Apple Pie

One week ago, Steve Jobs took the stage at the Macworld expo and made a few interesting announcements. In many ways and without saying so out loud, Steve was announcing that Apple was ready, again, for prime-time. Ready, again, to take on Microsoft. Now, after a week spent in thought, your Narrator’s observations:

The Future Is Aluminum

A big reason the Powerbook is so popular is because the thing looks cool. Sure, there are cheaper, more powerful laptops to be found, but none combine portability, speed, and style as well as a Powerbook. This is the only laptop that can make your friends – even the ones without pocket protectors – drool a bit. Sure, you want one, if for no other reason than because your good-friend, arch-nemesis, and evil-twin, the saucy millionaire Todd Dominey casually purchased one of the 12" models shortly after they were announced.

Making a good laptop, a successful laptop, is very important to Apple, and with good reason:

  1. People love laptops
  2. People are willing to pay more for a laptop than for a desktop machine with equal or greater power
  3. Laptops already represent a large part of Apple’s hardware sales
  4. Laptops have a limited upgrade path, which means that they must be replaced more frequently than desktop models

So indeed, laptops are Apple’s future.

Additionally, the new Powerbooks (both larger and smaller than the original) possess a chassis made of aluminum rather than titanium. There’s good reason for this: Titanium is expensive. Aluminum, not so much.

The Digital Hub

With the release of the new versions of the i-Apps (referred to, collectively, as iLife), Apple has clearly stepped up to the plate, at once both unifying their vision of the digital hub and tying together a group of relatively unrelated applications into an integrated little bundle. This is a good, perhaps great thing.

Despite efforts, there’s nobody else doing this with the level of success enjoyed by Apple. The digital hub is theirs.

Again with the Surprises

The big talk of the show: Apple’s new browser, Safari. There had long been talk of an Apple-created web-browser, but it was assumed that the thing would be Mozilla-born. Why else would Apple hire the Chimera Project’s boy genius Dave Hyatt, if not to head-up the adoption of his popular freeware browser as their own?

Perhaps because hiring him would help eliminate the competition.

You see (surprise!) Apple’s new browser isn’t a Gecko-based browser as expected. Instead it is based on the KTHML browser-engine, the same technology behind the open-source browser Konquerer. This is important.

With the release of Safari (and Keynote for that matter), Apple has ever-so-gently begun the process of severing its reliance upon Microsoft’s technologies, namely Internet Explorer. Infrequently updated, unreliable, and quirky, IE for the Mac is more of a curse than a blessing. Now that the famed Microsoft-Apple deal has come to an end, Apple can ship its own web-browser with every copy of Mac OS X it sells.

After a week using Safari as your primary browser, you can confidently say that despite a few bugs, it is, indeed, a very good browser. Apple’s future in this area will be bright.

The fact that Safari is based on KHTML places separates it from Chimera, Mozilla, and other Gecko-based web-browsers. Now, not only does Apple have a (really good) web-browser of its own, but guess what? Safari’s roots lead deep within the bowels of the open-source community and the Linux movement. Talk about thumbing your nose at Microsoft …

Better, Faster, Etc.

Apple was smart enough to focus on what its users were asking for in a browser: Speed. Safari is fast to launch, fast to spawn new windows, and fast to display pages. Much faster than IE and significantly faster (at least from Your Narrator’s real-life perspective) than Chimera. Safari is, perhaps, the most simple, focused application Apple has created to date. The keep-it-simple-stupid! model for success.

We’re all fortunate Apple didn’t take the road suggested by Kottke (brilliantly rebutted by Gruber and skillfully mocked by Mahoney).

For those without, here’s a screenshot of Hivelogic as seen by Safari.

Break Out The Pocket Protectors

Perhaps the most important software release from Apple was the one it spent the least time (actually, no time) promoting: X11.

The X Windows System, or X11 as it is called by its users, is a fully-implemented, standard X Window Manager for Mac OS X. In English, this means that now, just about every UNIX Weenie and Linux Geek can compile their favorite existing software – without modifying their code – for Mac OS X. It also means that the full library of graphical open-source tools are, quite suddenly, available for Mac OS X. Gimp, anyone?

This also means that UNIX developers need not learn the Mac OS X tools nor frameworks in order to develop for the Mac. Instead, they can rely on the technologies and toolsets they’re familiar with, and just start coding.

The Bottom Line

Apple has just begun down the path of the digital-hub, the ultra-portable, the integration of open-source technology, and the building of superior applications. Apple is taking a risk here, to be sure, but the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow just got a bit bigger.

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