Apple Event – My Live (to tape) Blog

A frame grab from Apple's livestream. I was watching it on my iPad, via AT&T's 3G connection.

The session starts with a reminder that Skype is a piece of crap. I was supposed to be joining Leo and Alex in a special MacBreak talking about the presentation as it happens. I even had a special MacBook and iPad setup with a camera and a mic. But Skype said no ****ing way.

And Skype’s screwup cost me about $30. I paid for a day’s worth of hotel broadband solely for the Skypecast. And then when I realized that I’d need two sets of headphones (one to listen to the event on my iPad, one so I could listen to the TWiT studio on my Macbook) I ran to the corner Walgreens and bought a cheap pair of Sonys.

I repeat: Skype is just a total misery. It frustrates the hell out of me that I need to use it but can’t count on it in any way.

Anyway. So here I am in my hotel room with the MacBook on one side, with this blog post open. And the iPad is next to it, streaming the show live via AT&T.

Steve takes the stage and starts by showing off the glam new Paris Apple Store, and the new Shanghai Apple Store. New York gets a big glass cube; Shanghai gets a big glass cylinder. Coca-Cola is now in negotiations to fill it with 178,000 gallons of beverage on special occasions.

I’m not “liveblogging” this because there’s an actual livestream that people should probably watch instead. This blog post is intended for the contemplation and illumination of future generations.

Very good video quality…it ranges from “webcast” quality to “netflix streaming app” quality…depending on how much the video is moving around. Video is _slightly_ choppy…I’m guessing that I’m seeing less than a full 30 frames per second.

Interesting statistic: Apple Stores are seeing one million visitors per day. Yes, on a good day, but that’s still an interesting figure; Steve compares it to the days when Macworld Expo would be happy to see 30,000 people.

iOS is the next topic.

iOS 4.1:Bugs fixed — The wonky proximity sensor on the iPhone, Bluetooth, and iPhone 3G bugs.

New feature: HDR photos! Very cool.

HD video upload over WiFi.

TV show rentals. One rumor confirmed.

Game Center.

HDR Photography. Tap a button on the camera app and it’ll bracket the exposures and combine them into an HDR image. So instead of black shadows and blown out skies, there’ll be plenty of detail in the whole image. The Camera app writes both the “normal” and the HDR version to your photo library so you can pick the one you like.

I love HDR and use it all the time…if this works well, then the iPhone will kick the ass of many real cameras, let alone cameraphones. I wonder if they’re doing “real” HDR or doing a “smart sampling” technique to combine separate exposures? Some consumer apps do that instead of using the real HDR algorithms.

Game Center. Here’s the aggressive sell of the iPad and iPhone (and, um, iTV? [edit to add later: no, as it turns out] as a gaming platform. They’ve always had success there but this is the one where they say really put it out there.

Mike Capps from Epic Games demos new games that take advantage of Game Center. “Project Sword.”

The name seems to indicate that it should be followed by “: The Leverage Of Barjed-Sijnjen Chapter 4, ‘The Re-Brobnoning’.”

Good demo of head to head combat over GameCenter. Also showing that gameplay can be recorded as video. I wonder about latency; are they playing via WiFi or 3G?

Game will be out soon on iPhone and iPad. Looks neat.

[Edit: demo is available as a free download.]

iOS 4.1 available next week for iPhone and iPod Touch; free download via iTunes.

Sneak peek at iOS 4.2. “It’s all about iPad.”

Brings “Everything to iPad”

Wireless Printing – brings long sustained applause. Also something called “AirPlay.” I bet this is a WiFi video sending scheme. [Edit later to say: yes, it is.]

Now there’s a “Print” tool in Pages. Select a printer, number of copies, etc. A new “Print Center” app appears in the multitasking area when a print job is in progress. You can see jobs and cancel them.

AirPlay: it’s the new name for AirTunes. You’ll be able to stream audio, video and photos, which means they need a new, vaguer name for it.

Live demo on an iPad. Steve launches Pandora. He’s got it streaming in the background as he does mail and Safari. We see the exact same multitasking interface as on the iPhone: screen slides up to reveal icons of running apps. You can switch apps and kill them.

Folders: works the exact same way on the iPad as on the iPhone. This is a reminder that “iOS” was a necessary rebranding: if you own an iPhone, you have a mini iPad; if you have an iPad, you have a big iPhone. It’s the same thing; it’s feature-identical and they all work the same on both hardware.

iOS 4.2 will be out in November for iPhone iPad and Touch.

Onward to the iPods. This is, indeed, the annual Holiday Music Event. This is what we’re expecting.

275 million iPods sold. See? This is why we wonder why Amazon hasn’t said how many Kindles they’ve sold. Also why Apple hasn’t said how many AppleTV’s they’ve sold. If you’re happy with the sales, you don’t keep them secret.

All-new designs for every model. Even the Classic? (As in “We’ve redesigned it: it’s now invisible in our product line.”)

[Edit: iPod Classic is absent from mention. So Apple officially is done with hard drive-based iPods?]

iPod Shuffle. Interesting to see how (if?) it’s important today. “People clearly missed the buttons” from the last edition (the “aluminum stick of Trident gum” design). New one has the familiar “button ring”…looks more like a slightly smaller version of the 2008 version.

It includes VoiceOver, just like the Trident model…so you can do playlists and hear names of albums and tracks Can you control it via voice as well? Must ask.

15 hours of battery life. Retail package looks like an ice cube.

$49 price! Nice. They needed to sell this CHEAP to compete with Sandisk’s cheap and excellent music/video players. Lowest iPod price ever, I think.

iPod Nano. Another one that maybe has identity problems, in light of the iPod Touch and how close it is in price.

Eliminated the clickwheel: it’s now a multitouch device. It’s a tiny square with a color screen. “Wearable” via a clip. It’s large enough for four app buttons. 46% smaller, 42% lighter. Hardware volume buttons. FM radio, Nike+ and pedometer. Works in 29 languages. Battery life of 24 hours.

Does it run apps? Other than the built-in features? It does looks like an iPod Touch crammed into a screen that can only hold a 2×2 square icon panel. [Edit to add: nope, no mention of third-party iOS apps. Must ask later.]

Nice clock app…looks like it’d make a nice watch when clipped onto an armband. Albeit a watch that only runs for X hours before you need to recharge it and probably doesn’t tell you the time until you “wake” it.

Hmm. I’m really going to need to play with this. I don’t know how useful a touch interface will be on a screen this small; your finger is covering up so much of the screen. Especially when you’re doing particularly clever things like trying to “scroll” through the alphabet and find a specific album. Even Steve appears to be operating the new Nano cautiously. On the plus side, when you and I use it, the results won’t be on a huge HD auditorium screen for the world to see,

(I’m nerdly impressed that they’ve got a hack via the dock connector that has the output from this dinky little device projected right onto that huge projector in the auditorium. No, this won’t show up in the consumer device. But I love the idea of this dinky thing being used as a video source.)

Screen rotates via touch (apparently not automatically via sensors).

Comes in seven colors including Graphite and “Product RED” editions.

What’s the capacity? $149 for 8 gigs, $179 for 16 gig version.

Still has a bit of an ID crisis. Why not pay a little extra for an iPod Touch, when it does so much more? I guess for some people, the smaller size really is that important. [Edit: I forgot how much more expensive the iPod Touch is, too.]

iPod Touch. — …Steve hears my comment here in the hotel room and acknowledges that the iPod Touch is the best-selling iPod.

More rah-rah about Apple mobile gaming: “outsells Nintendo and Sony portable players, combined.” I believe that number…but at PAX Expo it seems as though everyone had Nintendo DS systems, not iPods. I need to think about that.

The new iPod Touch. It’s even thinner. Same basic lines as the older model (not squared edges like the iPhone 4).

As expected: it has the same Retina Display as the iPhone 4 (24 bit color, 326 ppi). Same A4 chip as the iPhone 4 and iPad. Also has the 3-axis gyro.

And Facetime via a front-facing camera. New rear-facing HD camera. No light on the camera (apparently). iPhone’s iMovie app works on the iPod Touch, too.

40 hours of music playback.

8 gigs for $229, 32 gigs for $299, 64 gigs for $399. OK, so there’s the difference between the Nano. I should also remember that someone who wants a consumer music player sees a MUCH bigger difference between the extra dough than someone shopping for (say) a laptop or an ebook reader might.

All iPods will ship next week. Pre-order starts today.

Ads for the new iPods. Apple spokespeople are still trapped in The Matrix, as they’ve been for the past ten years or so. Someday the company will be doing well enough to afford a background scrim or something. Like, one of them peaceful waterfall scenes you get with your school picture or at the boudoir-photography store over at the mall.

iTunes. And now, Apple releases version 10 of the iTunes app. Time for a new app icon! The kids today don’t know what a CD even is any more. Now just musical note over a blue background.

(Please, audience: you’re applauding an icon. Do let’s preserve the Dignity of the Press, wot?)

Added a new “hybrid” view in track listings: if it senses there are bunchs of tracks from an album in a row, it’ll use extra white space to show album art. Nice little flourish; seems like something that a member of the team does for fun, and then it impresses everyone else enough to make it into the actual app.

Quick peek at the iTunes Store. I wonder if they put up a special Katy Perry album art banner so that the keynote didn’t show the “bare-assed on a cloud” art that’s been plastered on iTunes’ front page all week.

New feature for social networking of music: they’re calling it “Ping.” “A social network for music.” It’s built into iTunes. Follow favorite artists and friends to discover the music they’re talking about, listening to, and downloading.

Ping is now in the sidebar, almost like a Device. You can see what your friends are posting and discussing. The idea is that you can click in there and check out music.

Ping will create a custom Top 10 chart of the music your friends are following.

An artist page. recent posts from Lady Gaga, her favorite songs, and concerts she’s appearing in. Click a button to Follow.

Uh-oh…for the first time, the video feed is stuttering a little. screen blacks for a quarter-second three or four times in a row. Must have been the mention of Lady Gaga. Her fans are rabid. Think about what would have happened if the stream got Biebered.

You can control your Followers: let everybody follow you, let people only follow you if you approve each person. Create “circle of friends” So it seems as though they thought hard about privacy controls.

Over 17,000 concert listings. “Ping is open to over 160,000,000 iTunes users in 23 countries immediately. We’re starting with a very large base.”

(Can you buy tickets? Must check.)

Live demo of Ping. You see a Facebook-style aggregate feed of all of the people your’e following. Shows an artist who seems to have posted a bunch of tour photos. You can leave a comment.

I wonder how useful this will be. I generally don’t care what a million fans of an artist have to say. I only care about what my friends are thinking, or a handful of critics/commentators whom I like.

You have a profile page with a photo and description, with your favorite tracks and albums. Does this work with affiliate listings? Do I get a kickback if people buy tracks based on my recommendation? iTunes does have an affiliate program. Must ask.

Oh my god: the video stuttered again…and once again it only happened WHILE LADY GAGA WAS ON THE SCREEN. Fear the Gaga! Gaga “posted a backstage video” to her own Ping stream.

People can see that you’ve purchased a song. Hmm. Do I have control on a song-by-song basis? I wouldn’t want to just automatically publish my whole buying history. “I only bought that ABBA song because I wanted to make fun of it in a blog post…I swear!”

Ping also is on the iPhone. Checking activity and making posts, etc.

iTunes 10 available today. I immediately check Apple.com but they’ve still got the iTunes 9 download link up.

One More Thing…

One more Hobby, Steve says, getting applause. Yes, it’s time for AppleTV or iTV.

Introduced 2006 and not a big hit. “Users love them,” but Apple has never said how many they’ve sold.

Apple asked users what they want. They want hollywood movies and TV shows whenever they want. “They don’t want Amateur Hour.” And they want HD. And lower prices for content.

They don’t want a computer on their TV…

Did Steve just mention Lady Gaga again? Now the stream has frozen completely: static screen. Had to restart it.

Back a few minutes later.

All HD, All rentals, no purchases. No storage because you don’t store anything on the device. Rental prices are so cheap that it’s still less expensive than buying, even with multiple views.

No syncing required. Seems like he’s saying that Apple’s done a better job, solving problems by making it more like a Roku box than a “hotplate Mac.”

$4.99 first-run HD movies, rented the day and date that the DVD is released. And they get cheaper after first-run.

Renting an HD TV show is now 99 cents. And it’s commercial-free.

They’ve got ABC and Fox on board; “we think the rest of the studios will see the light and get on board with us.”

Awesome: you can also stream Netflix. That immediately makes it relevant.

Also support for YouTube, Flickr, and MobileMe, all in HD. And stream music photos and video from Mac or PC.

UI is simple, looks like the last-generation AppleTV (the “infinite corridor” of scrolling movie posters). Also includes the TomatoMeter! RottenTomatoes.com is unquestionably a powerhouse of the online film community.

What the hell? Now the theater is empty. The stream jump-cut to…what? Is it people entering, or people having left?

Refresh the stream again. Stream picks up roughly whee it dropped. Steve is now renting a movie. I’s skipping around a bit. I think it’s speeding things up to get me caught up to the “live” end of the movie. Iron Man 2, btw.

TV. Nice twist: it keeps track of your favorite shows and tells you about shows you’ve missed. So I could check and see that last week’s “Simpsons” was a new ep, not a repeat, and watch it for 99 cents.

Netflix. It seems to have the same features as what you’d see on a Roku (queue, suggestions, New Arrivals, searches, genres).

Finds your iTunes and photo libraries. I mnight have missed something: dunno if it finds it just on the local net or anywhere in the world via MobileMe. I bet it just works on your local network.

Slideshow looks a little like an Apple commercial. Yes, your kids and wife are in The Matrix again. Very pretty, though.

“Now let me show you something else that’s really cool.”

Yes, you can stream content from an iOS device to an AppleTV. Streaming “Up” from iPad to TV. Tap a button in the iOS 4.2 video player app to choose where you want to stream it to. Will stream it to the TV via WiFi.

(Makes me wonder what they did this time to “clean” the room and make sure that other WiFi signals wouldn’t screw up the demo hardware’s connection!)

(It also forces me to reflect upon the fact that if you buy a copy of “Up” from the iTunes Store, you can connect your iPad to your HDTV and watch it via a special network box and a WiFi network, but not via a $29 cable that Apple sells to connect the iPad to an external monitor. This is thanks to the DRM embedded in video purchases.)

AppleTV used to be $229 — another stumbling block to its success. New price is just $99.

Another huge step forward: $99 is the consumers’ “Sure, what the hell?” price. AppleTV available in 4 weeks.

“We started doing this music stuff for simple reason: we really love music.” Oboy! There’s going to be some live music!

“This group has had four albums so far…” OK, so it’s not Ringo and Paul. It’s U2. I mean, Coldplay.

Chris Martin, ladies and gentlemen…Chris Martin.

Is he going to play the special custom guitar with the Apple soundhole?

“I wish the rest of the band were here…but they’re too lazy,” he said, sitting at the piano.

Here the stream stops and then stops again, after a restart. I leave it alone.

35 thoughts on “Apple Event – My Live (to tape) Blog”

  1. I wish they had provided an upgrade path for existing AppleTV users. Those that had shelled out the $300. But I guess we were just early adopters that got this for four years before everyone else. Just with the demo…and what is currently the AppleTV OS…I would have thought it would have been an easy upgrade option.

  2. Hey Andy is it me or did Steve said that the iPad will get HDR? Is that a slip that the next iPad will have cameras?

  3. I really think that the AppleTV is the biggest move from this event, and having netflix support seals the deal for many fence sitters I’m sure. TV studios will give in eventually once they start loosing revenue and who wants to watch a show from network X in a browser window on their site anymore?

  4. You got the nano identity crisis down right. First two generations had small color screen, 3rd had fat stubby screen, then 4th and 5th gen’s brought back vertical design, now a cube for the 6th gen… and minus the camera from the 5th gen. I’m confused, but may buy a nano to have a shuffle sized device with a screen.

  5. A prize to the first journalist who will tell me whether the new Apple TV does everything an Airport Express does (stream what I “push” from my Macbook, create Wifi hotspot from ethernet connection, extend Wifi network via WDS). If so, it’s a no brainer replacement for my first generation Express.

  6. Please no whiners about early AppleTV purchases. Technology is moving at warp speed. Grab a ride and hang on. Having to be backwards compatible with everything will prevent us from moving forward….plus it’s WTF $99!

  7. What happens if I’m streaming a rented tv show and my cable internet goes out? Same 24 hours as movies?

  8. When they started applauding the icon… whooo!

    Andy, I just opined elsewhere that Jobs now sees local storage the way he sees wires – something to try and get rid of, when possible. Local storage allows hacking AND the users’ ability to enjoy media without being carefully measured and counted. Thoughts?

  9. RLH…I’m sorry, if you consider me “whinning” but I just bought my AppleTV this past May (new to the Mac scene and their product upgrade timing) so I don’t consider myself an early adopter. If I had it for a year or more, it wouldn’t be a big deal.

  10. So, when customers wanted “cool”, did that mean “hip” or “chilly”? I’m thinking chilly since that obviously becomes possible if the HD is gone.

  11. Re Apple TV: “Also support for YouTube, Flickr, and MobileMe, all in HD. And stream music photos and video from Mac or PC.”

    I wasn’t sure about that part, and they don’t specifically say it on their web site. They say “iTunes music and photos from your computer”.

  12. Do you think that announcing the itv now, rather than at the presumed later event (more in like for Christmas) that they have a later media event they are getting distance from? Perhaps a mid life iPhone redesign because of the antenna? It seems unlikely with the FCC testing process would probably require a September announcement…and the 30th might allow it just in time, mid to late November just in time for Christmas.

    I thought that iLife was a long shot, especially when they slipped out the iWork ePub update.

  13. Thanks Andy, a good read.
    Any info about international availabillity of AppleTV and content for it? US only I’d guess…

  14. great coverage. This sounds like an all in one solution for a lot of people. I’ve been hacking my mbp into my stereo and tv for a while, which is fine for me but difficult for my wife. This sounds like solution she’d be comfortable with. Probably have to get one for the mom in law too!

  15. No storage, no purchases, no iApps = no buy.. The Mac mini is still the best Apple device for the HDTV..

    Now, the new AppleTV has the A4 chip… so maybe.. maybe, if enough people go to apple.com/feedback and say “Hey, we want apps!” we’ll see something at the next WWDC..

  16. Jerry Brito — September 1, 2010 @ 3:48 pm —
    Mmmm apple tv didn’t seem to have any audio out ? Only hdmi ? Surley not

    Jerry, the backside view of the Apple TV showed an optical digital sound output port

  17. My new TV has Netflix, Picasso and Youtube built in, and my old HDTV doesn’t have HDMI. Apple TV is a big fail for me and I’m glad I have the old one that gets pristine FREE OTA digital tv quite nicely via Elgato TV.

  18. Peter,

    The iPod Touch does take photos, with both cameras. From the Tech Specs:

    Video recording, HD (720p) up to 30 frames per second with audio; still photos (960 x 720) with back camera

    VGA-quality photos and video up to 30 frames per second with the front camera

  19. Man, so sorry about skype. I use it tons because we live overseas and have family who want to see our 2 year old (not particularly us). We depend on it greatly, and it works pretty darn good here. I thought if it worked good from here then it would work amazingly with just talking in the states. Guess I was wrong, huh?

    Are you sure you just cannot trust Hotel broadband? Their really crudey from my experience.

  20. From what I’ve been able to gather on the interwebs, I think it’s highly likely that the new AppleTV is a stealth iOS device that will become much more in the future.

    Apple’s own website says that it includes the A4 chip. An FCC filing shows that it DOES include bluetooth support. It has a USB port on the back (which is intriguing – ROKU for example just activated the USB port on their XR model to support video playback from an attached hard drive). And while it doesn’t have apps yet, clearly Netflix, YouTube, and Flickr are essentially ‘apps’ made by Apple (very much like the first iPhone which only included apps made by Apple).

    There’s a lot to work out however in terms of UI and Apple seems to have it’s hands full gettin iOS in sync with all it’s existing devices. There is one big question mark though: Storage. Clearly there’s no hard drive, but it must have some flash storage and some memory. Those specs aren’t anywhere to be found yet.

    When you look at the tech demo of the Unreal Engine game, it’s easy to see how Apple could add Games to this product. I think this is the beginning of a very exciting product line, just like the iPhone.

  21. The problem with the Apple TV being so iTunes Store-centric is that customers are at the mercy of the offerings available in their country. Still no movies or TV shows available in Japan as far as I can tell.
    In general, Apple seems to be taking a bit of a scattershot approach to iTunes. iTunes LP offerings seem pretty scant and not particularly compelling. And I’m really dubious about Ping.

  22. Great post, as always. I just wanted to respond to this:
    “(It also forces me to reflect upon the fact that if you buy a copy of “Up” from the iTunes Store, you can connect your iPad to your HDTV and watch it via a special network box and a WiFi network, but not via a $29 cable that Apple sells to connect the iPad to an external monitor. This is thanks to the DRM embedded in video purchases.)”

    Is this a restriction just for HD? I have the Apple composite cable, which I recognize is standard def (I got it for compatibility with more TVs when traveling). I can use that cable for video output of iTunes purchased movies from the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch to a television. It seems strange that they would have a DRM restriction with just the HD cables. The movies in question for me are also Pixar movies.

  23. Great insights as always, Andy.

    Methinks Hulu is in trouble. I’m trying out Hulu Plus on my PS3, and I’ve gotta say I’m pretty thoroughly unimpressed. The selection’s pretty lousy at this point (though it’s supposed to improve), you have to wait 8 days for newly-aired episodes to become available, only a few episodes of some popular shows can be viewed. And the kicker—you pay ten bucks a month for the service and you STILL have to watch ads with every show.

    Compare that to a buck a show, full HD, no commercials, generally available right after the ep airs. In addition you get reminders when new episodes are available. (I’m increasingly of the opinion that our children will grow up in a world where the word “reruns” elicits only blank stares. And it brings a joyful tear to my eye.)

    If Hulu had gotten their act together a bit sooner, they might be a serious competitor in this space. But in about a month, Apple will be eating their lunch.

  24. @Jon. Thanks for the reply. I had just assumed, since SJ didn’t mention it, that it would be video only (like the previous Nano). Good to know that it will take stills, even at .7 megapixels. Can’t blame Jobs; I guess I wouldn’t go bragging about that in front of the whole world either.

  25. According to engadget, the AppleTV is only 720p! What is up with that?! I was ready to buy multiple boxes until I noticed this little gem. These are the things that frustrate me about Apple… they get SOOOOOO close to having a heavyweight product, but they actually release one that the consumer is forced to ‘defend’. Why wouldn’t they just release a 1080p capable box and be done with it!?

  26. @Lorenzo Do you know of any major service that is offering 1080p video over the internet that isn’t proprietary or compressed to heck? Do you know how slow the average broadband speed is in most of America? (still!) That’s the reason. By the time those things change, it’ll be time for another revision of the AppleTV anyway. I know how you feel because I LOVE my 1080p Blu-ray disks but when we’re talking about an internet connected device that presents major bottlenecks at this time.

  27. Hmm, a lot of comments about which product lacks what feature. I assume that any lack of features is intentional, that way they always have things to add in future generations. I’m sure a 1080p AppleTV and an Iphone equivalent camera for the iPod Touch are just a year away.

  28. First, it is frustrating yet sort of a comfort to know that even power=wonks like you run into these insolvable technical problems. Second, looks like I left my 5 year old classic in a snow bank at just the right time. Need to go shatter my piggy bank. The new touch seems like a great set up.

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