Christmas Day for Mac Addicts

Every year in early January, members of the Mac cult (like myself) wet our collective pants and lose sleep in anticipation of what new Apple hardware and/or software our leader, Steve Jobs will unveil at the annual Macworld Expo, at which point we are left wondering how we ever managed to survive life before these shiny new products. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.

The latest Macworld keynote by Steve Jobs wrapped up in the last 20 minutes or so, leaving in its wake a bunch of new stuff for Mac fans and bloggers to digest and discuss to no end. This year was a unusual in one bad way – no live audio/video streams or satellite feeds, leaving the majority of the curious out in the dark. Rumor has it that the live streaming events consumed a lot of time, energy, and money which never added to Apple’s bottom line. So, while I was disappointed in not being able to see and hear every detail seconds after the attendees in San Francisco, I don’t blame them from a business prospective. An on-demand stream should be made available on the Apple Events page later today for anyone wanting to see Steve’s mesmerizing demos.

Sorry, I’m really dragging this out. Anyway, while the big announcements at this keynote were all predicted by the various Apple rumor sites, they were still very good. An updated version of iLife will be available shortly, as will be a replacement for AppleWorks called iWork.

One of the biggest pieces of news was the announcement of a cheap ($500) monitorless/keyboardless/mouseless Macintosh called the Mac mini. If you check out Apple’s gallery of Mac mini photos, you’ll quickly get an idea for how small this thing is. It’s 6 1/2 inches wide by 6 1/2 inches deep by 2 inches height, and weights in at 2.9 pounds. Very nice! Rumor sites claim the mini is targeted towards iPod users currently using a Windows PC. This is only a couple of hundred bucks more than an iPod, so I think it’s definitely possible this will win some converts who have come to appreciate Apple’s sense of design.

The other big announcement was a new iPod called the iPod shuffle. This is small (smaller than a pack of gum) and cheap ($99 for 512 MB and $150 for 1 GB) flash memory based iPod, and is the model of simplicity. This thing has very few buttons and has no display screen of any kind. The part I really like is that when you go to sync it, you can have iTunes randomly select enough songs from your music library to fill the iPod shuffle up. You unplug it and go, but you have no idea of what you’ll be listening to (no display). Their slogan for this new iPod is “Enjoy uncertainty”. I think it’s a great idea, and don’t think it will take very long for the shuffle to become the best selling flash-based music player on the market.