iPhoto has turned our Macworld upside-down.
It is, in an interesting way, very different from from
iMovie and iTunes, though each is equally a spoke in
our digital hubs. I
have written about the human context which makes
iPhoto a slick reminder of our own, and of other’s,
mortality. But it is different in another way as well.
Again with the ‘Digital Hub’?
To see this, let’s remind ourselves
of the digital hub strategy Apple is pursuing. The
raise of gadgets, such as video cams, digicams, MP3
players, PDAs, and the like, is producing a larger
amount of different kinds of information for us to
deal with. Some, like Dell, have said that gadgets
foreshadow the end of the PC, since our technology,
in the form of gadgets, is portable, almost tearing
us away from our desktops and the boxes that sit on
Steve Jobs, on the hand, and as I have
written here, sees gadgets not as a signal of the
end of the box PC, but as a transformative force which
is causing us to rethink the role a desktop plays
in our lives. With all the cameras, MP3s, video cameras,
and so on, we actually are accumulating more information
that we have to organize, archive, work with, play
with, and attempt to make as permanent as we can.
Since the gadgets that lead us away from our desktops
into the world of nieces’ birthday parties, scenic
drives, adventures and misadventures of various sorts,
produce varying kinds and more amounts of information
(photos, videos, music) than they can handle, they
necessarily drive us back to our desktop machine where
we can perform our organizing, archiving, and editing
tasks. Thus the digital
hub is born.
iMovie & iDVD
came out Apple assumed that, given the demographics
of the general population, which is growing older and
having families, that population has digital film which
has to be organized, archived and edited. While DV camcorders
have been hot items and many have them, when iMovie
came out there was no, as far as I can tell, mad rush
to buy DV camcorders to connect to our iMac DVs. Why?
It’s simple: They cost a lot of money
and require greater effort on our part to organize,
archive and edit than other digital media. DVD media
costs more, an Apple’s proprietary SuperDrive didn’t
help. Video information comes in gigabytes, not only
megabytes, and we have issues of storage to deal with.
But once we have the storage in place we have to transfer
the gigabytes of information to the storage/editing
device. USB is not the optimal choice, obviously.
No, Firewire, developed by Apple, is the choice of
means of transfer. However, when you add up storage
(larger hard drives, some external, all Firewire),
and add Firewire to a DV camcorder, you are not talking
about chump change for most of working stiffs. The
DV, Firewire camcorder by itself can easily cost over
a thousand dollars, and that doesn’t calculate in
the cost of larger hard drives or iMacs and iBooks.
It’s just plain expensive, and the editing and archiving
tasks are much less simple than they arewith MP3s,
When we turn to iDVD
the picture is not better. DVD-RAM drives can cost $800,
DVD media is much more expensive than generic CD-Rs.
If we add the cost of a DVD player (a cost which is
decreasing as you read this article), you again see
that iDVD, at this time, is something that is in many
a Mac user’s future, but not present. (An exception
to this rule, if it can be called that, is education,
which has committee and grant money to spend.)
I quickly add that Apple is helping
out in the DVD area with the software DVD player,
which in OS X is seamless and plays beautifully. And,
until January 7th, SuperDrive Macs that could burn
DVDs were out of most customers’ price-range; the
new iMac may change that with its $1800 price tag,
however. Thanks Apple.
So Apple’s assumption that most families
have DV camcorders, and players, and so need iMovie
or iDVD, may have been, well, not false, but perhaps
slightly exaggerated. However, Mac loyalists are happy
spending more money (not necessarily because Macs
cost more, but simply because they have severe cases
of applelust which must be satisfied), and they are
willing to pay more if it feeds the monkey.
The beauty, utility, and even symbolism, of owning
a Mac, is worth any extra costs a short upgrade cycle
brings. Or so some think…. Anyway, the point is
that more effort, and more cost go into putting us
in a position where iDVD and iMovie are actually useful
for many of us.
iTunes & iPod
is the same way, but in a different way. When iTunes
came out we did not see masses rushing out to buy MP3
players. True, Apple had promos where one could pick
up a Rio when buying an iMac, so that was taken care
of. But in truth, because of the cheaper cost, and because,
as Steve Jobs says, “music is in our genes” (I think
that is the quote), we had already gravitated to MP3
players, or at least to a once thriving Napster, or
now Gnutella server, to grab some tunes, as well as
rip music from our pre-existing CD library (another
low cost life accessory). The fact that we could collect
‘free’ music meant that we could create large libraries
of music. CD-R drives were dropping in price, and the
media itself, the CDs, dropped to roughly 50 cents a
pop. We had a lot of digital audio information.
So with iTunes, the need was there
because the care and feeding of our lyrical spirit
was already expressing itself, given the relatively
low cost of archiving, and the easy access to large
libraries of digitized audio. Things were in place.
then came along. Selling well, we guess. But if what
I just said
is true, then many do not need it. But that is
perfectly fine for a Mac user. Need is not always the
issue, and neither is the means nor the ability required
to cause us to buy. No: Pure desire, applelust, is sufficient
for us to reach for our plastic money. Many Mac users
told me (or I simply observed it), “I need an iPod,
I have a Rio, or I am not very musically mobile, but
man I want one!” Some iPods became upgrades, basically,
upgrading from our Rio or other antecedently acquired
MP3 players; or maybe an upgrade to a new lifestyle
of plugging our ears to hear the sounds of music.
Basically, Apple’s idea of a ‘digital
hub’ and some of the software and hardware they offer,
have turned one-time non-gadgeteers into, belt-clipping,
pocket buzzing, ear drum blasting, video intruding,
coolness factor loving, gadgeteers (even if the money
I will not, at this point, investigate
that digital gadgets, from Palms to iPods, have a
way of becoming iShackles rather than giving us iFreedom.
But you know that…
iPhoto and Digital Cameras
And now we have iPhoto. We do not,
at this point, have iDigicam or iSnap, or iShoot,
or whatever one’s fancy causes him to name a mythical
Apple digital camera. (And no one knows, or can even
suggest without being laughed at, that Apple is working
on one. I doubt it. Why would they?) But iPhoto is
much different from the other programs Apple has released,
and we are seeing it have a major effect on the Apple
Community. Why it is having this effect and what it
is I will explain now.
The iPhoto Effect: Red Eye and Red Shifts
Interestingly enough, with iPhoto
and the digital hub, Apple’s place in the market
has been flipped on its head. Steve has bequeathed
to us “the digital hub.” Now we want the spokes.
What good is a hub without spokes? What good are
spokes without a hub? Ever try to drive a car with
wheels that had spokes and no hub? Not easy. Thus
the trend we are seeing within the Apple Community
is to spoke our hubs, or to hub our spokes. It may
not be of the magnitude of cosmological red shifts,
and certainly Edwin Hubble would not be impressed,
but there is going to be an awful lot red eyes out
there thanks to Apple, and we are sure that Canon,
Olympus, Minolta, and Nikon, et al, are going to
have a jolly good time thanks to Apple, iPhoto,
and something called “the digital hub.”
Unlike iMovie or iDVD, digicams are much less expensive
than digicorders. You can start out at $100 if you
wish, or, depending on megapixel size and features,
go from $400 to $1400 dollars. A good 3-4 megapixel
camera costs around $500-$700 at this time and prices
will fall. The point is that getting some pretty advanced
partner technology for iPhoto in everyday consumers
hands is much cheaper than for iDVD or iMovie. This
has made the digicam ubiquitous to say the least.
There are lots and lots of people out there who needed
iPhoto in the first place. It is, in once sense, a
perfect fit with current trends in the digital market.
The media for digicam is cheaper than
DVD disks and in the same area as for CD-Rs. Many
use Flash SmartMedia. A 64 MG SmartMedia card can
be had for around $30-$40, and it can hold anywhere
from 250 to 16 pictures depending on the resolution
of shots. The consumer, in other words, just as Steve
is assuming, can accumulate a lot of digital information
in a very short period of time, and it becomes unruly
and in need of organization. Thus, iPhoto’s “Organize
like Martha” theme.
But forget about memory cards. Some
cameras, like the wonderful Olympus
3020 (and the list is growing), have built in
USB allowing you to connect them right into your iBook
to import all those pictures of the kitty pretty darn
quickly. The ability of a digicam to produce lots
of digital files (easier than downloading MP3s from
Gnuetella), that have to be organized quickly, transfering
all those files to your iBook, means we need a digi-Martha
to help us out. The digital files are smaller than
digital film, about the same as an MP3 file, and can
be produced at a rabbit’s pace by simply picking up
your camera and shooting like Ansel. iPhoto to the
What is more cameras, digital or not, are a familiar
technology to all consumers. We have been taking pictures
our whole lives, and so a digital camera feels familiar
and is non-threatening to most people (unlike a digicorder,
or even for some an MP3 player, which have not been
in circulation as long as cameras). Given this sense
of familiarity, many more people already have a digicam,
more than MP3 players. And show no hesitation using
them. Thus, a large amount of data is being produced
and a digital hub is a necessity in the modern point-and-click,
point-and-shoot, click-and-drag, digital world.
What all this means is that iPhoto
is the perfect solution for consumers right now, and
it’s only available on a Mac. However, in a gadgeteer’s
zeal to preserve memories and capture instants, few
realize that a digicam is a whole new beast from a
standard SLR. Many of the same rules for good photography
either do not apply or are transformed in different
ways with a digicam. Many are fully automatic (a complaint
that “real” photographers have against many cameras),
thus allowing millions to use the technology right
out of the box. Some have auto and fully manual
modes. The features, the internal architecture of
a digicam (its CCD for example), its card slot, its
USB connection, its digital zoom as opposed to its
optical zoom, all mean that even though it looks like
we are just buying a camera, we are actually buying
into a whole new technology (externally they look
the same, but internally and functionally they are
Ergo: People have to learn several things
1. How to buy one.
The purchasing rules for a digicam are different
than traditional cameras.
2. How to use one.
The use of a digicam vis-a-vis a traditional camera
3. What to do with the
files. Digicams create pictures in seconds,
not “One Hour Photos.” How do we use these files?
Print them? Save them? Touch them up? Correct or
enhance? All the elements which the “digital darkroom”
pros deal with everyday are now in millions of consumers
hands. There is a lot to learn. In fact, many don’t
know what a digital file even is, in its essence
that is, how it behaves, how it prints, its resolution,
and so on are all new.
4. Getting the most out
of it. Sure, you have your digicam, and there
is a lot of potential in your hand… now what?
Olympus ships some cameras with Photoshop Elements.
Another thing to learn. We can melt, twist, bend,
colorize, blur, apply hundreds of filters, add textures,
make frames, and hundreds of other tasks with these
new digital files that are accumulating on our digital
desktops. Where is a consumer to go? Where is he
to learn the basics and the rules of the digital
So that fact is that the digital cameras
have not only opened up a new toy for consumers, but
have landed them on whole new planet and they need
a map to scope out the new territory. iPhoto, with
its ease of use, means that consumers find themselves
in digital darkrooms on digital desktops having no
digital idea what to do or how. iPhoto is boon, but
it also means millions of people have a lot to learn.
All of what I have just said doesn’t
matter if people don’t have digicams anyway. What
we have seen, the trend in the Mac Community, since
iPhoto was released, is that Mac users, with iPhoto
installed, are flocking to stores to buy cameras.
Instead of needing iPhoto because we have digicams,
it seems that many need digicams because they now
It is happening at Applelust in fact.
Two writers instantly began the search for a new camera.
A third, yours truly, began the search for one even
though he has a low-end one, and I have been doing demos
of iPhoto in a store with an Olympus 3020 loaned to
me. I have gone to three stores in town and asked about
sales and have been told that Mac users are coming in
buying cameras. Another Applelust writer recently got
a CoolPix and will be writing about his
experiences with it.
The sea change we are seeing is that
Mac users are going out and buying digicams. They
need a resource, a place to find help with the issues
I mentioned above, and they want help which is Mac-centric.
Applelust.com intends to be the safe
house for all those new digicam shooting, iPhoto organizing,
Photoshop Elements or PixelNHance newbies out there
who want to get the most from their new toys. And
when Applelust makes a decision (your humble Editor
is lovingly called “Applelust Tyrannical Overlord”
by staff), we will follow through on it and do it
the best we can. So look no more, “Help is on the
In conclusion, there is a trend we
at Applelust have picked up on, namely, that many
Mac consumers are trying to make the switch to digital
cameras because the Mac Community has been given iPhoto.
Rather than helping us with managing megabytes of
digidata from antecedently purchased cameras, iPhoto
is motivating Mac users to go out and grab a digicam,
or another one, or a higher end one, so they can “Shoot
like Ansel; organize like Martha.” They will need
help making the move, and using the new toy. We at
Applelust are happy to be your guides.
So what are you doing? Get up and start
capturing moments and preserving memories! For now,
help is on the way in the form of a group of professionals
at Applelust ready to assist you to grow into your
own digital age.