The Star of the Show Bids Farewell to Macworld

Without Steve Jobs in attendance, the last Macworld that Apple will attend, kicked off Jan. 5 in San Francisco.
By Rob Pegoraro
Thursday, January 8, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO The last Apple keynote to headline Macworld Expo here wrapped up a little like the final episode of a long-running television drama: with a thematic farewell song.

Tony Bennett, the silver-haired crooner, concluded Apple's final presentation at the conference named after its computers by singing "The Best Is Yet to Come," followed by "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

And with that, the years of Apple surprising observers with splashy product introductions only weeks after Christmas ended. Next year's Macworld may still happen -- signs over the exits of the Moscone Center here optimistically listed dates for a 2010 convention under the headline "The start of a new era"-- but it will have to get by without Apple.

The company announced last month that it would stop participating in Macworld because it no longer needed the public-relations impact of a trade show.

For its swan song, the Cupertino, Calif., computer company did not even trot out chief executive Steve Jobs, who answered months of speculation about his health with a statement last week that he would sit out the keynote to recover from an unspecified hormone deficiency. Instead, marketing vice president Philip W. Schiller took his place.

But the substance of the presentation on Tuesday didn't justify whatever showmanship Jobs might have brought. Schiller's four big announcements only revealed updates to existing products, many of them understandable or expected.

And yet: Many of these items reflected the importance Apple has carved out for itself since Jobs took on his role as the company's salesman-in-chief in 1997.

The first big chunks of Schiller's keynote covered iLife and iWork '09, multimedia and productivity packages that started life competing against better-established alternatives, such as Microsoft's Office. But iLife's picture, movie and music editing programs have become standard ingredients for Mac users, while iWork has grown into one of the few Office rivals to gain any traction over the past decade.

For the new iLife '09 -- shipping in "late January" for $79, or free on new Macs -- the big news is a version of Apple's iPhoto that will let users organize their pictures by who is in them and where they were taken. That last addition comes just in time for a crop of new cameras that will be able to "geotag" pictures using GPS technology, and puts Apple back in front of other photo-software developers.

For iWork, the important development may not be new features such as a limited online document-sharing option, but its low $49 price (just cut from the usual $79) when purchased with a new Mac. That number makes Office's $149.95 "home and student" price look excessive, and ought to help Apple move a lot more copies.

After discussing an upgraded version of Apple's 17-inch MacBook Pro, a technologically impressive machine made irrelevant to most users by its $2,799 cost, Schiller turned to Apple's iTunes Store.

By the end of March, he said iTunes will offer not just a minority of its 10 million-plus songs without any "digital rights management" restrictions, but all of them -- and in a higher-quality format.

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