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After iLife '11 analysis: Uncertain future for iWeb, no future for iDVD


Yesterday's announcement of iLife '11 brought some cool new features across the suite... well, most of the suite anyway. As many people have noticed, only iPhoto, iMovie, and Garage Band were updated. iWeb and iDVD got no love besides small code changes that make them compatible with the new iLife '11 apps. So, what does this mean for the future of the two apps?


Sorry, iDVD fans, but the app is as good as dead. The last time iDVD got a major upgrade was back in 2006 with iLife '06. A year later, iLife '08 brought minor changes to iDVD, restoring some themes from the first two versions of the software. Since then, two versions of iLife have come and gone, but iDVD has not changed one bit.

Back in 2003 or 2004 (I don't remember which year exactly), my group at Apple was in a meeting with people from the iLife team. One of the project managers threw out a question to us. He asked why iDVD was so essential to the iLife suite, which at the time also included iTunes, iPhoto, and iMovie. This wasn't just a question he was asking us either -- it was one of the interview questions for programmers that were hired to work on the iLife suite. The answer: iDVD was essential because it wrapped a user's digital life up into one tidy package. Music, photos, and movies could be edited and burned onto a shiny disc for distribution to friends and family. As an interesting side note, the programming manager told us that no one on the iLife team ever got the question right on their first try.

Jump forward to 2010, and DVDs are no longer essential for easy-to-create personal distribution. With über fast Internet and sites like Facebook, YouTube, and MobileMe, we can package our music, video, and photos together in a movie and upload it with the click of a button. We don't need physical media to share our digital lives. DVDs are also becoming less important for installing software and games thanks to Steam, downloadable packages from the Internet, and now the Mac App Store. Steve Jobs knew that when he introduced the first MacBook Air in 2008, and it's no coincidence that was the last year anything new was added to iDVD.

Though the lack of an update to iDVD in iLife '11 wasn't shocking, I was surprised when there was no announcement of a new app, which in my mind is always called "iLP." An app like "iLP" would let users create disc-less DVDs via the iTunes LP format and share them over the Internet. Imagine an app that lets users create HTML5 iLPs, viewable to your friends and family through their Web browser.

Don't get me wrong, iDVD is useful for small businesses and professionals who like to put together portfolios to mail to clients, but even that is changing. Why have physical media when you can just host something on a website and make it available for download?

Which brings me to...


It was surprising to me that Apple didn't update iWeb. True, the app got a major overhaul with iLife '09, but it's quickly fallen behind the times. Given that Apple is pushing HTML5, you'd think they would update their Web design app to fully take advantage of the new standard.

My old iWeb-built portfolio site never showed up right on my iPhone. I'm surprised that Apple hasn't taken the steps to make iWeb into an app that can put out beautiful HTML5 sites that work in any modern browser while concurrently creating iPhone-optimized versions of those sites. (To the guys at RapidWeaver: this is your time to shine.) Personal websites may not have much allure anymore -- we seem to share everything via Facebook and Twitter now -- but this is where a combined iDVD/iLP/iWeb would come in handy. Creating your own websites to host HTML5 online "DVDs" that are viewable in any browser would fill a need that social networking sites still can't.

Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I really don't think that iWeb is dead yet. (I liked it so much because I couldn't code a website to save my life.) I think it's going to make a comeback in the next iLife suite, and it will be rebuilt from the ground up in order to take advantage of modern browsers and however many hundreds of millions of iOS devices exist by then. iDVD on the other hand? ... It was nice knowing you.

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