when compared to the 15in PowerBook G4’s native 1440x960 screen. I blame the need to squeeze in the integrated iSight camera at the top of the screen, although one could argue that they did it to make the screen’s aspect ratio closer to an HD-like 1.7 (1440x900 = 1.6, 1440x960 = 1.5).
  • Is it me of is the case a darker shade of grey when compared to a the PowerBook G4? I can’t seem to find anything to confirm if this is indeed the case.
  • The ‘MagSafe’ powercord is brilliant. Probably the sole truely innovative release for Apple at Macworld ‘06. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve tripped over the ‘white-snake’ and almost trashed the iBook.
  • The jury for expected battery life for the new machines is still out. Apple don’t seem to have posted anything relating to it’s expected battery life nor have they touted any increase in efficiency in this area. Early clandestine research by shadow ninjas suggest there’s no noticable improvement in battery life, unless three hours on a full charge is an improvement for your PowerBook.
  • The MacBook Pro will be the first Apple portable to use Lithium Polymer batteries (as used in recent iPods), rather than the Lithium Ion batteries used in the PowerBook G4 (source)
  • Apparently the MacBook Pros powerbrick runs at a higher wattage than the PowerBook G4’s, batteries too have a higher specific wattage rating.
  • The MacBook Pro has not one but two latches, which should secure the screen closed 2X more than the single latch PowerBook G4. (source)
  • The same way some corporations will shun built-in 802.11 capabilities out of information security fears, I’m not sure that some corporates are going to dig the inclusion of the camera into ‘their’ machine. Perhaps this will be BTO on the revised 17in (or 19in?) models?
  • Imagine if they truely innovated by having the camera that rotates on a 180&degrees; arc through to face ‘out’ from your MacBook, and the software to compensate by flipping the image around. “Welcome to my video podcast, you’re looking at the view out over my hotel balcony…“ But then again… (see the point above)

iMac

  • The only cosmetic difference between the last iMac G5 and the new iMac is the addition of a mini-DVI port on the back. A separate Video-out port remains available as it was on the iMac G5.
  • Related to this, the new iMacs also now allow for screen spanning, a feature that had not previously been available on the iMac G5, which only allowed screen mirroring.
  • The iMac and MacBook Pro’s built-in iSight camera uses a fixed-focus CMOS sensor, as opposed to the CCD auto-focus sensor used in Apple’s stand-alone iSight camera (source)
  • Developers that shelled out US$999 to ‘rent’ one of Apple’s Developer Transition Kits (DTK) to aid with building their Intel compatible apps, can hand back their PowerMac-with-Intel-inside for a sparking new 17in iMac, this time for keeps - gratis
  • 802.11a support comes with the new Intel Core Duo chip (see my MacBook Pro entry above for more details)

Mac OS X 10.4.4

  • Like the hardware announcements, this appears to have been another evolutionary update, rather than adding anything too groundbreaking.
  • iChat now supports Bluetooth headsets for audio-chat, a nice move (source)
  • Another new feature, unread RSS items in Safari can now be sync’d between computers using .Mac (source)
  • A bunch of new widgets shipped within the update including a revised calendar widget, a revised Stocks widget (now with graphs), a Google search widget, US Whitepages widget, an ESPN sports score widget and a Matas-esq Ski Report widget. We’re still waiting for the .Mac exclusive widgets that were promised back when Tiger was released. (See the New in Tiger list in the right sidebar)
  • They changelog states “iPhoto can now import and work with raw graphic files from several recent digital cameras.” I haven’t checked as yet, but I hope to hell that that this fixes the Canon 350D/Digital Rebel XT botch job UPDATE Confirmed as fixed within 10.4.4 (yay)
  • Again from the changelog “Addresses an issue for Mac OS X 10.4.3 in which you cannot unlock the System Keychain, or the System Keychain does not accept your authentication when authenticating for a wireless network.” This seems to have fixed that silly ‘Enter System Keychain Password’ bug that appeared in a recent security update.

iLife ‘06

  • The new iLife suite comes in a much smaller retail box than those used for previous versions. iLife ‘06 ships in a box about the same size as a stack of CDs, very similar in size to the boxes used for the 5th gen iPod and iPod nano.

Miscellany

  • Dear Leader Steve announced within his keynote that all Macs will be transitioned to Intel by the end of the ‘06 calendar year. That’s way ahead of the initial ‘2006 through 2007’ timetable announced at WWDC last year.