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Liveblogging the October 2008 Apple Notebook Event

This post is where I’ll be posting my thoughts during the October 14, 2008 Apple “notebook” event, where it’s expected that they’ll be unveiling new MacBooks and MacBook Pros. I won’t be at the event, but I’ll be following it live at all the usual suspects’ locations:

And of course, I’ll be hanging around on Twitter and FriendFeed to see what people’s thoughts and reactions are. I hope they can handle the load. I’m starting this post the night before to be ready for the AM. It’s like Christmas Eve – the anticipation of what Steve Claus is going to bring us is palpable! :-)

Rumors of what is going to be announced range from new aluminum MacBooks (almost certain, given the spy photos we’ve been seeing) with Nvidia chipsets replacing Intel, a “real” Apple TV – a TV with Apple TV functionality built in – to the everlasting Mac Tablet/Giant iPhone/Newton 2.0 rumor, which has practically become a legend at this point.

The most interesting thing I think Apple’s likely to announce is a low cost MacBook. Rumors have been going around about a sub-$800 device. Some have wondered if this will be Apple’s entreé into the netbook world. Personally, I don’t see Apple doing anything with a netbook until OS X 10.6 Snot Snow Leopard is out, which should be in early 2009. Read why I think Snow Leopard is the critical ingredient for an Apple netbook. So what about this $800 system everyone is talking about? I think if they do anything, they’ll drop the price of an entry level 13″ MacBook to $800. It’s $1099 now, and I can see Apple making an aggressive move to get more people using Macs by dropping the price of their iconic laptop. You heard it here first.

But we’ll all know for sure in about 12 hours!

8:30 AM – John Gruber has a post up over at Daring Fireball wherein he seems pretty certain about what’s going to be announced. MacBook Pro with 2 GPUs and a glass no-button trackpad, similar update to the MacBook. No $800 device. Some other minor updates around the line. And a heretofore un-speculated upon new 24″ Cinema Display. Sounds about right, and John knows his stuff. We’ll find out soon.

10:00 AM – I’m here hooked up to the 60″ TV in the JF1 “living room”, ready to go. Got my tabs lined up, Brent Logan is here with me. Lay it on us, Uncle Steve! :-)

Tim Cook is talking about how awesome Macs are. Sold 2.5 million last quarter. Yada yada. Slamming on Vista. Playing a new Mac vs. PC ad. Mac sales have “beat the market” 14 of the last 15 quarters. Great market share. Already equalled 2007 sales in the first three quarters of 2008. We get it. And now Steve’s back!

Jony Ive: “I’d like to take a couple of moments to tell you about a real breakthrough we’ve had about how we can design and build our notebooks.” Here comes the “brick” announcement (aluminum cases machined from a solid billet of metal).

Steve on the new NVidia 9400 M graphics/chipset: “They’ve dubbed it the NVIDIA GeForce 9400 M — it’s an amazing chip. Chipset and GPU on one die — 70% is the GPU, 16 parallel graphic cores, 54gflops of graphics performance. It’s a stunner.”

New glass trackpad: larger, multitouch, glass surface (like the iPhone – should feel great!), the whole thing is one button, can assign multiple buttons via software. I like. Should appear in all new MacBooks.

Which brings us to the new MacBook Pro – just like the spy shots. Black bezel, aluminum and glass (like the iMac), black keyboard (like the Air), all connectors on one side, NVidia graphics and chipset, and the new “precision aluminum unibody” case construction. Oh, and all Macs will now have the “mini display connector”. Uh oh. I hate those.

(Took a break to keep up with the news and chat with people.)

The new MacBook Pro starts at $1999, goes to $2499 for bigger hard drive, faster CPU with more cache, etc. And the Pro line has TWO Nvidia GPUs. The 9400 M, and the 9600 GT (which has 512MB of RAM and 32 graphics cores). You can use the lower end one to save on power and extend battery life, or use “turbo” mode and use the faster GPU. So, 48 graphics cores in the MacBook Pro. The foundation for all of the multi-core/GPGPU stuff like OpenCL and GrandCentral in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard has been laid.

The MacBook line also got updated. They’re keeping the current plastic case 13″ MacBook (most popular ever), and dropping the price to $999. Nice entry level model. The “new” MacBook is very similar to the new MacBook Pro. Precision aluminum “unibody”, NVidia 9400 M chipset, glass trackpad, glass display with black bezel. It also uses the new Mini Display Port connector. Besides the second GPU and an ExpressCard 34 slot, and a bigger display (15″ vs 13″), there’s not much difference between the new MacBook and the MacBook Pro. The new ones start at $1299. $1599 gets you a faster CPU, bigger hard drive, and a backlit keyboard (boo on Apple for not making that standard!).

The new MacBook and Pro are available for order today, should be in stores tomorrow.

The MacBook Air got an update – CPU speed bump, 120 GB hard drive or option for 128GB SSD, and the new Mini Display Port. Not much else changed (including the price). Available in November.

And there’s a new 24″ LCD Cinema Display. Edge to edge glass, very thin, looks great. Cool features include a wire bundle that gives you a MagSafe power plug to charge your laptop, a USB connection for the hub in the display, and the new Mini Display Port connector. $899, available in November. Looks to be the perfect companion to the new Macs. :-)

Oh, and Steve’s blood pressure is 110/70, in case anyone was interested. Now, for some Q and A.

Steve: “Blu-ray is just a bag of hurt. It’s great to watch the movies, but the licensing of the tech is so complex, we’re waiting till things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace.”

Steve: “In terms of netbooks, that’s a nascent market that’s just getting started.” Says netbooks are a new market and “we’ll see how it goes.”

Looks like that’s it! I might update this post later with link to the video that was shown, showing off the new laptops, and anything else interesting that comes up today. Now, to figure out how to get one of these new bad boys into my hands! :-)

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Liveblogging the WWDC 2008 Steve Jobs Keynote

I’m pretty much counting on Twitter being down (or rather, turning into a smoking crater where their servers used to be) during this morning’s Steve Job’s keynote at WWDC. So I’ll be liveblogging it here. I’m not at WWDC, but will be following via various online tools, and geeking out with fellow Macheads at Intel while it’s going on. This post is mostly going to be my observations and opinions on the news, rather than actually breaking the news, so if you want to follow along as “live” as you can, check out ArsTechnica’s live coverage, MacRumorsLive’s autoupdating page, and Engadget’s live coverage. Twitter and Summize also have a page set up to track the news, but like I said, my money’s on Twitter getting obliterated (it’s already flaky this morning).

The world is about to change. New iPhone. The iPhone App Store. And then what? New devices? OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” (here’s my prediction on what that one really means). I can’t wait! This is better than Christmas! :-)

I’m in the new JF1 “living room” area at Intel, where they have a few tables set up under a 65″ plasma TV. I’m hooked up to it, using it as my external monitor, getting ready to scour the interwebs for each new tidbit as it makes its way from the mouth of Steve. I’ve got my Mountain Dew and some Pop Tarts. I’m ready. Let’s do this thing! :-)

Josh Liveblogging WWDC 2008 Keynote

Steve’s on stage now. We’re getting the best updates from the Ars IRC channel (#wwdc on irc.arstechnica.com). Steve’s talking about the enterprise features of the iPhone 2.0 software – calendar and contact sync, remote wipe, etc. Stuff we already knew. Now he’s bringing suits out on stage, from other companies. Stuff we hadn’t heard already – capability of viewing office documents, SharePoint access, VPN and two factor authentication (as in SecurID/SoftID). Cool…

Now talking about the iPhone SDK and how many similarities it has with the “real” OS X kernel and code. APIs are the same, line for line. Location-based services, 3D positional audio, how easy it is to develop for it and debug it, etc. Showing a new demo app, “Nearby Friends”, which sounds really cool. I’ll have to go back and watch the video of this, showing how easy it is to build an application, live. Talking about how much developers love coding for this platform. Yay, look how awesome we are!

Now comes the game demos. First up, Sega, talking about Super Monkey Ball. I have a love/hate relationship with that game on other platforms. The “party” parts of the games are really fun, but the “roll the monkey in a marble across this platform surrounded by a bottomless abyss on all sides” are freaking FRUSTRATING. In the keynote, they’re saying the demo looks awesome. Full “tilt” control using the accelerometer. Will be available “at the launch of the app store” for $9.99. Not a bad price – people were speculating that iPhone apps would be a lot more expensive – $20 to $40.

Now demoing an eBay app, which sounds technically cool, but honestly isn’t very interesting to me because I don’t use eBay. Now they’re talking about an app called “Loopt” (“connecting people on the go”), which Ars is excited about, but I’ve never heard of. Sounds like “friends on a map, showing you what they’re doing”. I’m not to keen on the idea of these kinds of apps, but I guess I’d have to see a GOOD one in action to really decide.

BTW, thanks to Brent, Matt, Tod, and Jerry, who are sitting around the table, correcting my mistakes and typos as I write this. :-) Matt’s trying to listen to a live audio stream, which is sort of working, but it’s more delayed than the Ars IRC feed (which is AWESOME! FAR better than any other way I’ve done this before. Thanks Ars! :-) )

Matt listening to a WWDC keynote audio stream. Sort of.

Showing a Typepad blog authoring app, that’s going to be free at the app store launch. Yawn. Show me a generic XML-RPC compatible editor (I can has MarsEdit for iPhone please?) or something that’ll work with WordPress and I’ll be interested. I’m sure that will come soon enough. And an AP “see local news and photos based on your location” app. Sounds kind of dumb – how much news do you know of that has specific location information, more than just “Dateline: this city”? Meh.

Next up a game developer showed off a couple of games that look cool (kind of hard to get a sense of them when I’m reading text descriptions in an IRC channel – I’m sure we’ll see lots about the games soon enough). And an indie dev who works in the insurance industry made a really cool virtual musical instrument app called “Band” that he developed in 8 months in his spare time. And now talking about Major League Baseball. Woo! Not.

Now showing off a bunch of medical reference/learning applications. Talking about med students and K-12 education. I love the idea, but how many K-12 students do you know that have iPhones (or would be allowed to have iPhones by their school’s policies)? Still, very cool ideas, and it’s great that these applications are coming, and relatively easy to develop.

Enough with the 3rd party app demos. I want to know what Apple has to show us today!

OK, now Forstall’s talking about the lack of a good chat platform, and how to receive notifications from your apps while they’re not running. He says the WRONG solution is background processes, because they sap battery life and performance. (And now he’s showing how Windows Mobile does this, and making fun of it! :-) ) “We have come up with a far better solution.” A push notification service to all developers. When your app is running, you’re connected to a server. When you quit, the connection dies. Apple maintains a persistent IP connection to the iPhone, and 3rd parties can push notifications through that server to the phone (badges, sounds, alerts, etc.). Alerts can include buttons to automatically launch your app (so it doesn’t have to stay running the background), and the phone only has to maintain one server connection (presumably to Apple) to make this works. Works over wifi and cellular. Coming in September. I have to admit, this seems like a really clever solution to a really tough problem. We’ll see how it works out in real life!

Steve’s back on stage, and talking about new iPhone 2.0 software features. Contact search, iWork (create and edit iWork docs – cool!), bulk delete and move in email, save images from emails, new calculator, explicit content filters, and new language support for Japanese and Chinese character input – draw them with your finger. That’s a welcome feature for a lot of people, I’m sure. The 2.0 software update will come in early July, will be free for iPhones, and $9.95 for iPod Touch owners (gouged again!).

Now on to talking about the app store. Wireless download and install, automatic updates, devs set prices and keep 70% of revenues. “We FairPlay apps” – FairPlay is iTunes’ DRM for music, so that means that apps will be locked (and presumably, cracked shortly thereafter – FairPlay has a reputation of being pretty breakable). If your app is larger than 10MB, you can only install over wifi. Enterprise apps can be deployed on the intranet, downloaded to your computer, then synced and installed via iTunes. Sounds like a good solution for corporate apps.

Now for something completely different: Mobile Me, new mobile service. Worst kept secret in the industry – this is basically .Mac done right – “Exchange for the rest of us”. Works on Mac, PC (woo!), and iPhone (double woo!). Push your contacts, email, calendar, and files into the cloud, and keep them in sync across all devices. But I do this already with Google – Gmail, Reader, Docs, Calendar. Will be interesting to see how this compares. Or maybe MobileMe will just be powered by Google. The site is me.com. Going into a demo now – I’ll check this out myself later, see if it’s worth it. It’s a cool idea, regardless. $99/year, 20GB of storage, and there’s a 60 day free trial. Expensive for what you get. I’ll probably pass. “Available with iPhone 2.0 in early July”. So, does that mean no iPhone until early July?

OK, now he’s talking about the new iPhone. “Next challenges.” 3G, enterprise, 3rd party apps, more countries, more affordable. iPhone 3G introduced today (big surprise!). Even thinner. The back looks plastic, black. Solid metal buttons. Same display and camera. Flush headphone jack (yay – no more adapters!). Improved audio. Feels “even better” in your hand.

3G = faster data downloads. Email attachments and downloads. Doing a video demo speed comparison between EDGE and 3G. 3G is faster. Duh. Comparing to other 3G phones. It’s faster. Of course it is. Tell us something new! Show us pictures! Their claiming “great battery life”, which was one of the big concerns with previous 3G chipsets (which were also too big).

Talking about location services now, and “GPS”. The question is, does it have REAL GPS (satellite-based, not tower based)? From the demos (tracking a drive down Lombard street), it looks to be the real thing. Or at least, good enough to pass for it (smooth tracking, etc.).

More countries – they’re aiming for 12 countries for the 3G launch, with a stretch goal of 25 70 (!) countries over the next several months. Hear that sound? It’s the bottom dropping out of the international iPhone resale grey market. ;-)

More affordable. It started at $599, sells now for $399. 3G 8GB iPhone is $199. Yow! Nice! 16GB is $299. And “something special” – a white one, 16GB. Same price. Saying launch in 22 countries on July 11. I wonder if the U.S. is one of those countries? Showing a new iPhone commercial. Twice.

Jobs has left the stage. No “one more thing”. Nothing on Snot Snow Leopard OS X 10.6 (though they said there will be a session after lunch to talk about it, that’s under NDA). Bummer! I still held out hope for a new hardware class of device, Atom powered. Oh well – there’s always MacWorld 2009 in Januuary!

This was fun. Ultimately, there’s no real new hardware. We all knew about the new iPhone and its features ahead of time. Kind of bummed that it won’t go on sale for a month, but that gives me more time to save up my pennies. ;-)

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