No Apple hardware announcements
A lot has happened in the Apple Macintosh world since I last reported on MacWorld (see the February 1999 issue of AUSOM News or my website)
At that stage we had the original iMac and B&W G3’s released. 12 months later these have been replaced with new and improved iMac models that include more RAM, better video and a DV player and the G3’s have being replaced with the funky “Graphite: G4’s. We’ve also had the release of the iBook.
The only quadrant in Apple’s new marketing strategy that has yet to be updated to the “new” specs (loss of SCSI, ADB, Serial etc in favour of USB and FireWire) is the Professional Laptop series and it was widely rumoured that these new machines would be launched at this MacWorld. Alas, this didn’t occur – The rumour mill now suggests that these have been delayed due shortages of parts like the LCD’s, caused by disruptions in Twain after the recent earthquakes, and we now expect a launch at either the Sybold – Boston (Feb 7-Feb 11) or MacWorld – Toyko (Feb 16-Feb 19) seminars held in February.
These delays in announcing the new laptops, which have a codename of “Prismo”, should be seen as a positive thing. Apple have obviously re-learnt the lesson of announcing products that they can’t deliver, particularly when they rely on other organisations outside their direct sphere of control – Look at the recent G4 processor supply problems. I am personally happy to wait another few weeks for the announcement and know that what they announce is what they can really ship.
So, if Apple didn’t have any hardware to announce, just what did Steve Jobs talk about for nearly two hours in his keynote speech.
MacOS X previewed
One thing we often forget is that Apple is the only company left now that handles both the hardware and software components of their systems and one of the Macintosh’s greatest attractions is the interface and ease of use of its’ operating system, MacOS. We know that Apple have been working on MacOS X for sometime – Last MacWorld they released MacOS X Server. This year, while they didn’t actually launch MacOS X Consumer, they did saw us a fairly good preview of the new interface it will sport.
MacOS X is based on the NextStep operating system Apple acquired when Steve Jobs returned to the fold. NextStep in turn has a solid Unix foundation, but both these interfaces aren’t really up to scratch with the current MacOS look and feel. Also the current MacOS look and feel is getting a long in the tooth. So Apple have improved it by introducing “Aqua”.
Aqua now supports high resolution, “richly-coloured and photo-quality” icons of up to 128×128 pixels. The Finder interface has been improved and introduces a “Single Window Mode” that allows you automatically hide unused windows as you open new one, reducing screen clutter. Another key feature introduced is the “Dock”, which sits at the bottom your screen and can hold up to 128 folders, applications, documents, hard drives, movies, windows, links to web sites – virtually anything you can think of, making it quick and easy to access commonly used things.
The Finder has being supplemented with the “File Viewer”, which gives three different methods to navigating your system – The traditional “Icons” and “List Views”, but these are maintained in a single window, rather than having to opening a splattering of windows and then the new “Column View” which lists the “root” folder then the contents of the current folder in columns, and finally showing a preview and other information about the selected file in the last column.
Despite these improvements, many familiar elements like scrollbars, windows, icons etc remain the same. There won’t be a big leap to feel at home with MacOS X, unlike Windows users who went from Windows 3.x to Windows 95 – they had a rather steep learning curve as many core interface items were changed.
MacOS X Consumer is expected for release in “Summer 2000” and many of the big names in software have already pledged support for it, including Adobe, Microsoft, Quark, Macromedia and ID Software, so expect to see a lot of new or updated software releases at about the same time.
While Steve didn’t actually show us the new improved AppleWorks, he did mention that it will be shipping in the US and Canada in February (I don’t know when it will ship in Australia, but no doubt it won’t be too far behind)
AppleWorks 6 sports a new improved interface that based on floating palettes with Tabs and Buttons.
The major change in AppleWorks 6 is the removal of the old Communications module and contrary to common rumour, it has not been replaced with ClarisEmailer (Although, I could see that as a suitable replacement module). Instead, they have added a Presentation module.
The Word Processor module has been updated to include a better form of tables (you now longer have to use a embedded spreadsheet), includes ten dictionaries and can simply create documents with multiple width columns. The Painting and Drawing modules have enhancements like access on-line templates and clip-art and text wrap around graphics. The spreadsheet module now has over 100 predefined functions. The database is effectively a striped down version of an earlier version of FileMaker Pro and is quite sufficient for most home and SOHO use. AppleWorks 6 now includes a macro language of its’ own for recording common tasks and tightly integrates QuickTime support in all modules to allow embedding of sound and movies.
Alliance with EarthLink ISP
The long rumoured “Apple Branded Internet Service” has virtually come true. While the product doesn’t have an Apple name to it, Apple has announced that they have invested US$200 Million in one of the US’s largest ISP’s, EarthLink. All future Macintosh and Apple Internet Starter Kit will be configured to connect you to EarthLink as the default ISP. Apple have also received a seat on EarthLink Board of Directors and have entered in to a multi-year alliance. Apple had also consider partnerships with America Online and Microsoft Network, but choose EarthLink because as Steve Jobs said “We wanted to make sure our customers have the best Internet access on the planet, and we wanted to partner with a company to make the setup and experience the easiest and best possible.”
New look Apple Website
Apple have revamped their US web site with a new navigation system which is nice and easy to use. It consists of tabs at the top of each page with links to the three most commonly accessed areas (The Apple Store, QuickTime and Support) and the three new sections (iReview, iTools and iCards).
iReview is a new section that reviews web sites. These reviews will be by both Apple staff and users can add their own comments. iCards is a rather cute feature that allows you to send electronic greeting cards to anyone with an email address. Unlike some other online greeting card sites, which only send an URL in an email and thus assumes that end receiver also has Web access (I know most people who have an email address also have web access, but many company firewalls do not allow web access and AUSOM FirstClass users have an email address, but no web access) the card is a standard graphic that can be read in virtually all common graphic email clients like Outlook Express or Eudora.
The final section, iTools, will ultimately have a number of features, but the four initial Tools are “KidSafe”, Email, iDisk and HopePage. KidSafe is designed as an Internet Security program that takes the opposite, and probably much smarter, approach to most internet security software by only allowing access to approved sites, which at the moment lists over approved 50,000 sites. KidSafe is designed to work with MacOS 9 and greater. Email is in the form of a free email address under the domain of @mac.com. The mail to and from this site can be access through any standard email client. iDisk is a 20 meg “hard drive” that can be accessed from any internet account and can also be used to share data with others and is “as easy to use as using a folder on your Mac Desktop” – If you remember the way AUSOM Premium Access users could access their web page directory from the Chooser in MacOS 8.5 and greater, than you’ll get the idea of how iDisk works. The last tool is HomePage, which allows you to build you own personal web site in three steps in under 10 minutes. The resulting page is hosted on Apple’s own server.
All the iTools options require MacOS 9 or greater and can be accessed from any service provider, but for some reason, Apple now recommend you use EarthLink :-).
The biggest, and most welcome, surprise was the announcement that after nearly two years without one, Apple have finally found a permanent CEO – Steve Jobs. Steve has decided that he can know take on both the CEO roles of Apple and Pixar. Steve will retain the title “iCEO” because he likes the sound of it, but it now stands for Internet, rather than Interim.
Microsoft previewed Internet Explorer 5.0, which again includes some Macintosh only features and will be released by March. Corel Draw 8 LE for Macintosh was released for free to all PowerMac users (go to – But be warned it is over 50megs in size for the MacBinary version and over 70 for the BinHex version, but as it is sitting on a Unix FTP server, the transfer can be resumed using a program like Transmit).
Alsoft released Disk Warrior 2.0, which has a new DiskShield module to provide continuous protection for disks. It can display the amount of fragmentation and if you purchase DW2.0 on Cd, it includes a free copy of PlusOptimizer.
Aladdin Systems announced DropZip, a compression utility for creating Zip files on a Macintosh and IntelliNews, an information delivery program that provides access to news, weather, sports and more from a single location without having to hunt around the internet.
Philips demonstrated their MacSpeech, a speech recognition package. Farallon announced price drops on their “Airport compatible” SkyLINE cards and new versions of their HomeLINE network cabling solutions.
Viacom previewed new versions of their SoftRouter Plus and Internet Gateway products.
Epson announced FireWire based printers and Hewlett Packard are going to provide Macintosh scanners.
Adobe announced InProduction which is aimed at highend professional printers.
Back here in Australia
So what do Apple’s announcement mean to us here in Australia? The formal announcement with EarthLink adds a lot of weight to the rumour that Apple is looking to partner in a major with a large ISP here in Australia in a similar vein. The rumour mill suggests it will Optus Internet, as Apple already pre-configure Australian releases of the MacOS with Optus Internet as the default ISP and OptusWorld stores recently started selling iMacs and iBooks. If this pans out, it will great news as Optus have also just announced, and by the time you read this, started to roll out their Cable service – Optus@Home (see separate article about this).
As to if we’ll see @mac.com.au, I doubt it at this stage. That domain name is owned, and has been for a number of years, by an Apple reseller in Penrith, Mountain Apple Computers. A couple of my friends have worked there and they are also a very small ISP in their region. Still, if Apple were to offer them enough money for it, or allow them to upgrade to a full AppleCentre, they may release it.
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