We’re Living in a Database

Apple’s iLife ’09 – brilliant, but does it offer too much?

Apple’s senior VP delivered an impressive keynote address earlier this week at the company’s annual Macworld event in San Francisco.

Aside from the headline-grabbing DRM-free iTunes tracks that are on the way, I was particularly impressed with their work on iLife ’09. I love Apple products, even if they are biblically expensive and, in the iPhone 3G’s case at least, put together by children.

iLife includes some incredible features – photo organisation in iPhoto is iBloody incredible, supporting face recognition which, after you’ve told it the ugly mug on the screen is your cousin Dave, will run off and bring back all the photos it believes include Dave. You can also geographically tag your photos and it includes a map which pinpoints where each photo was taken. It even links to Facebook so that you can very quickly upload pictures to your profile, complete with name tags. And, if there’s someone within the photo who you don’t know (which is a common occurrence on drunken nights out), and someone tags them on your Facebook, that name tag is automatically sent back to iPhoto’s face recognition thing! …breath.


iMovie now resembles something Spielberg would quite happily use. Honestly, the demo one of the developers gave was unbelievably slick. Within minutes he had completed a short safari film that wouldn’t look out of place on the BBC’s Planet Earth.

Garageband has been given a lift too and it now includes famous musicians teaching you how to play either the piano or guitar. I personally use Logic for all my music production, but I was instantly hooked once they demonstrated the user interface for this new teaching area.

All this stuff is incredible and so easy on the eye. There is one glaring issue, though. When on earth will any of us get the time to make use of it all?

True, iPhoto ’09 can turn your photo collection into a wonderland of detailed statistical information and criss-crossed linkage to geographical reference points and face recognition’d family albums… but who has the time to do all this stuff, regardless of how simple it is? And when you have done it, what do you do with it exactly?

I once spent a truly friendless amount of time organising my iTunes music so that it was all properly categorised and had corresponding album artwork. It took too long and whilst it’s all very pretty now, I can’t really say I benefit from it in any way. All the music sounds the same after all.

All of these applications centre around one thing – our growing personal databases. Everything is interlinked – our email, Facebook, iTunes, photos, blogs – all tagged so that they mould into one being. Databases are essentially very simple entities – a group of fields that can be infinitely linked, but the possibilities currently available to all of us are just mind boggling.

Is there simply too much stuff to do? I certainly feel there is. All the tools Apple throw our way (after we’ve increased our credit card limit) are fabulous, but in reality does anyone really have the time to fully make use of them all?

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