Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Was Macworld Apple Keynote 2009 really a yawn?

After the Mac Rumors blooper yesterday, I'm actually watching the Apple Keynote Address in Quicktime. Wired calls this years Macworld Apple Keynote a huge yawn - but now was it really?

Wired's primary complaints are that Steve Jobs wasn't there, and that there were no new really exciting hardware. The first point I consider ridiculously exagerrated, Steve Jobs is a great icon, but Apple has a lot to offer besides his turtle neck. The second point is more interesting though - Apple has always pointed out that it is a computer manufacturer though me it's certainly won with it's elegant software - I could almost be happy with running a hackint0sh as long as I get OS X.

This year the show was almost completely focused on software and services (even though they said the focus would be "the Mac") such as iLife, iWork and iTunes Store. This is remarkable, especially as the rest of the world, mac fans in particular, have been moving rapidly towards "the cloud", Web 2.0 services and making the personal computer almost disposable. Apple obviously has every interest to make their beautiful machines everything but disposable, but is this tug-of-war possible to win?

As my old PowerBook's disk grew more and more full and I got a DSLR Camera some time ago, I had to abandon iPhoto for managing my photos, putting my originals on my server and keeping only scaled-down versions in manually managed folders on my laptop. This is obviously both unsafe and messy, but iPhoto simple didn't help me, it was too slow and I don't want to buy Aperture. With the cool features displayed of iLife and iWork (do check out the demos in the keynote!), I'm almost tempted to go back.

Sure I've seen people using iPhoto, but has any of you really spotted in the w iMovie, Pages, Keynote or Numbers "spotted in the wild"? Also, what about my fancy flickr use and Web 2.0? I just fell in love with Google Docs! Well, I'm convinced Apple is struggling both with getting users to their fancy applications, and that they need to get on the train to Web 2.0 and maybe they will get somewhere with their beta, but there still is a long way to go. I'll end this rant with a very simple video of why cloud stuff like Google Docs is so great, if you don't know it already, you really, really need to learn:

A yawn or not, Macworld is still receiving a lot of coverage in the press, such as here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

See also my other posts about Apple or Web 2.0.


Henrik Ahlen said...

Good Commoncraft-video that also illustrates how powerful video is for explaning things! I do everything in Google Docs, I realised already when it was called Writely that it is totalluy habitual to work in the cloud. Try also their Forms for evaluations etc, very handy.
Have you tried Zoho? Looks smarter than GDocs. It is indeed strange that Apple is not moving faster out into the cloud, I hope they will surprise us soon.

Carl-Johan Sveningsson said...

Yes, yes and yes! :-)

I know, it's pretty cool you've used it that long. I miss some stuff though from being a Word power user, like... tabs :-P

However, it still doesn't feel good for mission critical stuff, like the database privacy plan I outlined the other day, I'm only sending and storing that encrypted, anything else feels indefensible.

Not yet, maybe I should. The obvious benefit of GDocs is of course that it can easily plug into everyone's habits, they give all essential features for free and no account fuss.

Let's hope so, yes. Though I doubt that, they've been pushing those "great" iApps for a long time, and sure they look cool in demos, but I still don't know anyone who use them

Anonymous said...

Continuation of conversation here:

Yeah, GDocs is great if you want to collaborate on a certain document, I use it often for that purpose - works good! But it is clumsy otherwise. That is the thing I say nobody should buy - "browser apps" will never replace local apps.

It's just ridiculous how some companies are trying to emulate real apps inside a browser window: image or even video editors for instance.

Text is easy indeed, text weights nothing. If there will be a time when read/write speed to hosted service will be as fast as read/write speed to your local drive and Javascript and HTML will be as fast and flexible as compiled languages, then web might have a chance. Until then there is just no way web apps can compete on user experience front. Web is good for plumbing, as I said.

Is Skype a web app or not? It is useless without internet access. Is the new iPhoto '09 web app now, since it integrates Google map service into itself? Is player a web app (not the flash thingy on their web site)? Heck, are Dashboard currency converter widget or weather forecast widget web apps, since all they do is download handful of numbers from some web service and then display some pretty pictures along it?

I think they are all web apps (in exception of iPhoto, of course. But it illustrates well how borders are blurring) and better web apps than could ever be done inside your browser window.

There is an extension for OpenOffice that synchronises your current document to your GDocs account. It does not really work for me currently, which is pity. Imagine you are working on your favourite spreadsheet or word processing software, whatever it is, and you get all the benefits of hosted service done in the background for you. Completely transparently without you ever noticing it. That is web 2.0 – you don't ever see it.


Anonymous said...

Ha-ha, funny, after my (maybe too) passionate writing here I struck on a story comparing to GDocs.

Currently there can only one person edit the document, others can just download or comment it. But who knows where they are heading to?

But I bet whatever they are doing, it won't be an open system. Sad :(

(No, I'm not using iWork either, for various reasons).

Carl-Johan Sveningsson said...

@Sven, wow, thanks for your huge comments, they're very insightful!

So, if I get you right, what you focus at is not necessarily that you don't "own" your information, but that native applications usually are much better than web apps, and that apps mustn't be crippled just because you may currently be without web access?

In particular as an amateur typography nut and fan of fixed documents like PDF, I like to be in control of the document. Google Docs definitely doesn't give me this, and barely MS Word is ok.

On the other hand for example for collaboration, there are a bunch of extreme benefits of web apps (flickr is very different from iPhoto) so I guess what I'd love is easily web-enabled OS-native apps which aren't crippled when you're out of coverage. So I actually don't mind the meld between native and web-apps, as long as it's done well. Like that's ever gonna happen :-)

Carl-Johan Sveningsson said...

Also, I spent the whole last night trying to find this article again for you! :

It's sort of about silicon boobs and why web interfaces suck

Anonymous said...

Thanks, CJ, I appreciate that!

I am not sure what to think of applying that Uncanny Valley theory to Web services, but generally I agree - there is no point in desire to recreate native apps in web.

There are some very good web service interfaces around and they are not going to go away. But web services are not going to replace everything that has been done in PC's in last 20 years, that's my opinion.

And we will definitely see even more blurry borders. Note the Firefox Prism project that create site specific browsers - Gmail can be like a normal native app, except it still has that web interface. And HTML5 allows for local information storage, so some web sites can work without access to the cloud. Etc.

My personal favourite would still be a good native application that gets all the benefits of the cloud in the background. I almost prefer Facebook's iPhone app to Facebook web site, althought it has fewer features (

And, on a side note, I've got increasingly strengthening feeling that I am more and more talking about things I should really not talk about ;)



Carl-Johan Sveningsson said...

@Sven, again, thanks for your comment! Just one more thing I wanted to say was I just tried out Google Docs Forms, and it's awesome! Seriously took me ten minutes or so and I've got a very pretty form for people to use, and the data goes straight into a spreadsheet where it can be processed, like we did a survey of what OS people use:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, CJ, I know that feature, pretty cool. Some indie developers use it even for bug reporting form

I use it for this:


Carl-Johan Sveningsson said...

@Sven, ah, yes, smart people are early to adopt these things! Looking at tweetdeck and google alerts now, I'm dreaming about super-cool "proactive" customer relations and marketing, piping these things straight into issue-tracking- and customer relationship management systems. It will come...

I didn't realize you're with Rampade, cool! I go there now and then -