Apple disappoints at final Macworld appearance

Apple has announced that it is to drop copy protection from all of its songs sold via iTunes in addition to varying the pricing structure for its songs.

Aside from this, Apple's final appearance at Macworld proved to be something of a disappointment for both Wall Street and consumers, with product announcements limited to updates of existing lines.

Apple shares slid 0.7 per cent, lagging by far the Nasdaq's 1.7 per cent gain, reflecting frustration over the lack of news from the trade conference that had previously introduced the iPhone to the world.

"There were some innovative products, but no true blockbusters," said Robert Francello, head of equity trading for Apex Capital hedge fund in San Francisco. "People were bullish going into it, and now they're kind of taking money off the table."

Apple said its iTunes music store, which has sold six billion songs thus far, will offer its 10-million-song library free of digital rights management - or copy-protection - by the end of the quarter, for between 69 cents and $1.29 a song. Previously all DRM protected tracks cost 99 cents (79p). Upgrading to DRM free music will cost 20p per track.

Songs will also be available straight to iPhones over the air via 3G, instead of through a computer.

The company decided not use Macworld to launch any major new product, as it has done in past years. Previously, the company's Macworld product launches had produced so much buzz that they managed to overshadow events at the far larger Consumer Electronics Show. The 2009 CES show kicks off this week in Las Vegas.

Yesterday's event produced few surprises. Apple announced a $2,799 (1,949) 17-inch laptop that is the company's lightest and slimmest ever, as well as tweaks to software for home movies and photographs.

The 17in Macbook Pro's design has been updated to match that of the recently released Macbook and Macbook Pros. It offers a 1,920 x 1,200 display with a 700:1 contrast ratio and a matte display for an extra $50.

iLife and iWork have both been updated to 09 versions, with tweaks including the addition of Face Detection to iPhoto for automatic organisation of images. iLife 09, iWork 09 and Mac OS X Leopard are now available as a box set for $169 (149).

Apple also revealed its public beta of, its take on Google Docs which will offer online editing of documents and spreadsheets.

The event culminated with singer Tony Bennett crooning "The Best is Yet to Come" and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" in a farewell of sorts to Apple, which will no longer attend the cultural event thronged annually by the Mac faithful.

Jobs, a fixture at past events, was nowhere in sight, despite some hopes for a cameo. Last month, the company said its chief executive and salesman extraordinaire would not deliver the Macworld address. That raised fresh concerns about the cancer survivor's health and signalled to many Apple-watchers that the company had no plans to launch a major product at Macworld.

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even is a twenty-year stalwart of technology journalism who is passionate about all areas of the industry, but telecoms and mobile and home entertainment are among his chief interests. He has written for many of the leading tech publications in the UK, such as PC Pro and Wired, and previously held the position of technology editor at ITPro before regularly contributing as a freelancer.

Known affectionately as a ‘geek’ to his friends, his passion has seen him land opportunities to speak about technology on BBC television broadcasts, as well as a number of speaking engagements at industry events.