It seemed as if every third person in line this morning for the Steve Jobs keynote was toting an iPhone. This photo was taken by a friend I made in the line, Dr. Yvonne Fried of Ashland, Oregon, a very wired doctor and Mac fanatic. I joined the line at 3:58 a.m. One guy very near the front told me he had been there since 8 p.m. last night. We all had fun swapping geek delights and speculating on what The Jobs was going to announce. The hours went by quickly with so many brainy distractions. Plus I did a Seesmic video, then another.
Apple times the line so that the non-VIPs rush into the darkened hall to loud music and handlers pointing out singleton seats, and within a minute or two, the show begins. Here comes Steve Jobs in his black shirt and jeans, introducing 4 cool things, punctuating most of his explanations with “It’s that simple.” Nothing this year matched the spine-tingling excitement of last year’s debut of the iPhone, which to true believers like myself felt like the invention of fire. And in truth, the iPhone’s success has been hotter than hot. Jobs announced that in the first 200 days since its introduction, the iPhone has sold 4 million units, and that in the first 90 days it achieved a market share among smartphones of nearly 20 percent.
Steve’s announcements of iPhone upgrades in version 1.1.3 were not the ones I was dreaming of (video, copy and paste, and Notes that sync with the Mac), but they were cool in their own right. The GPS-like location feature in Google maps really does work. I tried it walking back to the hotel tonight from the Moscone Center, and it accurately placed me at Market and Kearney. Except it’s not GPS; it’s a combination of information from wi-fi spots and cell towers. Nice. The new version also lets you send text messages to multiple people at once, not such a big deal in my world. And you can customize your home screen to include web pages. I took advantage of that to add an icon on my home screen for Twitter. The best part of the customizing-the-iPhone change is that when you hold down any of the icons for a few seconds, they all begin to shake, a fun indication that they are ready to move wherever your finger drags them. This is why Apple creates such loyalty–it’s the fun factor. Let’s make the icons wiggle and shake when it’s time to move them around! Brilliant.
My wife and I hardly ever rent movies, but I think the new iTunes movie rental service will probably be a hit. I’m glad the Apple TV that I bought when they came out and haven’t used since will now be good for renting movies, and the software upgrade won’t cost me anything. I’m doubt I’ll spring for the other new product, Time Capsule, which will wirelessly back up all the computers in the house, for $299 with a 500 GB hard drive and $499 for an impressive 1-terabyte hard drive. Steve’s trying to help us all play safe on our computers, making it easier and easier to back up our stuff.
He saved the sexiest bit for last, the new MacBook Air, thus explaining the mysterious banners that had us all talking in the line, “There’s Something in the Air.” This thing is thin–0.76 inches at its thickest, tapering to 0.16 inches at the other side. I’m disappointed in its weight, 3 pounds, because a few years ago I delighted in my 1.8-pound extreme Vaio laptop that was available briefly in the U.S. but mainly sold in Japan. But that screen was dull, and the keys were small. The MacBook Air doesn’t compromise on anything, except the CD drive, and Steve said the MB-Air has a clever software feature that enables you to poach from the drive of another computer wirelessly, even a PC, if you need to load a program or something.
I confess that I had pre-ordered this next new thing in my mind even before I arrived in San Francisco. The rumors consistently predicted something small, and that fit my desire move from doing everything on my two-year-old MacBook Pro, to setting up a better monitor for video editing at home, with some kind of portable satellite solution. So without even seeing one in the flesh on the floor of the Expo, I sat against a wall of Moscone West immediately after the Keynote and used my Verizon EVDO card to head for the Apple online store to buy an Air. No dice. The site was overwhelmed with traffic. I finally ended up reaching a telephone rep, who walked me through the purchase as if it was nothing special, an order for a new Airport Extreme maybe. But as we finished he said, “Congratulations sir, you will be one of the first people to own the thinnest laptop in the world.” He also said initial sales had been bigger than anything he’d ever seen Apple sell, including the iPod. I bet he says that to all the early adopters. No matter. I can’t wait to have the environmentally advanced light package arrive in Denver in two or three weeks. I’ll be selling my MacBook Pro on eBay and buying a Mini and monitor for my desk, looking for any excuse to work remotely on the MB-Air.
Not everything wonderful that I saw today came from Steve Jobs. George Wilde of L.A. has Insteon controllers set up in his home to turn lights on and off, and a camera aimed at his front door that he can activate moment by moment. In one of those moments I’ll remember for a long time George fired up Safari on his iPhone, clicked to the list of lights on the first floor of his home, and changed green dots to red dots, to turn individual lights out as we were standing in line at the Moscone Center. He then switched to another page, showing a second-behind-real-time photo of his front walkway.
I slept briefly this afternoon, then returned to Moscone Center for a presentation at the Apple-supported new John Lennon bus, which will drive around the country giving kids a chance to make music, video, and movies. Richard Dreyfuss was there, and I’ll do tomorrow’s episode of the Video Pod Chronicles on it. But now, at least, some serious sleep….