If hearing about the insanely great Apple iCEO Steve Jobs hasn't worn thin on you yet, then his keynote speech yesterday at the first Macworld Expo of 2000 probably hasn't either. Jobs, of course, heralded as the saviour of Apple since his return as interim CEO two and a half years ago has put together "the strongest Apple line-up ever." I guess when you're working with geniuses there's no room for modesty.

Although the audience was anticipating a big announcement regarding the latest in high-powered portable computing, Jobs and his brain-trust at Apple had other ideas. While the outset of the speech included a handy review of where Apple has been in the last six months it shifted quickly to the announcement of Apple's Internet strategy for the immediate future.

The first part of the 2 hour and 15 minute keynote was to outline how Apple's latest operating system (OS9) figured into an integrated Internet experience for its users. By using its "unfair advantage," as Jobs put it, of having both clients and servers running the Apple operating system, they were able to introduce a new set of tools accessible through the Web.

It's a wonder that Apple took so long to figure out that they could be a portal site for their own users, but it could have been because they were planning the integrated approach that so many other portals cannot offer. With over 9.5 million visitors per week Apple rolled out its first set of iPages: iReview, iCards and iTools, in addition to Quicktime and the Apple Store which were already online.

iReview offers "unbiased" reviews of Web sites courtesy of Apple. Supposedly first of its kind and seems to show promise with registered users allowed to add their own comments to each review giving it an evolt.org feel. Apple hopes to build community in this way but one wonders how long this benevolence will last before some punk sprays the graffiti "haX0z rUlz!"

iCards is a one-off of many of the online card "stores" that offer to send a personalised card to anyone with an email address. Who knows why Apple chose this as a selling point, but if you know women in their 50s, new to the Internet, like I do, then you know there is a use for iCards.

While iReview and iCards are meant for all audiences Wintel or Mac, it is iTools that spoils loyal Apple consumers with goodies. iTools includes four main categories:

  1. Kidsafe: a way for the operating system to control access to sites, downloads and more. Using OS9 multi-user functionality it can allow the root user to set-up access control. This looks to be a useful tool for parents and bosses and renders obsolete Web filtering software.
  2. email: Under the domain name mac.com users can now obtain an email to suit their taste in computers. This feature again seems to target the new user to the Internet and is offered as an incentive to upgrade to OS9. Only time will tell if people are ready to discard their ISPs email address in favour of xyz@mac.com.
  3. iDisk: A storage space for all your personal needs. Apple is offering 20 MB for every one of its OS9 users. This space can be used to hold photos to be used in iCards and can even be a resting place for your new QuickTime movies, which will incidentally stream from that file space. This feature will also enable you to set-up shared folders. Nothing groundbreaking here folks, but a new offering for new Internet users, that's for sure.
  4. Homepage: A finally, Apple is offering space for users to set-up their own homepages. Wooo. Hmmm? boring. It has been done before and is still being done, however when tied into one place with the other tools it makes http://www.apple.com a nice place for a new user to stay. All-in-all Apple's iPages strategy is geared at the millions of new users getting on the bandwagon. Their strategy of roping newbies in at the outset will probably work, as most new users are content with going to wherever their browser is first set to go. Ask my mom.

In other news?

It is evident that Apple is no longer ignoring the consumer market as it points their Web strategy towards new users and enthusiasts alike. The bigger announcement, of course, was to introduce OS X (pronounced OS Ten) to the public. Big news about the product included such already known features as protective memory management, pre-emptive multi-tasking and modern networking.

The taste of the day, however, was seeing the newly revamped GUI. For a glance at it check out the following, http://www.apple.com/macosx/. Lickable "Aqua" proves to be a new direction for the old-standard GUI of the MacOS. But in terms of Web development, this may have been the cause of the delay in Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5 for the Mac.

In order for IE5 to work smoothly with OSX it had to have its code modified (or Carbonised) to incorporate the new GUI. IE5 for the MacOS is reportedly up to 50% faster using the Tasman rendering engine and supports PNG graphics among other features. For more information about IE5 check out http://www.microsoft.com/mac/.

In addition, Jobs announced that he is no longer the interim CEO of Apple. He is now CEO of both Pixar and Apple. He will, however, retain the title iCEO as per the iMac, iBook and all of www.apple.com's iPages.