Macworld Expo New York 2000 Wrap-up
If you’re reading this, then I did indeed find my way back to Penn Station, completing my first trip to Macworld since the 1997 show in Boston. By now, you’re probably sick and tired of reading the seemingly endless press releases on new products that were announced at the show, so I considered not even mentioning the new products. Then I realized, that would make for a fairly pointless article. So what I finally decided on is what you get here: some weird combination of what’s new, my experiences at the show, and a few editorial comments thrown in on my part. I also brought back some photographs, which can be found in ATPM’s Macworld gallery. Enjoy!
First of all, New York is definitely different than Boston was in ’97. For starters, there was shuttle from the train station to the show. Yes, the Javits Center is only a few blocks from Penn Station, but this was my first trip into the Javits Center and there were some moments of consternation as I tried to figure out exactly how I was going to the Expo, not to mention avoiding the adult video store across the street from the station.
Second of all, you could definitely tell the difference between the show in Boston with PowerComputing and this year’s without the former clone maker. Don’t get me wrong—with the benefit of hindsight, killing the clones was the proper decision for the time. Unfortunately, this significantly reduced the odds of an ATPM staff member (this year, that would be me) winning a free computer.
New Mouse and Keyboard
At last year’s keynote address, Apple showed that they know how to laugh, when Noah Wyle, of ER and Pirates of Silicon Valley fame, walked out on stage playing the role of Steve Jobs. This year, Apple showed that they know how to listen to their users.
The keynote started with Jobs announcing a new Pro keyboard and mouse that would ship with all new Macintosh desktop models. The keyboard features virtually the same layout of arguably Apple’s best keyboard, the Apple Extended Keyboard II. The only changes are the addition of four keys for controlling the CD/DVD drives that ship with the computer.
The new mouse is also quite impressive. It is an optical mouse, so it has no moving parts. Furthermore, the standard mouse button has been eliminated. Now, the entire front half of the mouse clicks. At first, I was concerned that it would be easy to inadvertently click the button while moving it around. After using the mouse for a few minutes, I don’t think this will be a problem.
The new keyboard and mouse aren’t perfect, however. The biggest problem with the mouse is that it still uses a single button. I have larger issues with the Pro Keyboard. Although the keyboard looks like an Apple Extended Keyboard, it still has the mushy keys of the keyboard that debuted with the iMac. I use one of these keyboards at work and have noticed that key presses don’t always register. It seems like you need to press each key a certain way or it won’t work. If Apple has fixed this in the Pro Keyboard, then I might be able to live with the mushiness of the keys. If not, I will continue to use my third-party keyboard.
Although some users may be unhappy with the new Pro Keyboard and Mouse, I think Apple made the correct decision designing the ultimate mouse and keyboard combo. When the iMac first appeared, there were very few USB devices. Furthermore, none of these devices looked like they belonged next to an iMac. Companies like MacAlly and ContourDesign quickly filled this void with iMac styled hubs, cables, keyboards, mice, and mouse adaptors. Yes, these companies made good money on these devices, but they also helped the iMac in its successful debut by making sure that you could use your computer for more than a pretty paperweight.
Many new users will be happy with the new devices, though power users may want more. These people will go to companies such as MacAlly and ContourDesign. Had Apple released a two or three-button optical mouse and the ultimate USB keyboard, it would have seriously harmed, if not destroyed, the peripheral makers who contributed to Apple’s success. The new Apple seems to be learning that you need to play nice with the companies that contribute to your success. In the short run, it may cost some sales (for instance, I purchased a MicroConnectors keyboard instead of ordering the Pro Keyboard), but in the long run it will turn out better for both Apple and Macintosh users.
The new iMacs look good. The new colors are bolder than the older colors. Also, by limiting the number of colors, Apple may be making the iMac more appealing to retailers. For those who can remember back to the Best Buy fiasco, the main issue was that Best Buy did not want to carry all five “flavors” for fear that one or two wouldn’t sell.
Two of the New iMacs
The two low-end iMacs, the iMac and the iMac DV, aren’t that different from the previous offerings. In fact, the new iMac DV is a downgrade on the old iMac DV in that the DVD drive has been replaced by a CD drive. The big change, aside from the colors (indigo for the iMac, indigo and ruby for the iMac DV) is the price drop. The iMac now sells for $799, making it the lowest-priced iMac ever. The iMac DV has been reduced to $999, making it the least expensive Macintosh with built-in digital video capabilities.
The iMac DV+, in indigo, ruby, and sage, essentially takes the place of the old iMac DV, although the processor is now 450MHz. It is priced at $1299. The only big change is in the iMac DV SE. Available in graphite, the only color to survive into the new generation, and snow, it features a 500 MHz G3 processor, 128 MB of RAM, and a 30 GB hard drive. Even though all this has been added, the DV SE still retains the same price of $1499.
New Power Macs
At first glance, it doesn’t seem that much has changed in the high-end G4s. For starters, the processor speeds remain the same—400 MHz, 450 MHz, and 500 MHz. However, the 450 MHz and 500 MHz models now feature dual processors. Also, the 10/100 Ethernet port has been supplanted by a gigabit (10/100/1000) Ethernet port on the motherboard. Typically, this is a $1000 option on high-end servers; this is the first time it has been offered standard on a consumer machine.
Finally, the hard drive sizes have been increased to 20 GB, 30 GB, and 40 GB on the 400 MHz, 450 MHz, and 500 MHz machines, respectively. Even with these changes, the prices will remain the same: $1599 for the 400 MHz model, $2499 for the 450 MHz, and $3499 for the high end 500 MHz machine.
Power Mac G4 Cube with Cinema Display
Of course, the most stunning product announcement was the introduction of the Power Mac G4 Cube. Measuring 8" x 8" x 8" and housed in a clear rectangular case, it is the possibly the smallest desktop machine to ever ship. Even if it isn’t, it still represents the first time this much power has been packed into a box this small. It includes a top mounted DVD drive that bears a scary resemblance to a toaster when a disk is sticking out. Also, it comes standard with either a 450 MHz or 500 MHz G4 processor, either 64 of 128 MB of RAM, either a 20 GB or 30 GB hard drive, and 10/100 Ethernet. 1000Base-T is an BTO option available later in September.
No doubt, the Cube looks beautiful, but I sincerely wonder who it is aimed at. At $1799 for the 450 MHz model and $2299 for the 500 MHz model, it comes close to the price range of the higher-end G4s. Perhaps Apple’s plans will become clearer as we get closer to the Cube’s September release date.
Down on the Floor
Yeah, its fun to see what Apple has to offer at Expo time, but the fact is you know something’s going to be coming. It’s like those people who complain that they watched the keynote and learned that the computer they bought three weeks ago had been replaced by a newer machine at the same price. If you know enough about Apple to watch the keynote, you know Steve Jobs will be introducing something new. The real fun of the Expo is the experience of being on the floor.
Like I said earlier, this was my first Macworld Expo since 1997. That show was an interesting show—it was the beginning of the end for Mac cloning, it was the last show in Boston (though we didn’t know that at the time), and it was the beginning of Apple’s miraculous turnaround. Between the first day and the second day of the show, the stock price went from around $13 to around $25.
Obviously, when companies were booking space at that show, they didn’t know Apple was starting to turn itself around. Very few large, cross-platform companies were at the show. Off the top of my head, there was Adobe, Microsoft, and Symantec. Many smaller developers were present, including commercial developers (such as Bare Bones Software) and shareware developers.
Fast-forward to 2000. In addition to the three large developers mentioned above, other newly cross-platform companies made an appearance at Macworld. 3dfx was demonstrating its new Voodoo5 card. IBM was showing off ViaVoice. Creative was at its first Macworld exhibiting its Nomad line of MP3 players, its Sound Blaster Live audio card, and the WebCam. Also, I noticed a lot of e-commerce providers setting up shop at the Expo; perhaps this means we will be seeing Macs used in more e-commerce solutions.
Although it was nice to see newer companies displaying at Macworld, several other developers were noticeably absent. That list included the aforementioned Bare Bones Software, REAL Software, and FWB. Also, very few shareware companies were able to purchase booth space at this year’s show, which really is too bad.
For those who don’t know the Javits Center, the floor of the Expo was really divided into two areas. Unlike the Boston shows, which were split between two buildings, there was no line that indicated larger booths on one side and smaller booths on the other. For instance, Adobe and Microsoft were on one side while IBM was on the other. Apple had its display on the side with Adobe and Microsoft but set up various pavilions (music, consumer, education, etc.) on the other side.
The showroom floor was decidedly packed. At times, I found it difficult to get from point A to point B because of the crowds. Although frustrating at times, this is a good thing. Although I would have liked to float freely and talk to whoever I wanted whenever I wanted, it’s a better sign for Apple that the bodies were packed tight.
Another thing that I noticed was that the show was nowhere near as loud as my last Expo. In Boston, various booths actively riled up the crowds. At one point, the PowerComputing and LinoColor booths had chants of “PowerComputing Rocks!” and “We Kid You Not!” going across an aisle-way.
This year, there was none of that nonsense. No trash-talking, no cross-aisle chanting. It was a bit disappointing, really. The closest anybody came to saying anything was Adobe referring to a competitors program as, “…that other program.” I’m not sure what application the rep was referring to, but I think he was demoing LiveMotion, so he was likely talking about Macromedia Flash.
Finally, one of the great things about going to the Expo is getting free stuff. In past years, I used the freebies to justify the cost of the show—“Yes, it cost $25 to get in, but I got at least twice that much in free stuff.” Let’s just say that it was a good thing I had gotten a free pass to this year’s show. It used to be the case that companies would give you a T-shirt or something for coming within five feet of their booths. This year, companies were much more frugal. At first, Ambrosia would only give you a shirt if you ate a bug. MusicMatch tossed some T-shirts to the crowd, but only a handful of people got them at the time. All told, I walked out with a rubber bug, two plastic balls, a rubber hockey puck, a pen, an “I hate PCs” pin, a download calculator, and a bunch of magazines. What a depressing bounty. On the other hand, I almost had my left thumb ripped off by a flying Ambrosia CD.
Let the Games Begin
Ok, now we get to the fun stuff—games! The last time I went to Macworld, gaming wasn’t a major focus. Motorola was running a racing competition on their StarMax clones and Bungie was present, but that was about it. At that show, the only thing I bought was a $10 solitaire game for my mother. There wasn’t much available beyond that or the Marathon series; that should give you an idea of how slim the offerings really were in that department.
This year was quite different. Both MacSoft and Aspyr had booths set up and were selling games, including some of the newer offerings like The Sims, Driver (pre-order only), and Deus Ex. Blizzard also had a good-size booth where they were showing and selling Diablo II, as well as announcing that Warcraft III would be released for the Macintosh. Finally, GraphSim was present and showing their newest port, Baldur’s Gate.
The hub of the Mac gaming world at Macworld was easily the 3dfx booth. Along with demoing the Voodoo5 graphics card, the booth had computers set up where attendees could try out new games like the previously mentioned The Sims, Deus Ex, and Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. Also available to salivate over were pre-release games such as Rune, Driver and Oni. Without 3dfx, several games would not have seen the Expo floor as their developers or publishers had no plans to purchase booth space at the show. 3dfx definitely is showing that it wants in on the potentially lucrative Mac gaming market.
Nectar of the Gods?
No mention of the 3dfx booth would be complete without at least a passing reference to what occurred between 2:00 and 2:30 PM on each day of the show. At last year’s Expo, Ambrosia’s Jason Whong said he would eat real bugs at this year’s show if any Ambrosia product shipped in the following fall, winter, or spring containing bugs. No sooner had he said that than Ambrosia’s next product shipped and several bugs were discovered by users.
For a short while, there was some question as to how Jason would keep up his end of the bargain—you see, Ambrosia had no presence planned at this year’s show, and furthermore Jason had since left Ambrosia to become Assistant Product Manager at Green Dragon Creations. Well, 3dfx stepped in and brought Jason and Ambrosia together for this special culinary opportunity. Each day, Jason ate three courses of bugs. I was only present for the second day, but we were informed that Jason had indeed thrown up that morning, and he was fairly sure it wasn’t alcohol-related as he’d had very little to drink the night before. Thursday’s menu opened with mealworm stir-fry, followed up by cockroach (including leftover hissing cockroach from the previous day), and finished off with a dessert of tarantula.
Jason Whong Dines on Mealworm Stir-Fry
To give Jason’s palette a chance to recover, Ambrosia demoed two of their upcoming releases between the courses. First was Pop-Pop, which can only be described as Tetris meets Breakout, with a little animé and thumping music thrown in for kicks. Second was Ragnorak. There really wasn’t much to be shown at this point—the terrain engine is done, however, and it looks great. Before the name of the game was revealed, I heard several people saying “Is that Halo?” Ragnorak should be out around the end of the year.
On a side note: if you’re disappointed that you missed Jason’s show at Macworld this year, you might not be out of luck. During the demo of Ragnorak, a bug reared its ugly head, so you might want to start planning for next year.
Also, I wonder if it’s too late to have Judge Jackson make an addition to his ruling. Personally, I believe that whenever a Microsoft product ships with a bug, whoever ordered it to ship must eat an insect for each bug found. Call me crazy, but had Microsoft used this tactic throughout its history, I’m willing to bet product quality would have been much higher—who knows, Windows users might never have seen the infamous Blue Screen of Death.
While on the topic of Microsoft, I think it’s important to note how much the Macintosh world has changed since 1997. For those who don’t know the story, Bill Gates appeared on the giant screen behind Steve Jobs to announce that Microsoft would produce Office for the Mac for at least the next five years. To put it lightly, Gates was not greeted warmly. This year, when the Microsoft rep walked on stage to talk about Office 2001, there was actually some applause.
I can honestly say I’m not impressed by what I saw of Office 2001. I watched the demo in the keynote, then I sat through a longer demo the next day. Yeah, the interface is cleaner and more Mac-like—for instance, control-clicking finally brings up the contextual menu. Hiring the guys from The Iconfactory was another nice step.
Aside from these improvements, there’s nothing making me say “I’ve gotta have that!” Entourage could be useful, but it’s really Microsoft Outlook for the Mac. Nothing in Word jumped out at me. Excel finally has some list management tools, but the biggest improvement seems to be in PowerPoint. In 2001, you’ll be able to save your slide show as a QuickTime movie, allowing virtually anybody to view it.
Thankfully, the file formats in 2001 will be the same as the formats in 98 for the Mac and 97 and 2000 for the PC. If you are happy with 98, you can continue to use it without fear of losing compatibility with those with whom you exchange files. Microsoft is trying to improve cross-platform compatibility, though. The new version will include a check box to automatically append the three-letter DOS extension to the end of the file name. If this option could be turned on by default, it could make life much simpler in cross-platform environments.
Things almost turned very ugly very quickly following the Office demo. The next person brought on stage was Microsoft’s Vice President of Gaming, Ed Freis. Freis announced that Microsoft would begin to port many of its games to Mac. Then he mentioned that many of the people in attendance knew that Microsoft had purchased Bungie to secure Halo for Xbox. Had Freis uttered something along the line of “Halo will not be coming out for the Mac,” or the words “Halo is going to be an Xbox-only title,” I don’t think he would have gotten off the stage alive. It would have made ’97 look like a standing ovation. Fortunately for both Freis and the Macintosh games world, he brought Bungie’s co-founder, Alexander Seropian, on stage. Seropian announced that Halo would in fact be available for the Macintosh. On that note, Freis was allowed to live.
Demos, Demos Everywhere…
…but not a beta in sight. To the disappointment of many, myself included, Jobs announced that Mac OS X beta would ship in September. Now, before anybody starts screaming “It’s slipping!,” recall that Apple promised a beta “in the summer” and that September is still in summer. Many of us hoped we’d be able to pick up a copy at the show, but it just wasn’t to be.
Thankfully, we were able to get our fix of X with the numerous demo stations Apple had set up around their area. In demoing the next generation OS, Apple was also highlighting their new monitor offerings; the demos were running on G4s attached to the new 22" and 15" LCD displays and the new 17" CRT display. Let me just say that Aqua looks like it was designed to be run on these machines. I’ve been looking for an excuse to get a larger monitor on my personal system. I just never dreamed it would be “…but beige clashes with my menu bar!” Let me add this side note—you may have seen the pictures of the older 22" Cinema Display in magazines, but you won’t realize the true size of the picture till you see it in action. My first reaction was “Wow.” Strangely enough, that was also my second and third reactions.
Aqua looks great. I’ve seen the pictures, but until you’ve seen it up close and personal, you don’t know what you’re missing. When I first read about Aqua after its introduction, my initial thought was “What the hell are they thinking?!?” I’d mellowed a bit since, but almost all of my doubts vanished when I saw the demo in action. It’s still a little odd seeing a text menu at the left side of the menu bar. The dock still leaves some things to be desired. Apple is definitely making some improvements as the public beta draws nearer, though. For instance, the disclosure triangles, which were absent from earlier versions of the OS, are back.
One tidbit an Apple employee told me was that dragging a disk to the trash could go the way of System 7’s “Publish and Subscribe” feature. Over the life of the Mac OS, the dragging of disks to the trash has been the #1 complaint of users. The contextual menu and the keyboard may become the only way to eject disks. Personally, I think its a good thing that new users will be encouraged to use other methods, as dragging a disk to the trash is counter-intuitive. However, some of us have been doing it this way for over ten years. The old functionality should remain for those set in their ways. Furthermore, if Apple changes it so that dragging to the trash erases a disk, it will, at least temporarily, confuse scores of long-time users.
We’ve about a month or so until the public beta. It is possible that aspects of OS X will change before it gets into our hands. I liked what I saw at the Expo and I think it will be interesting to see how the software looks when Apple makes it available to the general public.
Odds and Ends
Well, there are always those portions of an Expo that really don’t fit into any given category, but they’re really too good not to mention. I guess the first thing would be ATI’s monumental screw-up on the Tuesday before the keynote. In case you didn’t hear, ATI spilled the beans that there would be at least two new G4s and one new iMac. Now Steve Jobs doesn’t like it when people spoil his surprises. The end result was that ATI was persona non grata when it came to Apple. For the first time in several years, there are other companies (3dfx and nVidia) saying they want in on OEM deals with Apple. ATI doesn’t need to give Apple any reasons to look towards its competitors.
Come to think of it, this could be the best thing ATI’s done for Mac users in years…
Eric Blair, your faithful reporter
I finally had a chance to meet somebody who worked on a piece of software I’ve reviewed—Rusty Little of Alsoft (see ATPM 6.03 for the review of DiskWarrior 2.0). We talked for a while, and he shared an amusing tidbit with me. Seems Apple announced that there would be live music at the annual developer bash during the Expo. In my experience, the nondescript “live music” usually means a local band, and I’m sure there are plenty of those around New York City. Apparently, Apple’s love for secrets extend to party planning, because the “live music” turned out to be Smash Mouth. You know, there are times I really want to be a developer!
The award for coolest display goes to Intego, makers of NetBarrier, reviewed last month. Intego’s display was a huge green rook that reached to the ceiling. The rook contained a monitor where Intego’s software was demoed. Unfortunately, my camera died while the rook was still on my list of photos to take, so I can’t share it with you. However, I have a feeling the sheer size of it would have been lost in the translation.
And finally, the hit product of the show could end up being Rewind, from Power On Software. Rewind is a utility that stores the most recent actions on your computer and lets you undo any action. You don’t know how many times I’ve wished for something like this, including the first time I accidentally replaced an application with a folder. Power On has had several popular and successful utilities from its Action line and it looks like it could have another winner here. This application could end up as the next “must-have” utility for the Mac, especially with the scores of new users the iMac has brought to the platform.
Well, that’s about it from the floor of the Expo. I’d say it was definitely a positive note to mark the final Macworld New York of the millennium. See you at next year’s show!
Also in This Series
- Macworld Expo 2009 · February 2009
- National Association of Broadcasters Convention 2004 · May 2004
- O’Reilly Mac OS X Conference 2003 · December 2003
- Mac Expo 2003 (London) · December 2003
- MacFest 2003 · June 2003
- National Association of Broadcasters Convention 2003 · May 2003
- Apple Expo Paris 2002 · October 2002
- Macworld Expo New York 2002 Wrap-up · August 2002
- IPEX 2002—Birmingham NEC · May 2002
- Complete Archive