Sunday, October 10, 2010

Patiently waiting on iLife '11

I understand that Apple has had a busy, busy year. We've seen a lot in tech in 2010. With the iPad, the iPhone 4, new MacBooks and iMacs and Mac Minis, iPods, software updates, and the notion that Apple as a software company is always working on the next greatest and latest thing on both the Mac OS X and iOS platorms, one can only expect so many goodies at a time. So, in the case of iLife, which is in my opinion already a much better suite of digital life applications than any other free offering available, I can deal with a year skipped.

Changing gears for a minute, it's quite funny to me that Windows still does not offer much in comparison to the free iLife applications that ship with Macs. As a user of both Windows 7 and Mac OS X, I have used and adapted to both platforms. Windows offers a couple of different programs that work similarly to Apple's iPhoto and iMovie -- Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Movie Maker -- but what they offer in features just doesn't make up for the unfriendly user experience and polish that makes iPhoto and iMovie so desirable. Sure, all software has its own laundry list of problems, but what it boils down to for me is how enjoyable the software that I have to use everyday is to use. Other than the fact that neither of these Windows programs actually come with a new computer (you have to find and download them off Microsoft's website), I find that through using them, they aren't exactly brag-worthy on Microsoft's part, can be extremely buggy, and are not being promoted by Microsoft at all, even though a common software suite offered free by them would be really helpful in selling more computers.

My guess is that Microsoft, as they reiterate constantly, wants to leave as much as they can up to third part hardware and software vendors. They supply the operating system and let the community fill in the gaps. That's all great, as a common software suite like iLife might shut out a lot of possible paid application developers. But at the same time, everyday users like your mom may need a comprehensive photo organization environment and are not going to search for alternatives like the nerd that lives in the basement.

Either way, Microsoft, in their position on top, doesn't need to do any of that. They say, "hey, we've got something similar if you need it, just so we can say we do, but we're not really going to let you know about it. That way we can keep the doors open for developers to fill in the gaps" (not an actual quote).

Apple fanboys, as myself, use the iLife application suite as nothing more than ammunition against the Windows machine (figuratively speaking). And yet, it holds so much weight to the average computer user when they get to see first hand the awesomeness and easiness of iPhoto, iMovie, or GarageBand.

For example, just recently I visited a family gathering with my father, my uncles and grandfather. We had just come back from playing a round of golf, where I had taken my iPhone 4 and shot some video and pictures of the game. As we all sat around talking and chilling, I pulled out my laptop and hooked up my iPhone to transfer everything over and do some video editing. One of my uncles, who has a somewhat elevated interest in technology -- more so than any of the others -- looked over my shoulder and watched. Like most people, he is a PC user. But as he watched how easily I opened everything up in iMovie and started cutting, he was amazed at what he saw. I explained to him what I was doing and the software I was using, and after about a minute, his first question was: "And how much does that cost?"

Of course, being a fanboy, I immediately turned into a commercial and walking, living advertisement. "It comes free with every Mac. It's called iLife. Pretty cool, huh?"

A little later, my little cousin pulled her guitar out and began strumming a few poorly-held chords. My uncle and I were showing her a few chords when I thought about the lessons on GarageBand. So, I opened up my MacBook, clicked the GarageBand icon in the dock, and pulled up a couple of lessons that come free with the software. My cousin and uncle sat and watched as the interactive experience unfolded. Again the tagline was "cool" and "free" to my uncle, as he questioned about where he could get something like that for his PC. I told him that I'm sure there was something out there similar, but it wouldn't be anything like what Apple had done, nor would it include a lesson with Sting.

He didn't run out and buy a Mac, of course. Frugal is a frugal does, you might say, but in the short time he had spent with me, my MacBook and the iLife suite, he understood the appeal and necessity to having something that powerful and fun built-in to the computer you choose. In this age of digital everything -- photos, videos, music, etc -- if you don't have the proper setup to organize and produce your content correctly, then all you have is a mess of folders and documents that nobody can enjoy.

That's where iLife '09 shines. I love it. But what about iLife '11? What could be done to make the newer applications better? Well, the rumors is that iPhoto will get better social networks integration, there will be a totally rewritten iWeb (awesome, because iWeb as it stands now is not that great), no iDVD (which is okay, because it's not that useful anymore, and also because Apple will eventually get rid of optical drives altogether in their machines), a new mystery application, and everything will be in 64-bit and iOS compatible (whatever that last bit means).

That's all beans and gravy, but what about iMovie? GarageBand? If you have used iMovie at all, then you know there are certainly some bugs to be worked out. Moving clips around sometimes don't work at all and might require an entire restart of the program to get them to function again. You Mac users out there, try and nudge some voiceover clips around on the timeline using the keyboard, and you'll see what I'm talking about; it doesn't work at all. While iMovie '09 is an amazing improvement from iMovie '08, with much more added functionality, the application overall still feels like its missing some more professional touches. I'd like the functionality to use more video formats and to be able to import any audio and content from anywhere on my Mac, rather than just what cane be found in my iTunes or iPhoto library. This just seems like a given in my book, but as is Apple, wants everything tightly wound and knit it a perfect ball of closed-offness (which works for them, so whatever).

This post went a little long; rambling is my style. But to wrap up my ideas about the importance of these types of applications in today's world, Apple is on the right track with this. They've know it and have been doing it for years -- since the first iMacs, if I remember correctly. The iLife suite wasn't a suite yet; it had iMovie, but ever since then, iLife has been a very useful tool in the average consumer's digital arsenal. Let's hope that the 2011 version, thought to be called iLife '11, will keep up with growing trends and bring the functionality and awesomeness we've come to expect.

No comments:

Post a Comment