New Goodies from Macworld

I admit it. I almost forgot it was time for Macworld. The weeks leading up to the event were relatively quiet, almost devoid of the speculation we typically see.

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Even when Apple’s news at Macworld isn’t big, the conference is huge and full of new hardware and software temptations for Mac enthusiasts.

Before the annual Macworld Expo http://www.macworldexpo.com, “rumors” sites are usually buzzing with ideas about what Steve Jobs might announce. The speculations range from the fairly obvious to the incredibly bizarre. Last year, forecasters were right on the money when they predicted the iPhone, but this year there just wasn’t the same sort of pre-expo excitement.

The day before Macworld 2008, Apple hinted at its announcements with a banner that read, “2008. There’s something in the air.” This prompted some silliness; A few people wondered if Phil Collins or Air Supply might play the event. (I, for one, can assure you, this is the first and last time I will ever mention Phil Collins or Air Supply in a post). Others wondered about a new AirPort device or iPhone wireless sync. A few people even correctly predicted the new iTunes movie rentals, but all-in-all, nothing major was expected.

In fact, Steve Jobs made pretty big announcements in his keynote, a couple of which may be important to design professionals.

MacBook Air. It’s the thinnest laptop ever. (And yes, I know they want me to call it a “notebook,” but I just can’t do it). Once I got over the whole “thin enough to fit in an envelope” thing, I started to think about how this new model would work for a designer. If you’re sticking to print and web media, and not dealing with a lot of video, the 80 GB hard drive should suffice. (There’s also a 60 GB solid state drive option, if your willing to drop $3000 on this new computer). The 802.11n WiFi will give you the download and upload speeds you need, and the 2 GB of memory should be enough to handle all your apps. There’s nothing here that your latest desktop doesn’t already have, but it’s a pretty good package in an ultra-slim portable.

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Don’t accidentally send your MacBook Air through interoffice mail!

But can you design on a 13.3″ display? I can’t, even if it is a nice 1280 x 800 backlit screen. Of course, it may be fine for client presentations, which brings me to another question: Do you want your clients and colleagues to know that you’re on top of the latest design trends? If so, the MacBook Air could help in that regard. On the other hand, it could hurt if you’re trying to get paid on time by a client who believes you’ve got money to burn on fancy new toys.

Time Capsule. Whether you’re using a new MacBook Air or just a plain old laptop, backing up your data can be a hassle. It’s not a big deal, but anything that makes the process easier is probably a wise investment. Time Capsule is a new WiFi base station that includes a large hard drive capable of storing all your data. There’s a 500 GB model for $300, and 1 TB option for $500. Yes, a terabyte. And heck, the Time Capsule probably works much better with Leopard’s Time Machine backup app than my external drive does.

Apple TV and iTunes Movie Rentals. Okay, you’d be hard pressed to find a professional application for these updates, but all work and no play… The updated Apple TV set-top box can now be used to rent and buy movies from iTunes. iTunes movie rentals will, of course, be available without Apple TV as well.

iPhone and iPod Touch Updates. I’ve tried the free 1.1.3 iPhone update and really like the customizable home screen and enhanced Google maps, but the new package still lacks some features that many users have been hoping for, including Flash in Safari, games, MMS, and a copy/paste function. Still, I love that it the phone can now triangulate your position and generate directions and maps on the go. The iPod Touch has an update too. Surprisingly, and unlike most software upgrades, it costs $20. However, this update essentially raises the iPod Touch to the level of the iPhone, minus the call capability.

All told, the first day of Macworld yielded bigger-than-expected updates, leaving those who opted out of the usual speculative fun kicking themselves…and ensuring that the rumor mills will be running full steam prior to the next event.

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