Apple has begun the year as it usually does by heading up the 2009 MacWorld Expo. Instead of the usual Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, keynote speech, the baton was given to the No. 2 man Phil Schiller, Apple senior vice president. (Apple announced last December that this would be its last MacWorld Expo.) This year's keynote was nowhere near low-key but it did not contain anything groundbreaking.
During the keynote, Schiller talked about three Mac items and three iTunes items. The Mac items were the new iLife 09, iWorks 09, and the release of the 17-inch MacBook Pro to match the new Aluminum 13-inch and 15-inch models release in October. The iTunes items announced were a new tiered pricing scheme, all songs to be available as DRM free by the end of the first quarter, and the ability to download music directly onto an iPhone over the cellular network.
A large part of the keynote was a demo of the new iLife 09, Apple's multimedia suite - iPhoto 09, iMovie 09, iDVD 09, iWeb 09, and Garage Band 09. Schiller described iLife as one of the major reasons why people buy Macs; iLife is included free with all new Macs. ILife is also sold separately, for those wanting to upgrade their older iLife software. Schiller started the demo with iPhoto 09.
The last update to iPhoto brought a feature called Events. With Events iPhoto 08 would group your photos according to date. The idea was that specific dates usually correspond to an event, like a wedding, birthday party, holiday, or vacation. New in iPhoto 09 is Faces. Apple has added facial recognition and facial detection allowing iPhoto to automatically group photos by people, like your friends and family. When grouped together, you can then go in and quickly name them. The more you use Faces, the smarter iPhoto 09 will get. Seeing this feature in action is quite amazing.
Another new feature in iPhoto 09 is geotagging. Many of the newer digital cameras have the ability to record GPS information along with the photo. This geotag can now be read by iPhoto 09 allowing you to map out where the photos were taken. Along with Events and Faces iPhoto now adds Places. With your photos geotagged, you can then search for any photos by location. Other new features in iPhoto 09 include - new slideshow themes and transitions, integration with web sites like Flickr and Facebook, and more photo book options.
The one part of the presentation that got most everyone excited was the demo of the new iMovie 09. When iMovie went from 06 to 08, Apple completely rewrote the program from ground up. The 08 version was not well received by those accustomed to the way 06 worked. Well, iMovie 09 has the same workings, but has added features that will make even those using more professional video editors jealous.
The workflow has stayed the same in iMovie 09, but there have been some major features added or improved on. One of the major improvements is control. You now have much more precise control over video and audio. To add video to a movie, you just skim through the clip selecting the part you want to add. You then drag the clip up to the movie and drop it where you want. You can drop it at the beginning of your movie or at the end, or if you drop it in the middle of an existing clip, a new context sensitive menu will pop up asking what to do. You can insert the clip - which moves existing footage forward in time, replace the clip - which writes over the existing footage, or just replace the audio. The little bit that was demonstrated really shows the control available in iMovie 09.
Another feature that wowed the crowd was video stabilization. Say you are shooting from a car or a boat. No matter how good of a cameraperson you are, the video can be quite jittery. You can bring this footage into iMovie 09 and select video stabilization. iMovie 09 will look at each frame, along with the ones before and after, and with some movie magic, the software will smooth out the scene. The results are quite dramatic.
The other amazing new feature is automatic themes. When you are finished editing, you can select one of the automatic themes and iMovie 09 will create an opening and closing sequence along with amazing cuts between scenes using some very cool graphics and animations. You can even add an ''Indiana Jones'' style map or globe animation that shows a moving line from location to location, using your starting and ending points. This is a very cool transition between scenes.
Garage Band has a major new feature, which Apple calls ''Learn to Play.'' There are nine beginner lessons for guitar and piano included with iLife 09. For those who want to extend their learning, Apple has added a new store, accessible from within Garage Band, where you can purchase more lessons taught by major artists like: John Fogerty, Colbie Caillat, Patrick Stump, and Sting - teaching guitar, and Sarah McLachlan, Ryan Tedder, and Norah Jones - teaching piano. These additional lessons are said to be available as a download for $4.99 each. The lessons can be played over and over, plus you can even change the speed, like slowing them down, to catch anything you missed.
As with previous versions, iLife 09 will be available for a single user priced at $79 and a family pack version, good for up to five Macs, for $99. Unfortunately, to get all these new features you do need a fairly new Mac. iLife 09 requires OS X Leopard 10.5.6. I would highly recommend a Mac with an Intel Duo Core processor or better, but it will work with: a Mac computer with an Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 (867MHz or faster) processor; iMovie requires an Intel-based Mac, Power Mac G5 (dual 2.0GHz or faster), or iMac G5 (1.9GHz or faster); GarageBand Learn to Play requires an Intel-based Mac with a dual-core processor or better; AVCHD video requires a Mac with an Intel-based Core Duo processor or better. Apple's web site is taking pre-orders now and iLife 09 should be shipping by the end of January.