Apple one-ups everybody

I just popped for the new iLife ’09, specifically to get one feature:  Faces, a new technology in iPhoto.

For many months, I’ve been using Google’s Picassa, both the online photo storage cloud, and the desktop photo editor/organizer.  There is also a Picassa Uploader plug-in for iPhoto, which is pretty cool.  Both Picassa and Flickr are great photo management solutions, but sorta Web 2.0  They are still a pain in the ass (PITA) when compared with working on your client computer.  What is great about them, though, is that they allow anywhere-access via the Web.  But frankly, even basic photo editing and organization with these services (or Facebook, or Shutterfly, or MySpace, or fill-in-the-blank) is cumbersome.
Apple released the new iPhoto ’09 with this kick-butt feature called Faces:  you tag a face in a photo, and it remembers that face, and creates a “Polaroid” of that person.  You can build up your Polaroid collection, and then tell iPhoto to churn through your entire photo collection (16 GB, in my case), and tag every single photo with every face that it finds from your Polaroids. Holy crap!   You can then create Smart Albums using the tagged faces, and upload said albums to any Web-based service, including Apple’s own Mobile Me.
Mobile Me used to suck.  Lately, it sucks much less.  I did some test uploading of albums to my Mobile Me account (for which I pay $99/year, and get 20 GB of combined storage), and the result was quick, painless, effective.  My albums appeared on MM, were easy to manage from the Web, even easier to manage from iPhoto, and looked a helluva lot prettier than Picassa, and somewhat prettier than Flickr.
Given Yahoo’s financial history (Yahoo owns Flickr), I am a little worried that Flickr could go bust at any moment, as have other Yahoo services.  Google’s Picassa gets better all the time, but it is still very clunky.
iPhoto’s integration with Mobile Me offers a user experience closer to what iTunes users get with their iTunes/iTunes Store integrated experience, and it is probably the main reason that there are 160 million iPods out there, and only 3 million Zunes.  This close marriage of hardware (computers, iPods, iPhones) with client applications, and cloud storage service is what Apple needs to push in order to stay ahead of Google and Facebook. 
“Um, don’t you mean Google and Microsoft?”  No, I mean Facebook.  More on that next time.

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