Since the return of Steve Jobs to Apple Computer Inc a couple of years ago as iCEO, the MacWorld Expo’s have grown in popularity as Apple now uses them almost exclusively to launch new or updated product ranges. These announcements are normally made during a Keynote speech, by Jobs’ himself, that opens the show and this year’s MacWorld Expo New York was no exception with major changes to product lineups.
As with the PC/IT shows here in Australia, there is a huge exhibitors hall where both hardware and software developers promote their Macintosh related products. Exhibitors include big names like Adobe, Aladdin Systems, Epson America, MacroMedia, and Microsoft, as well as small, almost “unknown” developers like Sustainable Softworks Inc (who produce IPNetRouter) Thursby Software (who produce PC Network Connectivity software DAVE). Even “websites” like VersionTracker and Macworld had a presence.
Apart from the Keynote and the Exhibitors there also two streams of presentations – Pro and User. The Pro stream is aimed Macintosh network managers and administrators, digital video and streaming media content creators and deployers, art/graphic directors and AppleScripters, while the Users stream is geared towards small business owners, educators, musicians, and computer technicians who rely on Apple products. Topics covered included: Digital Video and Streaming Media featuring QuickTime and Final Cut Pro, Networking and Communications, Internet computing, web design and email, Digital Photography, Music Creation and Production, Mac OS (9.x and X), PhotoShop, Filemaker, InDesign, Quark and Consumer Video with iMovie.
New “Pro” Mouse and Keyboard
The first announcement made was the introduction of a new style mouse and keyboard. Both will replace the “puck” style mouse and mini keyboard currently shipping with current Apple Systems. The new mouse will no longer use a ball and roller mechanism, but rather an optical system, which will give greater precision and reliability on virtually any surface. The button concept has radically changed, by having the entire upper surface acting as the button.
As Jobs said “[Apple] are going from what some people think is the worse mouse in the industry, to what [Apple] thinks is the best mouse in the industry”. He is correct about the first point, and so far reports by those privileged enough to have played with one, the second point also seem true.
The 108-key Apple Pro Keyboard now features full-size cursor keys, rather than the 1/3 sized ones on existing Apple USB keyboards. There are 15 full-size programmable function keys that can be can used to assign tasks like launching commonly used applications. The Apple Pro Keyboard now also comes with full-sized Page Up and Down, Home and End, Insert and Forward-Delete keys, plus the Power key also doubles for ejecting CDs or DVDs.
For those wanting to replace their existing “puck” and/or keyboard, you’ll be able to purchase in September for $99 each, but apparently only through the Apple Store.
Multi-processor G4 Desktops
Since WWDC a few months ago, we all knew that Multi-Processor G4’s were on the way, but most of us didn’t expect to see them announced nor ship until the January 2001 MacWorld, where we expect MacOS X to be released. So when the next announcement in the Keynote came, it was a very pleasant surprise – the G4/450 and G4/500 models are now both contain two Processor’s and better still they retain exactly the same price as the previous equivalent single processor models – $4,995 & $6,995 respectively. The G4/400 remains a single processor machine with a $3,195 price tag.
All models have also had the based hard drive sized increased to 20Gig for the G4/400, 30gig for the G4/450 and 40gig for the G4/500.
Apple has also introduced 1000BaseT, or Gigabit Ethernet, as standard on all three models.
The only concern some people have with the new multi-processor machines is that there is not much software currently available that supports the dual processors, just a few specialised applications like Adobe Photoshop. MacOS X is expected to bring full support and utilisation, but this is not expected for general release for another six months.
iMac Range Expanded
As mentioned in my preamble, improvements to the iMac range were expected and we weren’t disappointed. A total of seven new models were announced.
The base model, known as just “iMac” still uses a 350MHz G3 processor, has a CD-ROM, rather than a DVD Player, doesn’t support VGA video mirror, nor is it AirPort capable. It does however sport a new colour scheme – Indigo, a rich blue colour. It also sports a new, lower price tag – only $1,595.
The next range is the “iMac DV” and gone are the “fruity” flavours. Instead we have Indigo and Ruby, a rich red. Although, the iMac DV has “DV” in its’ name, it loses a DVD player in favour of a cheaper CD-ROM drive, so the DV in its’ name comes from supporting the creation of DV movies using the bundled iMovie software and the built-in FireWire ports. The positive side is the extremely reasonable price tag of only $1,995 for a 400Mhz G3, plus it is AirPort ready and supports video mirroring.
There is now a fourth iMac model, called the “iMac DV+”, which is available in Indigo, Ruby and Sage, a rich dark green and costs $2495. The DV+ has a 20gig hard drive, DVD-ROM drive and a 450Mhz processor.
The final member of the iMac is the “iMac DV Special Edition” which includes a 30gig hard drive, DVD-ROM and supports video mirroring and will accept an AirPort card. While many people expected the enhancement to the “SE” would be the first iMac to use a G4 processor, at this stage, it isn’t.
Rather it is the fastest ever G3 processor at 500Mhz at only $2,995. The surprise in this model is the introduction of a new colour scheme – Snow, (white). Graphite is still available for those who wish to colour co-ordinate with their G4 desktop.
Although Apple had previously committed to a September release of the MacOS X “public beta” at the WWDC, some expected to see Apple actually release the beta in New York, or at least announce it would ship in the weeks following MacWorld. When the Multi-Processor G4’s were announced, this seemed even more likely. Alas, this neither was to eventuate. Instead, Jobs’ just re-confirmed Apple’s commitment to the September release and demonstrated the new Aqua interface. He also confirmed that MacOS X would offer full support of the G4 multi-processors.
iMovie 2’s new features include:
- A richer, more intuitive user interface that provides visual feedback during the editing process so beginners can create Hollywood style movies complete with voice-overs, musical scores, transitions, titles and credits;
- An added effects panel that allows users to change the characteristics of their video clips so they can, for example, make them look like old films using a sepia tone or black and white, give them a soft focus or a water ripple effect;
- New and improved capabilities that give users more control over audio in the editing process. With iMovie 2, users can, for example, now overlay one or more secondary video clips over a primary video clip, while preserving the continuous audio track from the primary clip.
iMovie 2.0 will ship, pre-installed, on all new iMac DV’s, the G4 Cube and G4 Systems. It will be available through the Apple Storeat the end of August for US$49 for those with older machines and a minor update, iMovie 2.0.1, has already been released to provide full compatibility with the new machines.
Although not announced in Jobs’ keynote, users of Apple iTools service were advised via email that a number of enhancements had been implemented including new templates, better photo/image organisation and more high quality images been made available for use on users’ web pages. Users can also purchase additional storage space for only US$1 per megabtye in 50meg, 100meg, 200meg and 400meg increments.
In typical Jobs’ fashion, the biggest announcement was left until last – the introduction of a new section into Apple’s “Quadrant” marketing strategy – The PowerMac G4 Cube, a supercomputer shrunk into an eight-inch cube, suspended in a stunning crystal-clear enclosure.
Depending on the model they either have a single 450Mhz or 500Mhz G4 processor, 64meg or 128meg RAM, and a 20Gig or 30Gig Hard drives. Both models have DVD-ROM player, 10/100BaseT ethernet, RAGE 128 Pro Graphics and 56k internal modem, two PC100 DIMM slots (supporting up to 1.5 Gig of RAM), two 12Mbps USB ports, 2 400Mbps FireWire ports. The 450Mhz is $3495 and the 500Mhz is $4495.
The price range the Cube has been placed in is interesting. Many of us expected them to fit right in between the iMac and “regular” G4 systems, but with the greater expansibility of the G4/ 400 with its’ three PCI slots, extra drive bays and Gigabit ethernet, many may feel that the extra $300 for the “cute case” and an extra 50MHz in processor speed is not worth the extra expense. While for an extra $200 more than the 450Mhz cube, you can purchase a multi-processor 450Mhz G4 system with the PCI slots and Gigabit ethernet. It will be interesting to see how sales compare between the Cube’s and “regular” G4’s. It appears that the G4 Cube is aimed to be a desktop machine for “business” use. Which is interesting when you consider Colbat and Gateway also produce “Cube-style” machines that are designed to be “plug-and-play” internet and/or file servers. This is the market I had hoped that Apple were going to aim their Cube at, but with only 10/100BaseT ethernet rather than the Gigabit ethernet now standard on the “regular” G4 systems, this doesn’t seem likely.
Three new monitors were also announced – The Apple Studio Display 17 has a 16″ viewable screen and is only $995. The Apple Studio Display (15.1″ Flat-Panel) is $1995 while the Apple Cinema Display (22″ Flat-Panel) is $7995.
All three monitors now support the new Apple Display Connector (ADC) that carries the video, USB and power in one single cable reducing cable clutter and are designed to work with the new PowerMac G4’s and G4 Cubes.
Microsoft Office 2001
In recent years, Microsoft have had a few minutes during Steve’s Keynote to promote some new offering to the Macintosh world. This time it was to demonstrate “the most Mac-like product from Microsoft since Word 5.1”, the recently announced Microsoft Office 2001, which has now been confirmed for release in September of this year.
Bungie and MS Games
Microsoft’s Vice-President of Games, also took great lengths to ease people’s concerns about Microsoft’s recent purchase of Bungie software. Microsoft has committed to the release of Halo on the Macintosh and that “virtually all Microsoft’s games, including those from Bungie, would come to the Mac”. Does this mean we also get Solitaire, FreeCell and Hearts as well 🙂
Mattel demonstrated Myst III: Exile, Blizzard Entertainment announced Warcraft III is expected by the end of next year and should retail for US$55 and MacSoft announced a number of new products including Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption and Beach Head 2000.
Rumors leading up to MacWorld?
In the weeks leading up to there was much speculation on what would announced – New iMac’s were a certainty, but details weren’t clear. Multi-Processor G4’s weren’t expected until later in the year. Some though MacOS X Beta would be given away to attendees (instead they all received the new Mouse”.
The most interesting were about the “Cube”, which were disbelieved initially as “wild fantasy and speculation”. However, in the final days these were given credence with a few rumour sites actually obtaining exact details images. Apple quickly issued legal notices that this information to be withdrawn, or face legal action. All the sites I visited complied with these requests to withdraw, but it was interesting to note how divided Mac Users’ were over these “legal wranglings”. Some said that it was just an attempt by Apple to focus our attention on the wrong things so, that come Keynote time, we would be completely surprised by what they really had in store for us. Others criticised Apple for their “strong arm” tactics against the web site operators and instead Apple should have gone after those who “leaked” the information in the first place. There were those that supported Apple in their actions and believe that Apple were well within their rights to protect their “intellectual property”.
Personally, I enjoyed reading the rumors, but believe that Apple have the right to announce products at their own pre-determined time to benefit from maximum marketing exposure through the correct channels and with totally factual data and they should protect that right.
See it all at AUSOM
Sean Mitchell of Apple Computer Australia will be at the August AUSOM Meeting to tell us about the latest offerings from Apple.
Saturday August 5th
Box Hill TAFE, Elgar Road Campus
Cnr Whitehorse & Elgar Roads, Box Hill
Seats are extremely limited, so be sure to arrive early to ensure your place
A copy of this article, with colour images, is available from my website, https://www.nicholaspyers.com.
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