Macworld Expo Part, Day 1

I did a lot of looking and talking today. Here are some photos (turned into a Web page via Apple's new iPhoto software and published on Apple's site in my personal area). I had an hourlong meeting with four of Apple's product managers for the new stuff and garnered a few neat tidbits.

I asked Brian Croll, the PM behind OS X, after we went through a long list of applications ready for or previewed for OS X, about Macromedia (which also lacks a presence at this show, a rare or possibly unheard-of absence). He said, "Macromedia is a company." And we both laughed. Apple is good about not backmouthing anyone, although Croll did also mention Jobs's dig at Adobe Photoshop not yet being ready for X. But he pointed out why this comes up: there are a "couple of outstanding applications out there," and pretty much everything else we're using is ready to go or in preview.

When I told him that I had tested 10.1 on its release and quickly switched all three of my systems over to 10.1 (and haven't looked back), he said that their user surveys indicate that the switch to OS X is a one-way journey. People learn the new interface and don't turn back.

The iBook product manager talked about the design decisions that went into the new top-of-the-line iBook with a 14-inch screen and 6-hour battery. (They've maxed it out at 6 hours, 22 minutes.) The battery itself is larger, getting more life; there aren't other improvements, but it's impressive against other laptops, both Apple and PC.

When they talked to new users a few months ago about what they wanted in the iBook, he said they had a resounding response of "nothing." The number two request was a bigger screen, but there was no interest in a PC Card slot. "What would you put into it?" he asked, noting the built-in AirPort slot, FireWire and USB onboard, and 10/100 Mbps Ethernet networking.

I was able to cadge a few details out of the iMac product manager beyond the stuff already covered in depth elsewhere. I asked about usability testing with the articulated LCD neck (as they call it). He said that their testing led them to put a "clear halo" around the LCD made of non-staining polycarbonate plastic to encourage people to move the screen as they needed it repositioned and to protect the actual screen itself. It's a nice design feature as well.

He pointed out that people will actually wind up moving the screen quite a bit because "computers now are multiuser" and people adjust them to the position they need. I'm inclined to agree. Early critics of the design have said that no consumers adjust equipment. I don't buy it. I believe that most equipment is hard to adjust, thus not adjusted. This requires a single finger or maybe two.

The unit is lifted by the neck and shipped in an upright position, more or less. The neck contains power, video, AirPort antenna, and a microphone connection. The AirPort antenna is embedded in the LCD display for better performance.

The iMac does have a fan, contrary to my expectation, but it's "super intelligent" and "super quiet." The entire unit makes no more sound than 25 dB including the fan and drives. The "fan is constantly sensing the temperature of the base" and adjusts its speed accordingly.

The base of the unit is made of aluminum and uses captive screws that are attached by a three-quarter-of-a-circle snap-in thing. These snap-ins can be removed to replace the screws with security screws for school installations. The AirPort and memory slots are cut out like the items intended to be placed inside them. The user-reachable memory slot uses the iBook/PowerBook style compact memory card. An internal memory card, which can only be swapped out by a technician to retain warranty (we'll see how true this is) is a standard 168-pin DIMM. It can be custom ordered with a 512 Mb DIMM in that slot.

Mike Evangelist is behind iPhoto, Apple's new entry in its digital hub set of applications (which they call iApps). He made the mistake of asking me how I liked the new program, and I gave him some feedback about its Web-page writing part, which isn't quite as good as the rest of the program (which I'm already completely at home with; see earlier in this post).

The program is so self-explanatory, I don't have to much to add from his briefing. The book function is quite extraordinary: the pages that the software makes by default using the built-in themes and organizer are beautiful. The default design is, somehow, good. This is very rare. I've often seen automatic page layout programs that create ugly prefab designs.

Evangelist showed me a few example books. They are produced using limited-run offset equipment, which images pages one at a time. The books are quite lovely. Initially, there's no discount for multiples, but they're going to watch the market.

Evangelist said that Apple wasn't quite prepared for the number of people who would download iPhoto and immediately publish photo galleries on Mac. com.