John Paczkowski

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Steve Jobs on the MacBook Air: ‘Isn’t That Great?’

Note: Digital Daily’s John Paczkowski is off sick today. This post is being filed from notes taken at the Macworld keynote at San Francisco’s Moscone Center by Associate Editor John Sullivan. Check back later for Paczkowski’s take on the proceedings.

After a week of rumor buildup and speculation, Apple CEO Steve Jobs’s Macworld keynote seemed almost subdued. He gave the crowd what it expected in terms of new iPhone apps and additional iTunes features, and then finished with the announcement it had been primed for: the MacBook Air, the world’s thinnest laptop computer.

Jobs began his keynote a few minutes past 9 a.m. For the barely contained crowd (Moscone West was packed), the aura of anticipation was heightened by rock and hip-hop music blaring over the speakers. After the lights came down, the crowd hooted and yelped. Then, after a Mac Guy/PC Guy video (about what a terrible year it was for PC guy, who finishes by telling Mac Guy he’s “gonna copy everything you did in 2007”), Jobs took the stage in his uniform black turtleneck and blue jeans, declaring: “Clearly something is in the air today.”

After noting that 2007 was an “incredible” year, an “extraordinary” year, capped by the “revolutionary” iPhone, Jobs announces that he will address four things:

  1. Leopard:

    This was the most successful release of Mac OS X, Jobs notes, with 5 million units sold. He quotes reviews from Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal (and co-executive editor of this site), David Pogue from the New York Times and Ed Baig of USA Today.

    As for Time Machine: For backing up files, it works great, he says. Today, he’s announcing a companion product: a backup appliance called Time Capsule. Plug it in, turn it on, enable Time Capsule on all your machines: one with 500 gigabytes ($299) and another with one terabyte ($499). “We want people backing up their content,” he says. “[This] is a perfect companion to Leopard.”

  2. iPhone:

    “Got some great news for you,” Jobs announces. “Today is the 200th day the iPhone is on sale. Sales of 4 million so far. What does this mean for the smart-phone market?” He quotes research: RIM had most sales (39%); Apple had 19.5%; Palm 18%. First 90 days, iPhone equaled Palm, Motorola and Nokia sales combined, Jobs says.

    SDK for the iPhone is coming in late February, Jobs continues, but: “We wanted to give something today.” He lists “great new features”: maps with location; Webclips to customize home screen; SMS messaging to multiple people; chapters capability for video; and support for Lyric.

    Map app looks much more localized, customizable; drop a pin, move a pin. Developed in conjunction with Google, Jobs says.

    SMS more than one person: With the new app, you can message multiple recipients–one click and you can send multiple messages.

    Webclips: We worked with Google on this app, Jobs notes again. The icons can be added to screen of iPhone. Jobs demos a “jiggle” function to edit Webclips and rearrange them. This feature can add up to nine home screens to the iPhone.

    How do we make maps work? Jobs asks: Skyhook Wireless, which mapped Wi-Fi hotspots and located 23 million of them. “Isn’t that cool? It’s really cool,” Jobs enthuses. Triangulation is the key, he says, noting that’s what Google is doing.

    “All of this is available today as a free update to all iPhone users,” he proclaims, to applause.

    Then, almost as an afterthought: iPod Touch. “We’ve decided to add five apps”: maps with Wi-Fi location, mail, stocks, notes and weather–all of which will be built in to new models, with a upgrade available to existing users for $20.

  3. iTunes:

    “We sold our four billionth song this month,” Jobs notes, adding that on Christmas Day, iTunes sold 20 million songs. It has sold 125 million TV shows and 7 million movies.

    But, he adds, we think there’s a better way to deliver movies: iTunes movie rentals. Not like music, which you buy to listen to a thousand times. You watch a movie once. Touchstone, Miramax, MGM, Lionsgate, New Line are all on board, plus (big applause): 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Disney, Paramount, Universal and Sony. “We have every major studio supporting us: really, really great films…We’re gonna launch with 1,000 films by the end of February.” And you can watch them anywhere, Jobs notes: Mac, PC, iPhone–anywhere with broadband. When you rent, you get a 30-day window to watch a movie, with a 24-hour start/stop time frame. Plus, he notes, you can transfer them around your devices, too. Cost: $2.99 for library titles, $3.99 for new releases.

    Jobs repeats point that all movies can be moved to a different device: e.g., iPod or PC. But what about flat-screen TV? “All of us have tried,” Jobs says of that hurdle, “and we’ve all missed.” But now, he adds, we’re back with Apple TV, Take 2: No computer, but it still syncs with TV.

    The iTunes movies can also be rented in high definition with Dolby 5.1 sound. You can get podcasts, photos from Flickr and .Mac. Finally, Jobs mentions a YouTube connection: 50 million videos. So you can buy TV shows and music and play this iTunes content on TV too.

    The HD-quality option is $1 more, Jobs says: $4.99 for new releases. (Demo: Jobs shows free preview function for “Blades of Glory,” as well as an almost instantaneous download and play of movie). Full DVD quality. Then, he gives an HD demo of “Live Free or Die Hard”: “Very strong,” Jobs opines.

    TV shows: Over 600 shows, he notes, at $1.99 per episode. All can sync with PC or Mac.

    Podcasts: lot of HD podcasts, very cool. “HD content streaming free.” Shows “incredible” clip from Teton.

    For Apple TV: free software upgrade for current owners. But because “We want to make Apple TV even more accessible,” starting today, Jobs says, the new price is $229 (from $299).

    “I think we’ve got it all together,” Jobs says, noting Apple has a great working relationship with Fox. He then introduces Jim Gianopulos, chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox Filmed Entertainment: “When you get down to it, there are two things,” Gianopulos says. “Make great movies, and give them to audience in as many ways as they want.” People want choice, he adds, viewing options, access, control and availability.

    “This is the coolest thing we ever heard,” Gianopulos says. “Music, then iPod. Phone, then iPhone. Apple does things in innovative ways. We’ve been working on DVD…[his Blu-ray mention draws applause]…But we also don’t want to deny the viewer the option of having a copy”–a physical copy of the movie. He shows first one, a take-off on “Star Wars.” “It’s an exciting beginning with Apple,” he concludes.

  4. MacBook Air.

    Jobs is back: “There’s something in the air,” he repeats. “As you know, Apple makes the best notebooks on the planet. Today, we’re introducing a third kind of notebook: MacBook Air.” After comparing all subnotebooks, he announces: “There was room for improvement.”

    So, MacBook Air stats: .76 of an inch at thickest part to .16 of an inch at thinnest. “We’re talking thin here; let me show it to you now.” He picks up a manila envelope and produces the aluminum device; crowd oohs and ahs at its size. Yet it has a full 13.3-inch display; “gorgeous” Jobs says. It also has a built-in camera; full-size back-lit keyboard; multi-touch gesture function–in short, Jobs says, “We’ve taken things we’ve learned from iPhone and now they’re in our computers.”

    How did Apple do it? Three things: battery; 1.8-inch drive; 80GB hard-disk drive (or 64 SSD, as an option). The laptop’s board is the size of a pencil. “An amazing feat of engineering,” Jobs notes. “And we didn’t compromise on performance: speedy processor: Intel Core 2 duo.” Jobs mentions Apple’s great relationship with Intel; “We asked them to consider smaller packaging on their chip: They came up with the same chip in a package that is 60 percent smaller, and that’s why we were able to build the MacBook Air,” Jobs remarks.

    Then Intel CEO Paul Otellini comes onstage and delivers his take on how the two companies collaborated on meeting the challenge. In short, a commitment to innovation drove the effort.

    Bottom line: After more discussion of the MacBook Air’s features, Jobs mentions price: All these features–along with a battery that gives five hours per recharge–for $1,799. Audible “wow” from the audience.

    One other side of MacBook Air, Jobs adds: environmentally conscious: aluminum case; arsenic-free glass; mercury-free and bromide-free components, plus less packaging.

So, Jobs concludes, “The thinnest notebook in the world joins MacBook and MacBook Pro, the best in the industry.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik