As we enter the last year of the first decade of the current millenium (that’d be 2010) it occurs to me this will be the first year since Steve Jobs returned to Apple that neither he or the next in line at Apple will be presenting any new products at Macworld early in the new year.
About this time each year, mid-December, various pundits would wax lyrical about future Apple product releases “expected” to be released at the Jobs’ Keynote in early January. In 2006, the iPhone was the hot topic although none of the soothsayers predicted its form factor nor its OS. (I guessed it would be something like OS X in operation but didn’t come straight out and say it would be a flavour of OS X).
The hot prediction, hardware wise, for 2010 is an Apple tablet. Let’s put that to one side, however.
Apple’s software releases for 2010
I’m more interested in Apple’s software pipeline for 2010, especially as I prepare for my 2010 Macworld Powertools workshop (using Apple’s Keynote presentation software). I still have strong memories of predicting Keynote 5′s arrival, as part of iWork ’09), even though I’d prepared my 2009 workshop based on iWork ’08 and Keynote 4. Lucky for me, I accessed it after Macworld’s Schiller keynote, and partially reworked my slides the night before.
With this in mind, let’s turn to predictions for the next version of iWork, and iLife for that matter.
A little history first
But first, think about the nomenclature systems of the major OS suppliers in use by the majority of consumers. This puts Linux and Unix to one side, and leaves us with Mac OS and Windows variants.
Windows has now returned to numerical naming systems for Windows 7, with a visual descriptive term – Vista – now a sullied brand best forgotten. The last one of these was Windows 3.1 two decades ago. In between, we’ve had Windows 95 (which began Microsoft’s assault on Apple’s GUI lead), followed by Windows 98, Windows Me (another non-numerical nomenclature best forgotten like Vista), then Windows 2000. Lettering then followed in the guise of NT and Xp.
When the Mac OS reached version 10, Arabic numerals were dropped in favour of Roman (Mac OS X), and as each variation took place (10.0 through to 10.6) it was named after a big cat. Jobs himself in all his Keynotes much preferred to refer to the Mac OS by these more colloquial expressions, mentioning numbers in passing.
The first bundling of Apple’s much-lauded consumer applications such as iMovie, iTunes and iPhoto occurred at Macworld 2003, a keynote which had received such little advanced expectations from the rumour mills that at its conclusion when he summed up all he had offered in a two hour spectacular (including not one but two new Powerbooks when certain pundits the week before had said on air, “read my lips… they’ll be no new Powerbook’s at next week’s Macworld), Jobs told the audience not to believe all they read on rumour sites.
All initial iLife apps. had been out in the wild in their own incarnation, but in 2003, with each undergoing an update, iLife (undated) brought them all together for download (all except iDVD), free bundling with a new Mac purchase, or purchase as optical media for USD49, to operate with OS X 10.1.
In later, years, other popular apps were added including iWeb and Garageband. Most were iterative improvements, although iMovie 7, which followed iMovie HD6, proved particularly unpopular, a situation cleared up in iMovie 8, released in January 2009.
As usual, Wikipedia provides a comprehensive history of iLife, a table reproduced below which sets out its lineage.
Unlike Microsoft, which persists in allowing its dated Office Suite to linger on for years (the current version is 2007, with many still using 2003, and awkward version compatibility), it appears it’s anathema to the Apple team to be so out of date with respect to how it names its suites such as iLife and iWork. Each in previous years since their inception has been “rebooted” at Macworld just a few days or weeks into the year that carries its name, with the exception of iLife 08 released in the fall of 2007, well ahead of 2008. You can say that this was Apple flaunting its uptodateness in Microsoft’s face, or that it was so late with iLife 07 it skipped it completely and went to 08 instead.
While none had predicted iLife, iWork had received much speculation once a prior arrangement between Apple and Microsoft has reached its use-by date. This was the much misinterpreted “saving” of an Apple on life support by Microsoft by an injection of $150m purchase of Apple non-voting stock, an agreement to continue Office for Mac for the next 5 years after Jobs return to Apple, and the use of Internet Explorer for the Mac, announced at August Macworld 1997. (For a more radical interpretation of these events, read Roughly Drafts’ entry here.)
Keynote 1.0 itself was released at the same Macworld which saw iLife bundled for the first time (2003) and one might ask why it was left as a stand alone app, and not bundled with iLife given its creative DNA. (It was given away to all who attended Jobs’ keynote).
One could guess that with the MS Office agreement concluding, Apple was already plotting to release its own Office suite, and bundling Keynote with iLife would contaminate its brand as a professional, not consumer, app.
Unlike iLife which was not rumoured to be released in the lead up to 2003′s Macworld, news that Apple might take on the might of Office was always a big deal, given Office’s place in the business firmament as the default suite for enterprise on both platforms. Even now, despite frequent requests to have friends send me text embedded in an email, or even as a text document, they insist on sending Word documents. I usually view them first in Quick Look, and if I need to copy any text, download and open them in TextEdit.
It would be prudent to point out at this point for younger readers (!) who may have grown up with Microsoft Office as the “only” productivity suite, that one of the first suites for PCs (to use the term generically) had been introduced for the Apple II in 1984, as Appleworks. It continued on into the Macintosh, released in the same year but earlier, and was eventually named Clarisworks. Its interesting history is available at Wikipedia here.
Rumours that Apple would produce a productivity suite for OS X apart from Appleworks and its derivatives, reached their peak in very late 2004, when the now defunct Think Secret rumour site went public with “news” of a slew of new products for Macworld 2005, including the update of Keynote to version 2, some non-specific add-ons to Keynote, a hardware appliance called Asteroid (which eventually saw Think Secret put out of business by Apple), and a mysterious software called Sugar.
On New Year’s Eve 2004, just a few days before Macworld 2005, MacRumours reported Sugar to in fact be iWork, containing Keynote 2 and a word processing document called Pages. Rumours that it was to be called iWork got a boost when software developer IGG Software (whose products iBank and iBiz I personally use and enjoy) stopped using the name iWork for their billing suite, and renamed it iBiz.
When iWork was revealed, it was a rather anaemic combo of Keynote 2 and Pages 1.0. Nonetheless, it certainly raised eyebrows that Apple was not afraid to take on the might of Office. Keynote was already winning hearts, minds and eyes of those tired of the usual Powerpoint backgrounds and amateurish animations and transitions, while Pages’ dual page layout/word processing roles seem to hold promise.
But unlike the initial release of iLife in 2003 which received no year appendix, the first iWork was named iWork 05, and each year has been updated up to iWork 09 at Macworld in January, except for 2007. In this year, just as for iLife, iWork 07 was skipped, and iWork 08 released in August, four months ahead of January 2008.
So, in thinking about the next update to iWork, if history is a good predictor of Apple’s behaviour, we will see an update early in the new year, or in August at a special Apple event.
But 2010 will be a little different of course. There is no official Apple presence at Macworld for the first time in decades, and no Steve Jobs or Phil Schiller keynote scheduled for the official release of new Apple products.
Would Apple simply release a major software product simultaneously while Macworld is proceeding and presumably garnering considerable attention? Would it release it, and perhaps new hardware, during CES in January to once more steal some media spotlight from Microsoft’s showings, just as it did when the iPhone was released in 2007? Think Tablet, in this case, as the ideal attention-grabber (but it’s unlikely).
What’s clear to me is that Apple will not allow too much time to pass with iWork 09 or iLife 09 on its Apple store shelves once 2010 rolls around. Too much like Microsoft to let products linger in some outdated fashion.
And if either of these two products make it to the next version, will it be iWork 10 or iWork X? And as a commenter has reported, will it be restricted to Snow Leopard?
In iWork 09, Keynote 5 is the most mature of the products, and certainly the one I’m most familiar with. Pages I use, but less frequently and not exclusively, spending time also in TextEdit, Mellel, and Word (when I have to.) I almost never use Powerpoint except to open others’ Powerpoint stacks to see them in their original format, despite being able to open them in Keynote. I use Numbers once a year to update my professional development workshop schedule.
I’ve also played with Powerpoint 2010 for Windows, and it has come a long way since Powerpoint 2003 or 2007. Its attempts to emulate Keynote are palpable, and it seems its developers are very aware of the criticisms heaped upon it, some unnecessary, and others quite appropriate.
Somewhere between now and June 2010 when Powerpoint 2010 is released officially, Apple will update Keynote, I’m sure. The question I have is whether they’ll wait until they feel Keynote is ready (there is no known beta program outside of Apple), or leave it late until Powerpoint is virtually locked down and then release a stunning leapfrog, making Powerpoint’s emulation efforts look pitiful. Expect very short notice from Apple, rather than a long, “lock-you-in, can’t go back” strategic effort, as per Microsoft.
A few Keynote 6 (iWork 10) predictions
I have a strong feeling that whenever Apple chooses to release a Keynote update, it will be stunning. Already in Keynote 5 we saw such effects as Magic Move which will be further refined in Keynote 6. I predict more advanced alpha masking approaching that which can now only be performed in third party software such as Photoshop or Vertus Fluidmask; more subtle but powerful 3D effects such as we can see in Picturesque; more impressive manipulation of Quicktime movies including angular display distortions to accentuate 3D possibilities, and of course some transitions added and some retired (such as the turntable effect).
The big hope will be a streamlined and easy to use timeline which is desperately needed to bring Keynote up a notch. Several iLife consumer-level applications have timeline devices built in, and it’s very odd that its professional software in Keynote doesn’t. Its inclusion, which would mean a radical restructuring of the Inspector, whilst attempting to maintain some semblance of simplicity and UI ease of use, will be a sore test of Apple’s UI creativity and engineering mix.
When it does so, my prediction is that it will make Powerpoint’s efforts to control elements on a timeline look very weak indeed. You just know that Apple wants a timeline in Keynote, but it has waited this long to do it right.
I am hoping that the Keynote team will also make users’ lives easier with new and creative ways to highlight events on the screen thus doing away from laserpointers in the Mac community! Again, if they do include new “call outs”, expect them to have strong 3D elements and animations similar to what you see on television current affairs programs.
I’m not particularly enthusiastic about new themes or transitions, as we’re well served by both Apple and third parties currently, but I do expect certain build styles to be dropped, and some seriously eye-popping ones to be added, especially word and letter effects. I am hoping that the motion and scaling builds will be extended and include freehand drawing of object movement, rather than the more cumbersome method in Keynote 5.
There are lots of things to be hoped for in the next update, some of which are truly necessary, and others less needed. I do expect one or two delightful surprises however, if past updates are anything to go by…
The big question is, when? I have hinted that it will be sooner rather than later given Apple’s naming history, but it may be that delaying is a good option while Powerpoint moves into final form. My own feeling is that while Apple observes Powerpoint – if only to keep its export to Powerpoint feature current and accurate – it marches to its own beat, knowing the Microsoft development team will have an awfully tough task playing catch up not just to new Keynote features, but its sheer elegance and panache.
After all, Bill Gates may have left the building on a full-time basis, but his lack of taste still lingers and permeates the design culture at Microsoft.
Should an Apple tablet be released and coincide with Keynote 6 features (as I have written elsewhere on this blog) Apple will move the field of presenting up several notches.
I can hardly wait.