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Macworld Expo Considered As a Helix of Semi-Precious Snowclones


If it's January, this must be Macworld.

Well, it's not January, of course, despite the snowclone (definition at the bottom of the page) in the first sentence, but the Samuel R. Delany science fiction novella snowcloned in the title was all about time, so join me as I time-travel back to January, 2008...

The First Rule of Apple product releases is: You do not talk about Apple product releases. The Second Rule of Apple product releases is: You DO NOT talk about Apple product releases. There was a time when Apple Computer leaked like Libby, but since the Second Coming of Steve Jobs it has become as furtive as Cheney. Now, what happens in Apple Engineering stays in Apple Engineering. That is, until Steve's keynote.

Oh, Steve, you had me at "We've got some awesome stuff to tell you about." True, there are lies, damned lies, and Steve Jobs keynotes. Granted, he's not an engineer but he plays one at Macworld. But when Steve Jobs takes the stage, the anticipation is so thick you can cut it with the knife you slice the bread with that CEO Steve is currently the best thing since. Okay, whatever else he is or isn't, Jobs is the King of Keynote. And I, for one, welcome our new corporate overlord. I mean, remember how it was before Steve returned?

Will the last person to leave Apple please turn off the lights? That's the scenario Chris (Employee Number 8) Espinosa was looking at before Steve Jobs came back, he once told me. Even Steve thought Apple was toast. Mmmm, toast. And then came the iMac.

Bondi. Name's Bondi. The brightly colored all-in-one computer was a gamble, but the package and the pitch were somehow perfect. Tigers and Leopards and Panthers, oh my! The software side, specifically the operating system replacement that Apple had to implement to survive, began in false starts and abandoned paths, but before long found its way. And this year at Macworld, the OS was no longer the focus, as Apple seems to have transitioned to a longer-than-a-year OS reversioning cycle.

But Macworld always has big announcements; if not in the OS, where's the (fruitarian) beef? Well, there's that exercise in trade-offs, MacBook Air. Dude, where's my Firewire? Will someone please think of the battery replacement strategy? Oh my God, they killed Ethernet! Optical drives? We don't need no stinking optical drives! Read my lips: No second USB port. No, this is not your father's Macbook. Apple sacrificed many features to get the World's Thinnest Laptop, leading some to say...

Air is the new Cube, or: There's a thin line between thinness and cubism. Will MacBook Air go the way of the Mac Cube, which had an eye-catching form factor but was ultimately a failed product? I think not, because thin is the new fast. Thin isn't just a snazzy look, it's a feature. And Air doesn't make more compromises than other ultraportables, just different ones. Also, the fact that Air is not a replacement for any other Mac but a new box in the product grid means that expectations for Air sales need not be high—although I may have said something like that about the Cube in 2000.

I Phone therefore I Pod. It's the software, stupid. The Multitouch gesture language introduced in iPhone is migrating to iPods, but I'm keeping my eye on that version of OS X that iPhone runs. Here's my question: Is Apple trying to discover the perfect set of features and form factor for merging the Mac and iPod platforms into a future mobile computing/communication device?

Time Capsule, movie rentals, yadda yadda. I love the smell of hype in the morning.

One more thing: If we don't buy Apple products, then the terrorists have won.

Steve has left the building.

When I hear the word snowclone, I think of some sort of frozen dessert (snowclone is a dish best served cold?), but a snowclone, according to Wikipedia, is "a multi-use, customizable, instantly recognizable, time-worn, quoted or misquoted phrase or sentence that can be used in an entirely open array of different jokey variants by lazy journalists and writers." The first official snowclone recipe was, "If Eskimos have N words for snow, surely X have M words for Y." My first title for this column was the snowclonic "Dr. Snowclone or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Clichés," but a snowclone based on Chip Delany's "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones" seemed to work better, especially since Delany has himself been described snowconically as "a writer of semi-precious words." Snowclones are all more or less semi-precious wordplay.

Michael Swaine

Editor-at-Large

mike@swaine.com


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