Macworld keynote analysis (minus reality distortion field)

This morning, Steve Jobs gave his usual great performance at what will probably be the last Macworld as we know it. Here’s a digital-media-focused summary that I hope you’ll find interesting whatever your platform of choice.

The keynote stream Steve claimed that Apple was doing 250Kbps streams, but the “high-end” stream was actually a low-quality (albeit steady) 100Kbps, 192×144 MPEG-4 stream. Why did Apple sacrifice quality by using their poor MPEG-4 Video codec instead of the Sorenson Video 3 codec? Apparently in order to claim a “largest MPEG-4 webcast” win.

This decision can also be taken as more evidence that Apple has given up on competing against RealSystem and Windows Media. QuickTime’s lot in life from now on — and it’s not a bad lot, to be sure — is to be Mac OS X’s MPEG-4 architecture. Linux folks can now officially stop whining about Apple’s disinterest in porting QuickTime to Linux and put their efforts behind projects like MPEG4IP instead.

Final Cut Express Final Cut Express is a $300 “lite” version of Final Cut Pro (which goes for $1,000). This is clearly meant as a Premiere/Xpress DV killer, and expect Adobe and Avid to take their toys and go home — I predict that there will be no more major new releases of Premiere or Xpress DV on Mac OS X. | Final Cut Express | PR: “Apple unveils Final Cut Pro Express”

iStuff Taking a cue from AT&T’s “mLife” campaign, Apple’s now refers to their digital hub iApps — iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD — as “iLife”. Apple will introduce iPhoto 2 and iMovie 3 on January 25. | iLife | PR: “Apple introduces iLife”

Hardware big and small Apple introduced 12″ and 17″ PowerBook G4s today. Both feature general I/O improvements (see below), but the most interesting details — the ambient light sensor (which automatically adjust the screen’s backlight in low-light conditions) and backlit keyboard — are only available on the 17″ model. | PowerBook 12″ | PR: “Apple introduces its smallest notebook ever” | PowerBook 17″ | PR: “Apple releases world’s first 17-inch notebook” | Video: Hilarious commercial

I/O, I/O, where’s USB two-oh? The new PowerBooks support Bluetooth and have a slot for Apple’s new 802.11g/b (a.k.a “Airport Extreme”) cards. (The cards have a different form factor than the current AirPort cards, so forget about using buying one for your current portable.) Why is 802.11g/b is optional while Bluetooth is built-in? Anybody’s guess.

The most expensive “Ultimate” 17″ PowerBook has one FireWire 800 (800Mbps IEEE-1394) port. That’s great, but it’s disappointing that we have to wait even longer for general FireWire 800 availability considering that USB has overtaken FireWire speed-wise during the 2+ years we’ve been waiting already. Between USB 2.0 and Serial ATA (another high-speed serial standard which replaces IDE for internal drives), it’s looking more and more like FireWire may be relegated to a connection standard for DV cameras and Mac-oriented external hard drives unless consumer electronics manufacturers adopt it en masse in 2003.

The only out-and-out I/O mistake on these new machines is the lack of USB 2.0. | PR: “Apple delivers AirPort Extreme 802.11g networking”

Just browsing, thank you Apple introduced a public beta release of its browser, Safari. It’s not based on Chimera (as I’d guessed it would be), but on KHTML (for HTML/XHTML rendering) and KJS (which already being used in Sherlock for JavaScript/ECMAScript support) from KDE’s Konquerer project. Although KHTML is a fraction of the size of the rendering engine used by Netscape/Mozilla/Chimera, it’s also pretty quirky. See Mark Pilgrim’s Safari review for more, and (if you use a Mac) be sure to report these to Apple ASAP so that they can be addressed before Safari goes final. | Safari | PR: “Apple unveils Safari” | Safari information for web designers | Email from Safari engineering manager to KHTML/KJS teams | Response to email