SAN FRANCISCO—I have a shameful confession to make: Dont tell my wife, but I have a crush on Steve Jobs.
Id like to think my history in the Mac community has immunized me from the aura surrounding Apple Computers charismatic CEO: I caught the Mac bug shortly after Jobs original departure from Apple in the mid-80s and covered the market professionally for nearly a decade before his return, so I missed the full force of Jobs-mania shared by many true Apple vets and youthful enthusiasts. Moreover, Ive always preferred to glean my tech stories and angles from the dynamic expression of developers and end users, not the more-rehearsed cadences of the executive suite.
But goodness, the man can keynote! Even as I squirmed over my earlier decision to endorse a Mac tablet over new PowerBooks as the likely hardware highlight of this show, I was even more humbled by the sheer volume of announcements he effortlessly spun at Macworld Expo.
His two-hour turn Tuesday morning spanned two dramatic new notebook computers, three new software applications, upgrades to four consumer multimedia apps, new wireless capabilities, and a welter of ephemera ranging from television commercials to retail sales—all wrapped up in a package as eye-catching and tightly choreographed as Noh theater.
But while Noh is an ensemble performance, this weeks Expo keynote was absolutely a solo turn. Aside from one brief appearance by DigiDesigns Dave Lebolt (to announce the arrival of a Mac OS X-native version of the Pro Tools audio package) and five minutes from Phil Schiller, Apples indefatigable senior vice president of worldwide product marketing (to tout a new entry-level version of Apples Final Cut video software), this was Jobs show. He used every minute of it to push Apples tightly interwoven agendas: speed Mac OS X migration, win new crossover sales from the Windows world, and wow consumers and pros alike with media-rich Mac applications and hardware.
So how are these announcements going to play once the keynote glow has dissipated? Here are a few quick impressions.
Apple insiders had hinted that this weeks revelations wouldnt please Microsoft. Im sure that Redmond is a tad discomfited by Apples new Safari browser (which Jobs claimed performs up to three times faster than Internet Explorer, the Macs erstwhile "browser of choice") and by Keynote, a presentation package that handles Microsoft PowerPoint files along with other formats. Safari could indeed pose some headaches for Explorer. However, Im less-convinced that the graphically impressive Keynote will do much to sap sales of the full-featured and familiar PowerPoint to users who are already buying into Microsofts Office suite. Could Keynote be a crossover hit outside traditional office applications—say, in the education market?