Apple and Steve Jobs like to tease. The signs adorning San Francisco's Moscone Center hint at something ephemeral, but Jobs is likely to introduce something more solid during his annual MacWorld keynote, due to start any minute now – the ultra thin MacBook Air laptop. If rumors and pre-keynote reports are accurate, the Air refers to some built-in networking technology, maybe AT&T's 3G HSDPA, maybe Sprint's WiMax.
As we await Jobs' appearance, we also anticipate the formal announcement of the iTunes movie rental service and the first native iPhone applications, along with iPhone firmware 1.1.3. Bloggers seem to agree that no 3G iPhone announcement is likely, and for the third straight year, there is anticipation that The Beatles catalog will finally appear on iTunes.
The anticipation mounts. Click "continue" to read a play-by-play, and then refresh often. I'll be updating this as often as I can during Jobs' keynote.
It's 9:12 PST and the media is still filing in the third floor conference area of Moscone West, jostling for seats. There are around 3,000 of us journalistic sheep. Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal and David Pogue from The New York Times are waiting with the rest of the journalistic hio poloi. Strolling in nearly unrecognized was Pixar's John Lasseter, which probably means movies will be a major topic. Dozens of TV cameras are arrayed in a row on a riser along the wall to our left. Pop music blares from the speakers and we stare at an steel gray Apple logo eclipsing a bright light. Giant video screens display the stage for those seated further from the stage.
The lights go down. We await the appearance of Pope Jobs I.
He has appeared. First a review of 2007, "an extraordinary year for Apple," he says, and he thanks the assembled multitude.
He says he has four things to talk abut. The first is Leopard. More than 5 million copies have been delivered, Jobs reports, "the most successful release of Mac OS X ever."
After ragging Vista, Jobs reports than Microsoft Office 2008 is now available. Oops -- Jobs reports that "Tiger" has a lot of improvements. He meant Leopard.
The Time Machine feature, however, is awkward for a laptop. So now there's Time Capsule, an Airport Extreme with 802.11n and a built-in a hard drive to backup a laptop or a desktop wirelessly. A 500 GB version ($299) and a terabyte drive ($499) and will ship in February.
iPhone is the next topic. Jobs reports that iPhone, in 200 days, has sold 4 million units and captured 19.5 percent of the smartphone business, coimpared to 39 percent for Blackberry and 9.8 percent for Palm.
iPhone's software development kit will produce a host of third party applications next month, but Jobs says he has some iPhone updates today, including maps with location, Webclips, home page customization including the ability to create nine different swappable home screens, multiple SMS addresses
The Google map function now gives you a general location and directions. You drop a pin to bookmark a location and get directions. Of course, iPhone has no GPS, but uses Google and Skyhook Wireless, a Canadian company that maps WiFi hot spots. When the Google map function searches for a location, it triangulates WiFi location beacons combined with Googles cell tower triangulation to come up with a cloe approximation of your actual position.
Multiple SMS: Jobs sent text messages to four people. It takes a bit longer to send, but you can save a group and address future messages to the same people with one click.
Jobs then demonstrates how to add a Webclip icon to the home page, such as Google's main search page or the Tech section of The New York Times. Each Web clip can be renamed.
You can now move around icons on the home screen -- just press and hold any icon and they al begin to wiggle, which produced giggles from the crowd. Icons can now be slid around the screen like a Chinese puzzle.
The iPod function of iPhone now offers lyrics where available.
All of this is a free software update, v1.1.3.
A host of new features have been added to the iPod iTouch including mail, the new map app, weather, stocks and notes along with lyric support. BUT...unbelievably, this major iYouch upgrade will cost $20 for existing iTouch owners. The audience didn't boo, but there were disappointed mumblings.
Topic No. 3 is iTunes or, more specifically, iTunes movie rentals, as expected. Jobs admits the movie download service has been less than exciting. Jobs has signed up all six major studios: Fox, Warner, Disney, Paramount, Universal and Sony, as well as many of the smaller affiliated studios. The rental selection will include both first-run and catalog titles.
The deal is: the launch will be the end of February with 1,000 films available 30 days after the DVD release and will be able to be viewed on any Apple device. You can start watching within 30 seconds and can start to watch 30 days from download, but you must finish watching within 24 hours. You can start watching the film on one device, then transfer it to another device.
Catalog titles will be $2.99 and new releases will be $3.99. The iTunes upgrade is available now.
What about big screen TVs, Jobs asks rhetorically. A lot of people have tried, but "we've all missed," says Jpbs. "We tried with Apple TV, but we failed. It's not what people wanted. What we learned was what people wanted was movies movies movies. So we're back with Apple TV, version 2."
No PC required. You can rent movies directly to your HDTV in HDTV, which got a huge round of applause from the crowd. HD movie rentals, about 100 of them, will be $3.99 for catalog HD and $4.99 for first-run titles.
You'll also be able to watch Podcats, photos from Flickr and .Mac instead of streaming them from your desktop, as well as 50 million videos from YouTube.
You can buy TV shows and music, which will sync back to your desktop, and there's a whole new interface, which Jobs demo'd.
The HD movies from the new Apple TV looks, well, HD on the big screen on the front of the hall. This new Apple TV HD rental box could compete (or obviate) the just-announced XStreamHD satellite 1080p service that will launch this fall.
You can search via title or browse genres. The movie downloads were quite fast -- it looked to be around 30 seconds and he started watching "Blades of Glory." You can also preview films, just like in iTunes.
He also demonstrated music searching. A Lincoln Park video also looked great on the hall's big screen.
(Ironically, Stewart Wolpin's Mac crashed at this point, and is now sending updates to DVICE HQ by text message.)
New Apple TV is $229 but current owners can upgrade in 2 weeks.
Jim Gianopulos chair and CEO of Fox is on stage backed by a huge silhouette of Homer Simpson listening to a doughnut.
He says people will still want DVDs but now consumers can buy versions for travel. Of course, that still means you have to pay for movies you've already bought. But Fox will be releasing DVDs with potable versions on them. He held up a DVD of Family Guy with a portable version.
Topic No. 4: There's Something in the Air. Steve reviews the compromises that others have made to get their laptops to 3 pounds.
And now, the MacBook Air. The ultra-thin notebook is wedge-shaped, 0.76 inches at its thickest and 0.16 at its thinnest. Jobs says at its thickest it's thinner than Sony's thinnest laptop.
He shows how the Air fits inside an interoffice envelope by bringing it out in one. It has a 13.3-inch backlit LCD, a backlit full-size keyboard, an iSight camera and a touchpad with iPhone-like multi-touch abilities.
Intel's Core 2 Duo chip at 1.6 GHz is inside, and it's got an 80GB 1.8-inch hard-disk drive — essentially a PC on a chip. A flip-down port exposes the jack in behind. Also built in are Bluetooth stereo 2.1 and 802.11n Wi-Fi.
The Air offers an optional $99 optical super drive, but Jobs doesn't think you need it. The Air can wirelessly load movies. It can wirelessly install software via Remote Disc and "borrow" and optical drive from another PC or Mac's DVD drive. The Remote Disc software is available for Mac and Windows. Battery life is 5 hours with Wi-Fi on.
Price is $1,799. Apple's taking orders now with hardware coming in the next 2 weeks. It's eco-friendly, apparently, with an aluminum case, arsenic-free glass and no mercury whatsoever. People cheered at the price — who the hell cheers for an $1,800 laptop, no matter how cool it is?
The new commercial for Air features the interoffice envelope. Jobs is now reviewing what he just introduced, but I'm waiting for him to say, "One More Thing…"
He has something special — a performance by Randy Newman. So no more "things." But after actually seeing Air, I must say it's pretty cool-looking.
That's it! I'm off to the Apple store to get my MacBook fixed — watch for more posts on the Apple stuff.