Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Steve Job's MacWorld keynote address was today. This is the speech where he rolls out new products; last year, it was the iPhone. Rumors had this year's speech announcing movie rentals on iTunes, an updated Apple TV, a new ultra-light laptop, and possibly an updated iPhone. So when I got up this morning and started reading the liveblogging of the event, I wasn't too surprised to read about movie rentals on iTunes, an updated Apple TV, a new ultra-light laptop, and an update to the iPhone's software. The video of the speech isn't up yet, so I haven't taken in every detail, but about the only surprise for me in those announcements was that every major studio is on board with the movie rental store, with new arrivals due one month after the DVD release (and presumably several months after the pirated digital release). Prices weren't too out of line, $2.99 for back catalog, $3.99 for new releases, and an extra dollar for HD releases. Cheaper than Xbox Live Marketplace, especially for HD content (I refuse to rent a movie for $6), but I'll probably stick with Netflix (even though I often go two or three weeks without watching a Netflix movie, which makes the monthly fee difficult to justify, until a month comes where I go nuts with movie watching). But the fact that all the major studios are involved suggests they may finally be serious about pursuing new digital distribution models (an iTunes subscription model for movies would be very interesting to see).

So anyways, the announcements were made, it looked like things were wrapping up, and I was a bit disappointed by the lack of surprises. Certainly nothing to compete with last year's iPhone announcement. That's when the announced the closing musical entertainment, Randy Newman. I was half-convinced Steve Jobs was just fucking with me: "Not surprised, huh? How's this for surprising?" Or was the speech simply tailored to every observer, and Randy Newman is whom Steve Jobs knew could sell me a $1500 laptop? In any case, I was glad to see him there. I was especially surprised that he sang his latest single, "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country," which hardly strikes one as an effective jingle. But I was very excited, and this assures that I will be downloading the video of the speech when Apple puts it up. And it was nice that non-Newman fans were exposed to a side of him besides his Pixar stuff. He did sing "You Got a Friend in Me," but prefaced it with his Toy Story shtick that he uses in concert. Certainly made an impression on Gizmodo's livebloggers:

Jason Chen:
Aaaand it’s over. Holy crap. Who knew Randy Newman, the guy who makes the songs your kids play over and over and over again, would sing such crazy crap about our government?
10:41 am ON Jan 15 2008

Jason Chen:
The first song’s over, but now Randy Newman’s just riffing about random stuff. The next song is from Toy Story. Randy says he wrote another song to go with the love scene between Buzz and Woody, but the scene was cut. This guy is blowing our minds right now.
10:39 am ON Jan 15 2008

Jason Chen:
“It pisses me off a little that the Supreme Court is going to outlive me.” What the crap is he singing about? We have no idea. We think he’s gone nuts.
10:36 am ON Jan 15 2008

Jason Chen:
Randy’s singing a song about America, the president, and comparing them to Hitler and Stalin. USA! USA! USA!!!!!
10:34 am ON Jan 15 2008

I would point out that our present leadership is compared favorably to Hitler and Stalin (faint praise, of course). Anyway, always nice for audiences to be exposed to the full scope of Newman's talent (though I think "The World Isn't Fair" might have spoken to more of the audience).

I'm downloading the new iPhone firmware as I write this (just managed to connect to the update server after many, many tries); perhaps I will write about the new features (and my general satisfaction with the phone) in the near future.

UPDATE: Video is up. Newman did a fine job. I mentioned his Toy Story routine; he didn't do that here, just made a one-off joke about Buzz and Woody's love scene.

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