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The iFuture of Apple and Print n Apple keynote used to be a big deal for anyone involved in the graphic arts industry, but particularly for prepress people banging on computers all day. At the same time, busy designers needed to shop for more computing power and the latest software to feed overworked prepress departments trying to keep up with all the latest technological permutations. Originally, these Mac users looked to Macworld Expo for the skinny on the latest and greatest Apple technologies, as well as related products from software kings like Adobe and Quark. Back in the day, these shows were produced twice yearly by IDG – January in San Francisco and July in Boston. The expos were well attended by hordes of Mac faithful, with the annual San Francisco show being the larger of the two. Apple gradually pulled back from these major tradeshows, first, by withdrawing from the East Coast show in 2002, then in January announcing that 2009 would mark the company’s last appearance at Macworld Expo San Francisco. Theories abound about Apple’s retreat from Macworld Expo, but CEO Steve Jobs himself stated that he didn’t like working to IDG’s schedule – instead preferring to launch products at Apple-produced events, more precisely timed to consumer buying patterns. So, by default, the keynote speech of Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), an annual meeting held each June for Apple’s third-party software developer community, has become the preeminent launch pad for their next big thing. Reflecting this shift, expectations were high for this year’s WWDC keynote. Not only were the geeks lusting for new product, but many anticipated that the reclusive and recovering Steve Jobs might make an early appearance prior to his scheduled return from medical leave, which according to The Wall Street Journal, included a liver transplant. I realize these days the graphic arts world has more on its mind than the next Apple product launch or the return of Jobs, but
14 • PRINTACTION • JULY 2009
old habits die hard – I was still excited about seeing the WWDC keynote. Sadly, I discovered that this year’s keynote would not be streamed live, so instead I was glued to my laptop on June 8, constantly hitting the refresh button in my browser, trying to keep up with the bloggers’ live blow-byblow reports from the WWDC keynote. [09:02PST – MACNERD 27]: playing cheesy music, ok – lights out… show’s starting… [09:03PST – MACNERD 27]: starting with the “I’m a PC” guy doing the welcome… hahaha, I never get tired of those commercials… [09:05PST – MACNERD 27]: oh crap, Steve’s a no show… it’s Phil… After more than an hour of bite-size bits of information, sandwiched between generous slices of snarky, fan-boy editorializing, I ascertained the gist of Apple’s WWDC announcements. The keynote, presented by senior Apple management, started with a refresh of the Macbook Pro line, moving into Mac OS X Snow Leopard and iPhone OS 3.0 demos and finished with the unveiling of the worst-kept secret in the mobile phone world – the shiny new iPhone 3G[S]. Initially, I didn’t tweak on anything that might rock the graphic arts universe in the WWDC keynote, but I really wanted to get a look at this new iPhone, so I decided to download and watch the full keynote when it became available later that day. It was during that video that I foresaw the beginning of the end for the graphic arts. The happy news
As reported, the keynote started with a witty recorded welcome from John Hodgeman, the I’m-a-PC guy taking a few shots at Microsoft – preaching to the choir as it were. Apple’s VP of marketing, Phil Schiller, then opened the keynote with his decidedly non-Jobs, low-key style by chronicling the growth of the Mac OS since its inception back in 2002. Mac OS X has seen respectable growth in its first five years of life, gaining 25-million users worldwide. More impressive, since the launch of the iPhone
and iPod Touch in 2007, the spinoff Mac business has grown threefold to 75-million users in 2009. After the stats, Schiller got down to business by announcing updates to Apple’s wildly successful MacBook Pro line. Following Apple’s typical 9-month product update cycle, the MacBook Pro line was refreshed with faster processors (up to 3.06gHz Dual Core), longer battery life (up to seven hours with a non-swappable battery) and an SD memory card slot added to the aluminum unibody chassis. Touted as Apple’s greenest laptop yet, the new MacBook Pro can house up to 8GB of RAM, truly bringing it much closer to workstation levels of performance. Fans of the old 12-inch Aluminum PowerBook rejoiced as Schiller announced the addition of a 13-inch MacBook Pro to the line. However, instead of designing a completely new machine, Apple shrewdly repositioned its existing 13-inch aluminum uni-body MacBook by upgrading the screen, bumping processor speeds and (by popular demand) bringing back a Firewire port to the diminutive laptop. Additionally, the sluggishly selling MacBook Air received some much needed performance and capacity improvements. Of course, these updates were expected – Apple is well known for improving specifications while maintaining price points. What was not expected was an across the board price reduction of the entire MacBook Pro/Air line ranging from five to 15 percent, depending on model and configuration. While it remains to be seen whether impressive specifications and price cuts will be enough to spur lagging sales, MacHeads agree that there has never been a better time to be in the market for new hardware. Schiller then introduced Bertrand Serlet, senior VP of software engineering to give the first major public demonstration of the upcoming Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard operating system. In a bold move, Apple has taken a different direction with this new OS. Instead of focusing on flashy new features, Apple’s engineers have completely
rewritten and optimized the operating system for Intel processors. The old way of doing things in the OSdevelopment world meant maintaining and incrementally improving an OS to run on several different generations of equipment. Subsequently, with each evolution of the operating system scads of archaic code would end up buried deep within the software. This OS bloat translated to an everlarger hard-disk footprint while the number of instructions required to perform tasks would grow exponentially – taxing processors and inflating minimum system requirements. With the new OS, Apple chose to focus on current and future generations of processors, deciding that Mac OS 10.5 Leopard would be the end of the line OS for Power PC and older Macs. This complete rewrite of Leopard will be 6GB smaller than version 10.5, while promising substantial speed gains. This is not to say that Snow Leopard is without new features, for example the addition of Microsoft Exchange support will be welcomed in the growing ranks of enterprise Mac users. So, where does this newfound speed come from? Besides optimization for Intel chips, Snow Leopard is Apple’s first true 64bit operating system, which means the OS can address up to 16-billion gigabytes of RAM (I’m not kidding), so the 32GB RAM maximum of a Mac Pro workstation will be no problem. A bit of trivia – at current prices, 16-billion gigabytes of RAM would cost $764,370,024,232.50 plus tax (but I’m sure you could cut a deal…). Additionally, Mac OS X 10.6 uses Open CL (Open Computing Language) technology to harness the power of today’s Graphics Processor Units (GPU) capable of more than a trillion operations per second (one teraflop). Open CL is a framework for writing programs that execute across diverse platforms that can consist of CPUs, GPUs and other processors. Originally designed for high-end gaming, these GPUs have excess processing capacity that can be utilized by the OS with the help of Open CL.
The other major Snow Leopard speed bump comes from full access to multi-core processors. The trend in processor development is towards increasing the number of cores (or processors) on a single chip rather than ramping processor speeds ever higher. Previously, for software to be able to take full advantage of multiple cores, the developer would have to program the app’s operations using threaded technology, a very time consuming process. Grand Central Dispatch removes the threading process from the application level and threads the processes on the OS level, greatly speeding up any application optimized for OS X 10.6. With the addition of a completely new Colorsynced version of hardware accelerated Quicktime and several major GUI enhancements to boost productivity, Mac OS X 10.6 looks like an easy sell. Snow Leopard’s bottom line is speed and stability, making it well suited for professional and enterprise applications. In a shrewdly timed move intended to beat Windows 7 to market, Apple will be releasing Snow Leopard this September at a price that will ensure most Intel/Leopard customers upgrade – $29. Here come the smart phones
The rest of the WWDC keynote dealt with the new iPhone OS 3.0 and, of course, the hotly anticipated new mobile handset, the iPhone 3G[S]. Sure, I know what you are thinking… a mobile phone that plays music – what’s this got to do with the graphic arts? Initially, that was my reaction too, and honestly I expected my article to end here. However, the curiosity and iPhone lust that kept me watching the
In an attempt to divert attention from his recent medical troubles, the reclusive Steve Jobs elevated his senior VPs to fill his pitchman shoes (left to right): Phil Schiller, marketing; Bertrand Serlet, software engineering; and Scott Forstall, iPhone software.
keynote soon turned to shock and awe as I realized the full potential of this emerging technology. When Scott Forstall (senior VP of iPhone software) took the stage to demo iPhone OS 3.0, I expected the usual dog-and-pony show featuring games and other fun stuff. Instead, I witnessed the unveiling of a robust and powerful operating system capable of far more than simple mobile phone and entertainment functions. And while the features of iPhone OS 3.0 are impressive, the real story is in the rapid evolution of the Smartphone market. Apple’s iPhone App Store was launched in July 2008 with a handful of games and a few useful utilities. The App Store now boasts more than 50,000 applications for the 40,000,000 strong iPhone and iPod Touch customer base. In the first nine months of operation, the App Store clocked over 1-billion downloads. Granted, a large
number of these downloads were games and entertainment apps, but a growing number of applications have significant potential to negatively impact the graphic arts. For example, as news delivery transitions from a newspaper industry in decline to online and rich-media channels, the iPod stands poised to capture a significant portion of this market. USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times all offer free iPhone applications granting realtime access to their news feeds – ironic considering that the print editions of these three papers are struggling to stay afloat. In fact, there are more than 1,300 applications available for the iPhone that deliver realtime news in one form or another. Traditional print vehicles simply cannot compete with the speed and low cost of digital delivery. Adding in the mobile aspect just adds insult to injury. “Stop the presses” takes on a much more literal meaning in this instance.
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During the iPhone OS 3.0 segment of the keynote, several application developers showcased their up-and-coming wares. ScrollMotion, a company formed to bring digital books to the App Store demonstrated its new Iceberg Bookstore application. Utilizing the iPhone OS 3.0 “in-app purchase” feature, ScrollMotion users can buy content directly through the application and download over a 3G or WiFi connection without using a desktop or laptop computer. On launch, ScrollMotion will offer online purchase of 50 major magazines, 170 daily newspapers and more than 1,000,000 books. The upside is that authors and publishers will get paid – the downside is a vastly reduced number of pages printed. ScrollMotion founder Josh Koppel demonstrated the new iPhone OS “cut & paste” feature on one of the books in his reader. Cutting the selected content and pasting it into an email produced a perfectly footnoted quote, ideal for the student market. He then announced that his company was in talks with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw Hill and Wiley – the three biggest textbook publishers in North America. The argument can be made that reading a textbook on the relatively small screen of an iPhone is impractical, and for good reason – 480 x 320 pixels is not enough real estate for hours of sustained study. Realistically, this technology will make its impact on educational publishing through devices like the Amazon Kindle, or the larger format Kindle DX, designed specifically for the textbook market. On the other hand, a textbook or two in your pocket can come in handy around exam time.
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Recently, Gov. Schwartzenegger of California cited digital textbooks as the answer to the state’s education budget woes, anticipating annual savings of more than US$350 million. While the Kindle is currently limited to black-and-white imaging on so-called digital paper, industry pundits agree that Apple will likely produce a colour-based tablet computer, leveraging its advanced touch technology before year’s end. You can bet ScrollMotion and other digital media publishers will flock to this platform, idling still more presses. You say you have beat that rap because you are not a newspaper, magazine or textbook publisher? The iPhone and similar devices are eroding other bastions of print as well! Back in the days when Palm ruled the handheld kingdom, a company called Dataviz produced Documents to Go, a very useful utility which enabled the viewing of Word, Excel and PDF documents on any supported Palm device. Dataviz has now released Docs to Go for the iPhone, taking advantage of Apple’s quality display to reproduce minute details in PDF files. Likewise, the Kindle DX supports the viewing of PDF files, making it the perfect viewer for larger financial documents such as annual reports. These devices have created a mobile platform for PDF, thus enabling broader use and – you guessed it – reduced need for print. Another interesting permutation of the iPhone as a media reader concept is the production of digital museum guides, thus replacing high-quality printed maps, brochures and catalogues. London’s National Gallery and Antenna Audio have partnered to produce the first such iPhone application entitled “Love Art”, which features 250 paintings from their collection and more than 200 minutes of audio and video content. This free application allows users to take a virtual tour of the Gallery from anywhere in the world. The ability to update digital maps, guides and brochures with a simple download is likely to trigger widespread adoption by museums and galleries worldwide as their operating budgets dissipate. They’d better save some museum floor space for some of those idled presses. So you’re a business-card printer catering to the small office/home office user? You are still not immune to the dubious advance of the Smartphone and mobiledevice invasion. Currently, there are eight different applications for the iPhone that allow users to create and exchange stylized digital “business cards”, the most popular being SnapDAT which offers a host of features in addition to simple business card exchange. SnapDAT enables users to design a digital card with company logo or photo that can have multiple versions for both personal and business use. The application integrates with the iPhone address book and offers links to YouTube, Twitter, Linkedin and other social and Continued on page 28
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business networking sites. The card can be transmitted wirelessly to other SnapDAT iPhone users or emailed. Also, when receiving a SnapDAT digital card, the GeoStamp mapping features uses the iPhone’s GPS functionality to record your location. While currently limited to 40 design templates, it’s only a matter of time until designers can upload their own layouts. Likewise, other SOHO business is migrating from paper to pixels as cash strapped small businesses flock to online marketing tools such as targeted HTML email and increased Web presence instead of brochures.
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For most of Apple’s 33-year history, the company redefined the boundaries of personal computing while changing the way we get things done. By all accounts, the creation of the first LaserWriter printer back in 1985 and a third-party application called MacPublisher instigated the desktop publishing revolution. By empowering a new generation of designers to produce their work digitally (and therefore economically), Apple ultimately enabled the growth and delivery of more printable pages to presses worldwide. To return the favour, the graphic arts industry remained staunch supporters of Apple during the dark years of Jobs’ absence when Apple’s innovation, industrial design, quality and market share faltered. Then the graphic arts industry benefited from Jobs 2.0 and his guiding hand returning Apple to the path of innovation and quality. Premedia and prepress workers enjoyed ever faster, better-built computers with relatively stable operating systems loaded with maturing design and layout tools from the likes of Adobe and Quark. These were indeed the golden days for desktop publishing and digital prepress. It would be convenient to lay the blame for the erosion of print at the feet of Mr. Jobs, after all the iPhone is driving the richmedia revolution. Nokia, Palm and the rest of the pack are falling over themselves playing catch-up to the iPhone’s ability to deliver a truly integrated mobile computing experience. But in reality, the reservoir of print began to bleed pages with the birth of the Internet. As if to emphasize this point, Coupons.com announced in a recent press release that the value of the digital coupons redeemed from their Website during the first five months of 2009 has already exceeded the total value of all conventionally printed coupons in 2008 – US$312 million. The other culprit is the growing prevalence of wireless networks and public hotspots, impelling the mobile computing insurrection. At first, mobile computing was for an elite audience that could afford the pricey WiFi-enabled laptops. But now this segment is being overrun by small and cheap netbooks, weighing under two kilos and packed with just enough computing power for e-mail, web browsing and viewing digital media. Meanwhile, the growth of digital magazine distribution can be attributed to companies like Zinio who have been offering hundreds of titles in a downloadable subscription format for several years now. The rise in digital audio book sales can be tied to the growth of the personal music player market. Simultaneously, the mandate of mobile phones expanded from simple callContinued on page 30
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ing, email and messaging devices to become music players, then video, e-book readers and Web browsers. This inevitable mission creep lead to the birth of Smartphone, the next step in an evolution. While Apple can be considered guilty for driving innovation that enables this publishing revolution, they have simply anticipated a trend and delivered compelling products to an eager consumer. The most significant danger of actually achieving this digital nirvana is the demise of physical media – ink and paper. Few have really considered that digital media is fleeting and ethereal in nature. My bookshelf houses printed tomes which are more than 200 years old and aside from a few too many “thee’s” and “thou’s”, still work perfectly – immune from electrical dependence and evolving operating systems. Ironically, I also have media of comparatively recent vintage (10-year-old floppy disks) that I cannot read. Sadly, in far less time than the lifespan of a printed book, it’s likely that today’s CD and DVD formats will become as unreadable as VHS and Betamax video tapes. Those looking to online clouds to house the world’s accumulated wisdom would be wise to consider that this information is contained in millions of hard disks, which begs the question – how old is the oldest functioning hard disk? Likewise, information accessed solely on the Internet is routinely controlled, limited and altered by agencies worldwide, both for benign and nefarious reasons.
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When digital photography invaded the consumer mass-market, the traditional photographic industry crumpled overnight. Film and print media sales plummeted as everyone shared photos electronically. Then, an unforeseen phenomenon began to reverse this cataclysm. Gradually, the mothers of the world came to the realization that digital media alone could not be entrusted with their precious family history, triggering a turnaround in the photo-printing business through new products such as photo books and calendars. Even in these challenging economic times, this market is seeing growth. A recent InfoTrends report states that the overall photo printing market is expected grow from $940 million (2008) to more than $1.5 billion in 2010. Short of carving words into stone or painting cave walls, the fact remains that currently print alone is the best way to archive information for the long term – the medium is durable and accessible. It’s only a matter of time until the tide of print to digital recedes, allowing each media to find its appropriate niche – digital for disposable/short term, print for permanent/long term. I’m just hoping that it won’t take a catastrophic loss of data or the collapse of the global digital infrastructure to start the pendulum swinging back the other way! To date, I have not succumbed to the charms of Apple’s iConic iPhone. But, like many consumers, I am sorely tempted to upgrade my functioning but featureless old mobile and soon, a Smartphone will be my only option. I will, however, continue to relish the smell of a freshly printed newspaper or a magazine as long as possible. Zac Bolan’s blog: blog.softcircus.com