MacWorld Expo is a big exhibition held in the United States that focuses on the Apple Macintosh. In fact, it is like an AUSOM meeting on steroids. It has a series of Main Meetings, with the largest being the Keynote Speech by Apple’s iCEO, Steve Jobs, and then a number of Special Interest Groups covering “smaller” topics. It also has a “Trade show” that is similar in concept to PC98/Interact here in Melbourne, with various vendors displaying their new software and hardware for the Mac.
The Keynote speech by Apple’s iCEO, Steve Jobs, commenced with the display of a new advertisement starring “the most sinister computer villain of all time” – the HAL 9000 computer from Arthur C Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, who tells us that “It was a bug, Dave!”.
In my opinion, this ad is second only to Apple’s world famous “1984” advertisement that launched the original Macintosh fifteen years ago. It is very simple in the visual sense, but the message it gets across is still simple and to the point. Apple should get a lot a mileage out of this one. You really must make the effort to see this ad. A copy of the QuickTime movie is available for download from the Macintosh conference on AUSOM FirstClass.
Since the introduction of the iMac in May, Apple have sold over 800,000 iMacs. This is a remarkable result for them and many of them are first time computer users, or better still converts from the Wintel platform. Apple, and others, attributes this success due to the iMac design, not just in appearance but in its easy configuration and setup for accessing the Net.
Still, on the appearance front, you have to admit it has a compact, but still very useable form factor, and a real lack of messy cables and wires.
At MacExpo, Apple launched a new series of iMac computers, which are available in five colours – Tangerine (my favourite), Blueberry (which is similar to the original Bondi Blue, but lighter), Grape, Lime and Strawberry. I’m going to be very interested to see who the first AUSOM member will be that has one of each colour.
The price has also dropped another US$100 to US$1199, placing it very close to that $999 Macintosh people have been dreaming of for years and with the 266Mhz G3 processor it has GRUNT!, unlike some of Apple’s previous “consumer level” machines. The new iMac’s have already shipped in Australia, and at least one AUSOM member is the proud owner of a Tangerine iMac. After upgrading from a LC 630, I believe they are going to extremely happy with their purchase.
Along with the new iMacs Apple launched a brand series of “traditional” G3’s, although as you are probably aware by now that traditional is not the right word to describe them.
While under development, they were codenamed “Yosemite” as in the National Park in the US. These machines come in a brand new form factor and colour scheme. With the blue and white case, there is definitely “No Beige” from Apple any more.
While many people are not overly impressed with the new look of the case, almost everyone is awed by the interior design.
Anyone who has every tried to access the insides of a Powermac 8500 or 9500 (or a typical PC) will have cursed the mother of the person who designed those casings. When the 8600 and 9600 came out, that curse would have lessened quite a fair bit. With the case design of the Yosemite’s there is no need what so ever for curses – it is pure simplicity. As Steve Jobs said “It is a door”. You just pull down side and everything is accessible on that panel.
That’s right! The motherboard is on the fold down panel, making it easy to install PCI cards or memory. There is no need to unplug the power supply (although I would recommend turn the machine off first), nor any need to move cables out of the way.
The Yosemite’s follow in the iMac’s footsteps and no longer have the “standard” serial or SCSI ports. They have two USB ports and to replace SCSI they have two FireWire ports to connect high speed hard drives, digital video equipment. Interestingly enough, they do have an ADB port, which I suppose was to provide support for the various copy protection “dongles”, rather than use for keyboard or mouse, as the Yosemite’s ship with a USB keyboard and mouse similar, but not exactly the same, as the iMac ones.
In unprecedented move of providing, as standard, a 3-D accelerated video system based on ATI Rage 128, with a whopping SIXTEEN Megs of VRAM, these machines are going to be absolute killers in the graphics and games markets.
The video card is in a special high performance PCI slot and there are three regular PCI slots available for expansion. For those who need even more slots, and I do know at least one AUSOM member who has filled all six PCI slots in his 9600, there will be third party expansion chassis that give you additional PCI slots.
At the time of writing this article, AUSOM has just ordered the 300Mhz version of the Yosemite and expects to take delivery of it a couple of weeks before the February meeting, where it will become the Main Presentation machine.
MacOS X Server
I can’t describe it any better than Apple’s own press release, which describes it as “…the Company’s new server operating system, which combines the proven strength of Unix with the simplicity of Macintosh. Mac OS X is built on the high-performance Mach microkernel and BSD 4.4, and includes the Apache HTTP web server and WebObjects application server.”
This makes it a very powerful and flexible system with an integrated Macintosh interface. From what I have seen, it is NOT a version of Unix with a nice pretty set of windows set on top it.
It’s initial configuration with Apache and WebObjects, suggests it is designed as an Internet, or Intranet web server – Something AUSOM is going to investigate further, with the idea of utilising it within our Premium Access Internet System. We already run Apache as our web server for both AUSOM’s own Web Pages (www.ausom.net.au) and Members page (www.ausom.net.au/~userid) and it would be great to see them hosted on a Macintosh, rather than a PC running Unix. However, it is also capable of been a regular file server and performs this task quite well. Initial reports from the web suggest it well and truly out performs Windows NT 4.0 servers.
It is capable of “net-booting” iMac’s, which means that the iMac doesn’t need a hard drive and the System Folder, applications and data can all live on a file server, which makes administration and support a lot easier. A demonstration was given during Job’s Keynote speech of 50 iMac’s booting of a single G3 running MacOS X Server and all playing different video streams.
New Microsoft products
Microsoft shared a reasonable portion of time in Job’s Keynote speech to announce three new Macintosh products – Internet Explorer 4.5, Outlook Express 4.5 and a new website called MacTopia.
Internet Explorer doesn’t offer a huge list of new features – These are due in IE 5.0 due later this year. Instead it offers a number of enhancements and tweeks to improve the user experience.
The first enhancement I came across personally was the AutoFill option. This works very much the same as AutoFill found in Microsoft Word – You start typing a common word or phrase and it provides you with a suggestion. In the preferences, you have an entire section to fill in personal information like Firstname, Surname, email address, phone number, address and other information you are likely to fill in on a web form. The only one it is missing for me is a Fax number, but I just enter that as an entry in the Forms AutoComplete section.
The next enhancement is one that a lot of people how print information from the web will appreciate – Improved printing. It automatically scales to file the web page to fit to a single printer page, it provides a screen preview, it removes the background image and changes the text to black.
IE 4.5 launches a lot quicker than previously, but reports on the net have since stated that file downloads are a lot slower in IE 4.5.
The other feature I really like has also been borrowed from Microsoft Word (well, actually the entire Office 98 package) is the AutoRepair feature and the Drag and Drop installer. The AutoRepair is great after reinstalling your system software. The next time you run IE 4.5, it automatically re-installs its’ missing components into the relevant locations in the System Folder and doesn’t require a reboot. The Install process is just drag a clearly labels folder of the CD or the Self Mounting Image on to your hard drive and launch it. It then runs through the same function as the AutoRepair and you’re up and running.
IE 4.5 will also utilise MacOS 8.5 new Sherlock utility to search the Internet, but Sherlock must be in the standard Apple Menu Items folder for IE to use it. Seeing as I move all the Apple installed “Desk Accessory” type stuff into a separate sub-folder and haven’t bother to move Sherlock back, I haven’t tried this option yet, but reports are favourable about its’ integration.
Internet Explorer 4.5 requires a Power Macintosh.
MacTopia is Microsoft’s new Macintosh friendly web site. When I first read the announcement on the web, I checked it out and it looked very interesting. However, I didn’t spend much there at that stage as I had a lot more to read about other MacExpo announcements. Since then I have misplaced the URL for the site – Microsoft’s main page, www.microsoft.com, does not have a link to it, IE 4.5 doesn’t seem to have it listed on it’s toolbar, nor in the Favourites listing and the most obvious choices for the URL (www.mactopia.com or www.microsoft.com/mactopia) don’t work either, so I haven’t been able to go back and check this. No doubt once I finish this article, I’ll find it again and shoot myself for not realising what it was.
Out of the three Microsoft products announced in the Keynote Speech, Outlook Express 4.5, Microsoft’s Email and News client, received the least amount of promotion. In fact, it was glossed over in one sentence “in favour of time”, yet it seems the most popular of the three and is now very likely to take over from Claris Emailer and will give Eudora a very good run for its’ money.
Games on the Macintosh
With the new G3’s and iMac’s now shipping with ATI RAGE 128 video cards, with an unprecedented SIXTEEN Megs of VRAM, as standard, a number of software houses have released, and/or are planning on releasing within 90 days of MacExpo, a huge number of new game titles for the Macintosh.
Some of the many entertainment software vendors announcing or shipping new titles at Macworld include: Activision (Battlezone, Heretic 2, SIN, Zork Grand Inquisitor), Blizzard Entertainment (Starcraft), Bungie Software (Myth 2), Electronic Arts/Maxis (Sim City 3000), Gathering of Developers (Railroad Tycoon II, Fly!), GT Interactive/MacSoft (Dark Vengeance), Id Software (Quake 3: Arena, Quake II), LogicWare (Interstate 76, Jazz Jackrabbit 2), Microprose/MacSoft (Falcon 4, Klingon Honor Guard), Microsoft/MacSoft (Age of Empires), Mindscape (Creatures 2, Imperialism II), Red Storm Entertainment/MacSoft (Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six), and Sierra Software (Quest for Glory 5)
Apple and Silicon Graphics announced that OpenGL for Macintosh would be available late January. This is an industry standard programmer’s interface designed to develop graphic intensive applications like 3-D games. This will also apparently ease cross platform development of games, without degraded performance.
One of the most interesting announcements regarding games on the Macintosh was Connectix’s launch of its new Playstation Emulator, “Connectix Virtual Game System,” or VGS.
VGS is similar in concept to Connextix other well known emulator, Virtual PC, but is designed to take games intended for Sony’s Playstation and run them on your Macintosh. At the time of VGS’s launch, it was going to be interesting to see what Sony’s legal department had to say about the product. Now, two weeks later, the latest news is that Sony have looked at it and found that it does not infringe on anything of theirs, so there shouldn’t be any legal challenge over it. Also, it has been reported that VGS can use Playstation CD’s regardless of the area they were released in.
While VGS requires a 300Mhz G3 or greater to run and is reported to be unable to run every Playstation game, it does significantly increase, overnight, the number of games titles available to Macintosh users.
The initial speculation on costing was US$99, but at MacExpo it was available for US$49 where it was one of the hottest selling items. It is also rumoured that Apple may bundle VGS with the iMac in the future and we may see Virtual PC bundled with the G3’s again.
BTW: There are a number of other emulators available in the Emulator Folder inside MacGaming on AUSOM FirstClass, including Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, MegaDrive, Sega and Gameboy. I haven’t tried any of these myself, but perhaps someone will write a review of them for AUSOM News.
Other new Products
It was announced that over 1,300 software titles for Macintosh have been introduced by third-party software developers since iMac’s debut on May 6, 1998 and include popular titles such as: ACI US 4th Dimension; Adobe Photoshop 5.0 and Illustrator 8.0; AOL 4.0; Bungie Myth 2; Connectix VirtualPC 2.1 and Surf Express Deluxe; Disney Blast Online web site; Extensis Portfolio 4.0 Mac Server; FileMaker Pro 4.1; GoLive CyberStudio Personal Edition; GT Interactive/MacSoft Unreal; Id Software Quake 3: Arena; Insignia SoftWindows 98; Lucas Learning Star Wars DroidWorks; Macromedia Director 7.0 and DreamWeaver 2.0; Mattel Barbie Fashion Designer CD-ROM; MetaCreations Kai’s Power Tools Version 5, Kai’s Supergoo and Infini-D 4.5; Microsoft/MacSoft Age of Empires; Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.5 and Outlook Express 4.5; M.Y.O.B Accounting Plus; Netscape Navigator 4.08 and Communicator 4.5; Palm Desktop 2.1; SegaSoft Cosmopolitan Virtual Makeover; Simon & Schuster Starship Titanic; Symantec Norton Utilities; and Quark Immedia 1.5.
Still to come
(or what wasn’t released at MacExpo)
QuickTime 4.0 was expected to be announced, if not made available for release, but it appears there have been some last minute bugs discovered and the announcement now appears to be slated for MacWorld Toyko in a couple of months.
Apple’s new “consumer” entry level portable, code named as P1 and rumoured to ship with the name Apple WebMate. Apparently, Steve Job’s had two different prototypes which were made available for viewing to an extremely limited number of people. One story apparently had this “confirmed” by going through all the dumpmasters at the end of the show to see what “interesting” papers where discarded. Again, an announcement of some kind seems likely to happen at MacWorld Toyko.
MacOS 8.6 wasn’t expected to be announced, particularly so soon after the release of MacOS 8.5 and the updater 8.5.1, but rumors still circulated about the new features it is to include – namely support for the new FireWire cards, protected memory, additional themes, improved Quicktime (basically QT4.0) and Open Transport 2.0. A formal release is likely towards June or July.
The thing still missing from Apple is the appointment of a permanent Chief Executive Officer. Steve Jobs’ still has the title of Interim CEO. In fact, during his Keynote speech, he made mention of his new business cards, which shows him as iCEO, which is obviously a play on iMac. Whether this is a good thing or not remains to be seen. Most people seem to agree that Jobs has been doing a great job in streamlining Apple’s operations and focussing them in the right direction.
The Apple Store in Australia
During the second week of January, Apple Australia opened their own Online Apple Store, which allows you to order complete systems, including the new G3’s, iMac and PowerBooks, along with software and other peripherals like Epson printers. Interesting to notice that a lot of the links actually go to the Apple US site for the actual product information, which is actually a good sign in some ways as it means that we get the latest information, without having to wait for Apple Australia to update their pages.
The URL is http://www.apple.com.au/store, or you can click on the Apple Store button in the back tool bar at the bottom of every Apple Australia web page to jump straight there.
Delivery time is stated as 14 days from placing the order and while prices are set at about the standard RRP Apple lists the products, they do include delivery to anywhere in Australia, which for people in regional areas obtaining a brand new Macintosh with ease.
Metropolitan purchases can also benefit from the Apple Store by using it as a resource for determining what configuration you actually want, and what pricing to expect, before visiting your local dealer.
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