iPhone 3.0 Starts Apple's 2009 Off Right

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Let's stop treating Apple as a tabloid rock star, evaluating its performance only on its last gig. My fellow PC World blogger David Coursey thinks that given the first few months, Apple might as well pack up and hope for a better 2010. I disagree on two points: Apple's early announcements have given enough punch, and we still have nine-and-a-half more months in 2009. Couldn't the Cupertino company release anything else this year?

The iPhone 3.0 roadmap was Apple's biggest 2009 move. I agree that cut/copy/paste, MMS, and even the push notifications fill areas the iPhone has lagged; they're not features that move it ahead. But Apple announced so much more, hanging on those features feels disingenuous.

App Store software is going to keep improving. With access to 1,000 new APIs--including jewels like Bluetooth and dock communication--we're going to see yet another wave of innovative iPhone programs. I'm also excited about the other payment methods, since a developer who can afford to eat is likely to keep making great software. Instead of rushing to the $1 price point and gambling for a hit, companies will be able to charge for add-on extras or subscriptions.

And the iPhone 3.0 update will introduce more substantial features. What we know about CalDAV, Exchange, and other updates could be overshadowed by new details about LDAP, EAS policies, VPN on demand, encrypted profiles, and more.

Beyond the iPhone
The rest of Apple's year--I mean, the first two-and-a-half months of 2009--hasn't been bad either. But if Apple isn't leading the industry every day, should it just close up business?

Moderate improvements to iWork and iLife led the Macworld Expo. The 17-inch MacBook Pro seemed like a small improvement, catching it up to the rest of Apple's laptops. But Apple has been focused on battery technology introduced with that laptop; expect those results to trickle down to all other portable products throughout the year.

What about all of iTunes music going DRM-free? Sure, Apple was one of the slowest stores to make that move, but it's also the biggest. Customers will finally be able to play everything on any device they choose.

After that show, Apple announced a great first fiscal quarter. But it's easy to overlook that for the gloomier, more recent NPD numbers that suggest Apple is missing a critical recession market segment without a netbook. Both financial blips are true, but again, a company is worth more than its latest press release.

Recently, Apple has introduced Safari 4, which has caught the eye of browser early adopters. The entire desktop line has been moderately updated, even though the Mac Mini has only one Ethernet port. The button-free iPod Shuffle seems like a joke, but it's a single miss out of many fundamental--while not flashy--product updates.

Is Snow Leopard already disappointing you? I'm expecting more announcements out of WWDC before forming opinions.

I'm tired of Apple's celebrity status. I want the company to be more forthcoming with the media and customers. But does Apple need to dazzle us every time an executive takes the stage? Is Apple the surrogate Britney Spears for tech-watchers? Are we talking about an entertainer or a company?

Zack Stern is a freelance writer and editor who wishes TV on the Radio rocked the Macworld Expo keynote instead of Tony Bennett, but he's not taking it out on Apple.

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