In a spectacular presentation at the latest Macworld, Steve Jobs unveiled iLife ‘06—the newest release of Apple’s suite of digital lifestyle applications—in conjunction with a relaunch of the ".Mac" data storage and hosting system. Although somewhat overshadowed by release of the first Intel-based Macs several months earlier, the new suite is attracting interest, particularly for its new features aimed at budding bloggers. Apple wasn’t about to just stand by and watch as the movement catches fire: there are nearly 30 million blogs worldwide and 70,000 new ones created each day. The iLife suite notably includes iWeb, Apple’s application for publishing blogs, podcasts and videoblogs. In fact, all of the suite’s new features are fully geared toward creating and animating blogs:
Garage Band now makes it easy to create podcasts. Its fairly intuitive semi-professional podcast production tool is sure to awaken passions. Considering it was Apple’s iPod and the company’s rapid integration of podcasting into the iTunes music store that helped popularize medium, it makes sense that the company wants to position itself significantly upstream from production. Could this be a way of making more users want to switch to a Mac computer?
The iPhoto organizing and editing application now includes a native photocasting and Web-based photo publishing and sharing solution. It’s got nothing over Flikr, the Yahoo! subsidiary, but is in the Apple family and accessible from the software’s interface. Here again, Apple seems to be trying to reposition itself upstream to further bolster the loyalty of its users. iPhoto is certainly cool, as everything Web 2.0 should be. But contrary to the Web 2.0 philosophy, it’s not very open.
The iMovie HD 6 video editing application is even simpler and more robust than before. It lets you publish your video creations simply by dragging and dropping them into your iWeb blog. With video blogging so easy, everybody will be doing it. The demand is definitely there. Meanwhile, new players on the scene like VideoEgg are already positioning themselves, undoubtedly with a more open approach.
iWeb is the key to everything. The new tool makes it super simple for users to create a blog—complete with photos, podcasts, and videos. All they have to do is copy and paste. With such a user-friendly tool, Mac users are bound to catch what appears to be the latest internet fever: sharing. But they won’t be able to comment on posts, a minus which Apple promises to correct soon. The presentation demos at MacWorld were especially compelling.
The suite works extremely well, provided you have a .Mac account to access Apple's data storage and hosting system. For $99 per year, .Mac makes publishing your blog a breeze. And a wave of new bloggers is just what .Mac needs. Until now, only 2 million Apple customers have reportedly opened an account, mainly as a file backup system.
Take your marvelous Intel-based iMac (iLife ‘06 works only on Apple computers, and best on newer ones that have the speed), your iPod connected to iTunes, your video blog and podcast created with the outstanding new features of iLife ‘06 and published via your .Mac account, and—voilà—you’ve been sucked into the beautiful world of Apple design. For a pretty penny.
Apple wants to project a Web 2.0 look and have a Web 2.0 smell, but Web 2.0 it is not! It’s more “Apple” than ever. And that’s a risky proposition given that internet users seem to be looking for increasingly open, collaborative, and participatory platforms. iLife ’06 does not even include one of the basic features of the blogosphere: comments.
By launching iLife ’06 and linking it so tightly to .Mac, Apple is attempting a strategy that even Microsoft has understood cannot prevail, as the launch of Live.com aptly demonstrates. An indicator to watch will be Apple computer sales in conjunction with the number of .Mac users. But Apple still has plenty of other strong cards to play before it needs to worry.