27 October 2004
Posted in Reports
UPDATE Well, I thought a title like that might get your attention? No, this is not a report on some major plans by Apple, but on a hilarious presentation by well-known Mac writer, humorist and columnist Andy Ihnatko, that I just had the opportunity to attend here in Santa Clara.
I'm here in Santa Clara attending the Streaming Media West Conference, but by a strange coincidence, the O'Reilly Mac OS X Conference is also taking place at the same hotel complex.
[Update 1] Spotted a photo of the conference's first day and a photo of Andy on this page (my photos didn't come out sadly)....
Before I left New Zealand I emailed the folks at O'Reilly and asked for an opportunity to pop into the conference and was kindly extended a free registration. Today was really the only time that I will have some free time away from Streaming Media, so I got to see the opening welcome and talk about the next version of the Mac operating system (Tiger) by Chris Board, Senior Product Line Manager at Apple.
We were told that his talk would cover more than was simply mentioned at the World Wide Developer's Conference, but I'm afraid it didn't live up to its promise. I still worry that Apple seems to be promoting a search engine as one of the major enhancements of the next operating system.
I popped up to my room at lunchtime to catch up with the news about the new iPod release happening a few miles from here. I could tell that I was in a hotel with a lot of Mac users. I turned on my laptop and got a hell of a fright. There in iTunes was someone else's music collection. Thanks to the music sharing feature of iTunes, I was able to listen to the eclectic music of one of the other hotel guests. From Marilyn Manson, to Bjork, I almost felt uncomfortable browsing through someone else's music without them knowing.
My only opportunity to get back to the OS X Conference was an evening presentation by Andy Ihnatko. Andy is a self-confessed geek, and is the Chicago Sun-Times' technology columnist as well as Macworld Magazine's back-page opinion guy. At first, walking into the ballroom where the presentation would take place, to see Andy on stage with a ukulele and cowboy hat, and lots of people talking about Baseball and the Red Sox (I'm yet to catch up on that news I'm afraid) felt a little disconcerting. But once he got stuck in, I knew I was in great company.
Andy's talk was entitled "Tales from the Crypt", which was very apt given that Halloween hits here in a few days. However the crypt that Andy explored was a storage locker that he has (one of three he says) in Boston.
His geek factor showed as he started showing us his crypt. Inside the storage locker was, it seemed, every old Mac that you could possibly think of...many of which he has been given (he politely declines offers of old Macs now) or he has picked up at embarrassingly low prices. More amazing were some of the rare and interesting computers he had collected over the ages, including a PC that appeared to back up data onto 8-track tape.
Later, Ihnatko talked about bluetooth. He compared it to bacon....and I agree with his analogy. Like bacon, when it comes to bluetooth, he says, "There is nothing that can't be made better by adding it"
In fact, Ihnatko thinks the iPod should have bluetooth added and his arguments weren't too hard to agree with. The addition of bluetooth to any appliance these days is exceptionally cheap. Imagine a bluetooth enabled iPod that you could use, not for music synchronisation (he commented that bluetooth would be no good for that) but for the synchronisation of text, such as addresses, emails and more. Imagine carrying it around with your camera-enabled bluetooth phone. Since your phone can't store that many photos, you could download photos from the phone to the iPod and continue taking photos.
He suggested that people meeting up could quickly exchange contact details through wireless bluetooth, from one iPod to the other. But perhaps his most interesting idea was with the use of a bluetooth headset. Imagine being able to use this to dictate directly to the iPod. The iPod could be capable of speech-to-text conversion or you could do this later via a download to your Mac. Extending this further, Ihnatko suggested that the iPod could, given that it might be able to recognise speech, be used more as a personal organiser, with you talking through the headset to the iPod with comments such as "Appointment with Joe Bloggs on Sunday".
The thing that was so superb about the presentation was that all these neat ideas were surrounded with humour and brilliant delivery.
One area that got me interested though was his comments about QuickTime and the iTunes music store. Ihnatko said that we should not ignore the significance of the fact that many of the latest music clips (such as the extended U2 clip recently released) have been distributed via the iTunes interface. He sees this as Apple testing future functionally. Why, he asked, would you send everyone to the iTunes store to download a music clip, unless you wanted to see the results?
His argument is that Apple are quietly working towards the ability to download music clips from iTunes. And why not? It already has the structure in place to allow us to purchase music, so why not video? However, he expressed a lot of caution. He said that he doesn't believe that we will see a video-based iPod for a long time. Why? Not because it isn't possible, but because Apple never release products that don't tie in with and justify other work. He believes that there will be no "iPod Video' until Apple release a better way to transfer video between a Mac and the iPod....and he thinks that iMovie is not that mechanism.
Finally, he concluded with some musical entertainment. He'd certainly been entertaining already, but whipped out a ukulele to demonstrate the new activity that takes up his time while waiting for his Mac to start up. His music may not quite be as enjoyable as his jokes and slideshow, but it was a great experience nonetheless.
To the folks running the O'Reilly Conference, I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to sit in on the sessions today.
[Update 1] There is news on the presentations available here...
My visit to the States is to attend the Streaming Media West Conference as a Flexible Learning Leader. FLLinNZ is an e-Learning Collaborative Development Fund project from the University of Waikato and is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) Te Amorangi Matauranga Matua.