John Paczkowski

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Apple Mac Event: Revitalized iLife, OS X Lion, Fresh Airs

The invitations to Apple’s special events are usually pretty coy about offering clues to the subject matter, but given the image of the lion on the invite to today’s “Back to the Mac” unveiling, it’s a fairly safe bet that we’ll get a look at the next iteration of the Mac operating system, OS X Lion. Either that or Apple is announcing the creation of a wildlife reserve in Africa, but the smart money is on the former.

The question is what else Steve Jobs will trot out. A refresh of the MacBook Air has been much rumored, and some incremental updates to the MacBook Pros are also a possibility. New versions of iLife and iWork could make an appearance. And who knows, maybe we’ll get official confirmation of a Verizon-friendly iPhone. Or not.

9:21 am: We have arrived at Apple in Cupertino. In a break from recent events, the press has been invited for breakfast above Town Hall.

10:03 am: Damn. Hamstrung by a network issue. Looks like I’ll be live-blogging this via iPhone (sound of fingers crossing) … Steve Jobs takes the stage to another full house this morning. He notes that while he’ll preside over today’s events, he’s leaving the heavy lifting to the engineers responsible for the new products being announced today.

Tim Cook takes the stage to give a quick overview of Apple’s Mac business. The Mac accounted for a third of Apple’s revenue last year – $22 billion. He notes that were the Mac to be a stand-alone business it would be No. 110 on the Fortune 500 (“not that we have any plans to do that,” he adds to much laughter).

Cook continues: The Mac has outgrown the market for 18 quarters in a row. The U.S. consumer market share for the Mac is 20.7 percent. We’ve seen astonishing growth.

Cook notes that there are some 600,000 registered Mac developers. Plus, “AutoCAD is coming to the Mac–-we’ve coveted this for a long time,” and that will bring even more developers to Apple’s platform. (In fact, AutoCAD for the Mac has been out for a couple of weeks now.)

Customer survey after customer survey show the Mac is scoring No. 1. We now have 318 stores in 11 countries, Cook says, and offers a quick overview of Apple’s new retail stores in Paris and Shanghai.

The stores in China are our highest trafficked stores anywhere, he says, and if you’ve ever been in one of our stores in the States, you know that’s saying a lot.

10:12 am: Jobs returns to the stage. So that’s the state of the Mac. Now let’s talk about some new products.

First on the agenda: iLife 11.

A number of enhancements in this latest iteration of Apple’s software suite: New full-screen modes in iPhoto, as well as photo book enhancements, slideshows, etc.

Jobs calls Phil Schiller to the stage for a quick demo.

Schiller demonstrates high-speed scrubbing through photo libraries and the new full-screen Faces and Places interfaces.

As before, location information included in photos is used to enhance the places experience with some slick map integration.

On to slideshows. Very slick and easy, as always. Another improvement: Album view, which can organize photos according to source automatically. The app immediately designates photos as originating from Facebook or Flickr.

Moving on, Schiller demos a new photo emailing feature. Very slick. Rather than launching the mail app to send photos, photos can be sent from within iPhoto itself.

You can send photos to your friends without ever leaving iPhoto, says Schiller, adding that the app also keeps track of how you’re sharing your photos, monitoring posts to Twitter and Facebook and even comments posted on those services.

Moving on now to the photo books feature, which also boasts some enhancements: Project view, which arranges books on the same wooden bookshelf you see in iBooks, and a new autopopulate feature that automatically creates books according to photo ratings and how the user has organized photos in albums.

10:24 am: Jobs returns to the stage. I think that’s awesome, he says. This is why we do what we do.

Next on today’s agenda: iMovie, which Jobs says has been given all new audio editing features along with a number of other enhancements.

The software now displays color-coded audio waveforms for easy editing. These waveforms can be adjusted manually and live with a simple move of the mouse.

Also added to the software: Audio effects. Pitch-shift the voices of your loved ones in home movies!

Moving on now to another new feature that Apple execs seem particularly excited about: Movie trailers. Easily create realistic movie trailers for your iMovie films, storyboarding them and scoring them as though they were major motion pictures. The trailer scores are actually new compositions recorded specifically for iMovie by the London Symphony Orchestra.

More about iMovies trailer feature: Templates in the software walk you through trailer creation, asking you to select specific shots–“action shot of Fred,” for example. The user selects them, slaps them into the template and the software does the rest. YouTube is going to be buried in these things in a month.

The first trailer is met with applause. Now we’re shown two more, also met with applause. The third, which features a “Raiders of the Lost Ark”-style typeface, is particularly cool.

10:40 am: Jobs takes the stage again. Isn’t that awesome? People are going to have so much fun with this.

Also new in iLife: A new version of GarageBand, enhanced with some new recording tools and lesson features as well.

Among the new studio tools, Groove Matching, which analyzes the rhythm of one instrument and instantly applies it to all other instruments in the song. Note that this is a “human” rhythm, Jobs says. We don’t want our songs to sound robotic. This is like a spell check for rhythm.

Another cool new feature: Flex Time, which allows notes to be expanded and contracted as needed. Play a note too short and you can use Flex Time to extend it.

Some new lessons have been added to GarageBand’s learn-to-play feature. Also a “how did I play?” function that rates the student’s performance as he or she is playing–in some cases along with the backing of a full orchestra.

A timeline tells students “where you rocked it and where you didn’t.” GarageBand also keeps a history of students’ performances so they can track their progress.

10:51 am: Jobs back on stage. We have over five million people using GarageBand, he says.

Now on pricing: $49 to upgrade, free with new Mac purchases. iLife 11 is available today.

Moving on now to FaceTime: A quick overview of the tech’s history. About 19 million FaceTime devices shipped so far.

No. 1 one request: Can we please do FaceTime on the Mac, says Jobs. So today we’re doing exactly that. You can now do FaceTime to the iPhone and iPod touch straight from the Mac.

Jobs calls Schiller from a Mac on stage. “What are you talking to us on, Phil?”

“An iPhone 4,” quips Schiller. “I always have it with me.”

Beta release of FaceTime today.

10:56 am: Next up, says Jobs, the entree for today: Mac OS X. We’ve had seven major releases of OS X in the last decade. I don’t think anyone can compete with that.

Today we’re going to show you the eighth major release: Lion.

Jobs notes that the company has been inspired by a lot of the innovations in iOS and wanted to bring some of them into OS X. That’s why we’re calling today’s event “Back to the Mac.”

So what do we like most about iOS: multitouch gestures, the App Store, app home screens, full-screen apps, apps that autosave and resume when launched.

More granularity on these topics now. Touch surfaces want to be horizontal, Jobs says, noting that people have expected Apple to use it vertically on upright screens. Not going to happen.

More than seven billion downloads from App Store to date, Jobs says by way of announcing an App Store for the Mac–largely the same as the iTunes App Store: Autoupdating, launchpad.

Jobs circles back to some core features of OS X–Expose, etc. Apple has integrated these all into a single feature called Mission Control.

Now a more in-depth demo of the Mac App Store: Launches from dock; shows top paid and free apps and updates just like iPhone apps. Purchase, download and installation identical as well.

Launchpad pops a full-screen grid of selected apps that can be scrolled through horizontally just as on iOS devices. You can also create folders for categories of apps, just as you can on the iPhone and iPad.

Upgrades to gesture support allow users to view apps full-screen and flick through them using swipe gestures.

Mission Control: Expose view of all open windows, dock, desktop, dashboard–very, very slick. Apps are organized into clusters.

11:11 am: Jobs returns to the stage. We’re very excited about Lion: It’s a whole new way of interacting with apps, purchasing them and organizing them. Jobs says Lion is on track for summer release.

But! We’re so excited about the Mac App Store that were not going to wait for Lion to open it. We’re going to open it in 90 days for Snow Leopard.

Now a wrap up of what we’ve seen so far: Mac data, store data, new iLife, FaceTime for Mac, and Lion, coming this summer, and the Mac App Store which is coming in 90 days.

But there is one more thing…

Jobs talks for a bit about Apple’s virtuous circle and bringing iOS innovations to OS X.

What would happen if we did the same thing with hardware? What would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up?

The new MacBook Air. It’s like nothing we ever created before–2.9 pounds; only .11 inch at its thinnest. Complete aluminum body construction. Full-size keyboard and glass trackpad.

13.3 LED backlit display
1440×900 pixels
Core 2 Duo processor
Nvidia graphics
FaceTime cam
No hard drive. Complete solid-state storage.
Instant-on, up to 2x faster
More reliable
Silent operation

Battery life: 7 hours on wireless Web, 30 hours standby

We don’t think the PC industry’s battery tests reflect real-world results, so we’re using new ones and even under these new, more stringent tests we get seven hours of battery life using wireless Web.

So what’s inside: Mostly battery, a little bit of storage and a very tiny board.

Will be available in two models: 13.3-inch and 11-inch. The 11 has everything the 13.3 has, but less battery life–five hours wireless Web, 30 hours standby.

We see these as next generation of MacBooks. So were giving them a good price–$999 to $1,599.

The new Airs meet Apple’s green standards.

Both available starting today.

Time to roll a few videos: First the new MacBook Air ad–typical Apple marketing. Second, the now obligatory video of Apple execs talking up the latest innovations to be incorporated into the new kit announced today.

Geez–the larger MacBook Air tapers from .68 inch at its fattest end to .11 inch at its thinnest.

Big focus on flash storage and the leap it took to base a device like the Air on it while still keeping it a Mac.

Bullet point hit over and over again: This is the future of the MacBook.

11:30 am: Jobs returns to the stage to wrap things up. A quick thank-you to the engineers and attendees, and that’s it.

Photos from the event

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