Macworld. I saw the keynote, and the new offerings are impressive. Two things stood out above all others: iWork, specifically Pages, and the new Mac Mini.
Steve talked about Pages being a “word processor with style”. In some sense, it is. In every other sense, it’s a page layout program that in many ways, blows the doors off Quark XPress and Adobe InDesign. The big boys aren’t going away anytime soon, but I am sure the Adobe team is looking to steal some ideas from the Pages playbook. The Quark team however, won’t pay attention at all. They’re too busy not fixing bugs in their flagship application.
Pages, like its iWork brother Keynote, converges iLife simplicity of use with powerful features and an affordable price of $79(USD). When you launch Pages, you are presented with large thumbnails of templates from which to choose. The gorgeous, professionally designed templates come pre-loaded with images and text, so you know how your finished product will look, even before you populate the template with your own material. Undoubtedly, this will inspire fountains of creativity from people. By leveraging the OS-level graphics and text rendering models, Pages is capable of producing some amazing effects, such as the flowing of text around a graphic that contains an alpha channel transparency live as you drag the image on the screen. The robust template capabilities in Pages will no doubt set off a cottage industry of Pages Template gnomes, ready to sell chic, affordable designs to people who want variety, but don’t have the ability nor time to create their own designs.
As Pages uses the Cocoa frameworks, it has all the benefits of OS-level integration. It has the ability to send and receive data from the Services menu, use the system-wide spell checker, and integrate with the iLife applications. Need to grab a photo to place into a layout? Not a problem. If that picture is in iPhoto, you have access to your entire library, without opening the iPhoto application. I’ll probably use Macjournal to place data directly into a Pages Template through the Services menu, and vice-versa.
The Mac mini is a stunning new machine clearly descended from the G4 Cube and the NeXT Cube before it. It measures 6.5 inches (16.5cm) on a side, and stands just 2 inches (5.1cm) tall. In this diminutive package lies a multitude of possibilities. I present to you, iServe. Consider the mini to be “The Xserve for the rest of us”. For about $500(USD) you can get a home server that can integrate into your home network, wirelessly. Stick an external firewire multi-drive enclosure under it —or a single drive on top, and you have virtually unlimited storage. Expect external drive manufacturers to create “zero footprint” enclosures en masse in the near future.
I have a vast collection of video, images, and music. A collection so large and constantly expanding, that I am always in need of additional storage. I recently filled to capacity my venerable G4 tower with additional disks. A mere six months later, I am seeking external storage options. With the iServe concept, I can keep my data in a single, backed-up location, and I can access it from anywhere in my house. This solves my problem of not having available critical data —such as my iTunes library, on my laptop. No longer will I need to synchronize information between my laptop and desktop, as it will only exist on the sever.
Of course, this is only one possibility. Consider another possibility of a true digital hub. The Mac mini, with the addition of an eyeTV, and you have your very own DVR. Attach a headphone-to-RCA adaptor, and you can pump your iTunes to your stereo. Of course, all the cool kids already do this wirelessly through Apple’s Airport Express.
Apple is once again proof that big things come in small packages.
Later: NetNewsWire Style