Another Year, Another Macworld: New York 2001
“Blah.” For the past few days, that has been my answer to the question, “What did you think of Macworld?” This was my fourth Expo, and I don’t remember feeling so uninspired walking off the show floor at any of the previous shows. Granted, I’ve gotten to see some pretty impressive things in the past—the birth of the Cube and the beginning of the end of Mac cloning (hey, they both seemed like good ideas at the time). Then again, there was also my first Macworld, where I missed my train and failed to connect with fellow ATPM-er Evan Trent. I had hoped that rocky start would be the worst show I experienced, but this year’s Expo managed to claim that dubious honor.
Obviously, Macworld begins with Apple. Steve “Pavlov” Jobs has trained the Mac faithful to expect new and wonderful things every January and July at his semi-annual Macworld keynotes (with the keynote at Macworld Tokyo taking on more significance in recent years). With both the PowerBook and iBook lines being significantly updated within the past eight months, all eyes were on Apple’s desktop systems, the Power Macintosh G4 and the iMac.
New Power Macs
Just as beige gave way to blue and white, which in turn yielded to graphite, the time came for graphite’s retirement from the Pro line. Replacing graphite is the new QuickSilver.
The new QuickSilver G4 paired with the 17" Studio Display
QuickSilver really is a fitting name for the new systems, for two reasons. The obvious reason is the color. The QuickSilver Power Macintosh G4 has silver-grey tone. The system’s front lacks the racing stripes of the graphite model and features two oval openings for removable drives. The circular indention in the lower third of the case is the speaker. Along with looking different than the older speaker, I have been told that it also sounds much nicer. I wasn’t able to test this at the Expo, though, since all the Macs were connected to headphones.
Looking at the drives, you might be wondering how you get a CD or DVD into the computer. I mean, the eject button is missing from the front of the case! The only way to open the drive is to press the eject button on the keyboard. If you prefer a third-party keyboard to the Apple Pro keyboard that ships with the G4, you may be out of luck. However, I did get a look at the new Adesso keyboards and they all included an eject button. I wouldn’t be surprised to see companies like Contour Designs, MicroConnectors, and MacAlly follow suit. Furthermore, I fully expect some enterprising shareware developer to come up with some way to map the eject button to an unused F-key.
Alright, I said that QuickSilver was fitting for two reasons. We’ve covered the Silver, so now onto the Quick. In all the time I’ve been involved with the Mac, I can’t remember any time where the fastest Pro Mac became the slowest Pro Mac in the course of one day. Essentially, that’s what happened. 733 MHz, the old high-end, is now the slowest Power Macintosh G4 sold, for $1,699. The midrange Power Mac clocks in at 867 MHz and sells for $2,499. At the high end, dual processors return in the dual 800 MHz model, available for $3,499.
In another change, nVidia is now the sole provider of video cards for the professional model Macs. The low- and mid-range computers ship with the GeForce2 MX card and the high end ships with the GForce2 MX with TwinView, meaning you can plug both an ADC monitor and a VGA monitor into the same card. This is the first time a multi-head graphics card has been available as a standard component.
Also, the SuperDrive is no longer limited to the high end—it is also standard in the mid-range 867 MHz model.
Many people were hoping to see a massive redesign of the three-year-old iMac. There was barely a day over the last month when I didn’t see or hear the phrase, “LCD iMac” somewhere. If you haven’t heard, the new iMacs fell a little bit short of expectations. In fact, I had the oddest feeling of déjà vu when I saw the new models, in snow, indigo, and graphite—I could have sworn they were the same computers Apple displayed at last year’s Macworld.
Alright, that’s not exactly true. The specs on these machines are slightly different. The iMacs maintain their G3 processors, this time with speeds of 500, 600, and 700 MHz. All three models are available in snow, while the low end is available in indigo and the two faster models are available in graphite.
Aside from the processors, little has changed. CD-RW is now standard across the board. This is a bit of a disappointment to those who wanted the option of a combo (CD-RW and DVD-ROM) drive. The low end includes 128 MB of RAM and a 20 GB hard drive, 256 MB of RAM and a 40 GB hard drive in the mid-range machine, and 256 MB of RAM and a 60 GB hard drive in the high end.
The new iMacs are priced as follows—$999 for the 500 MHz model, $1,299 for the 600 MHz model, and $1,499 for the 700 MHz model.
I can’t help but think that these iMacs might not be long for this world. Unlike Apple’s other three systems, the iMac display was almost nonexistent. Eventually, I was able to find said display. It was a handful of iMacs sitting on a round table. Considering these were new models, they were severely under-promoted. Here is my fearless prediction: We could see new iMacs around the time Apple’s new rebate program concludes in October.
OS X 10.1
You know, I really hate when I show up for a party and the guest of honor is late. Wouldn’t you know, it happened again at Macworld.
Back in January, Steve Jobs told us all that the summer would be Mac OS X’s coming out party—there would be numerous applications shipping and OS X would become the default operating system on all shipping Macs. Well, anybody who watched the keynote was shown the full potential of OS X. Fast window resizing. DVD playing. CD and DVD burning. A movable dock. Built-in Windows networking. There were other changes, like the option to put docklets in the menu bar, hiding file extensions, and displaying long file names on multiple lines.
Although Mac OS X 10.1 was not available at the show, Apple was more than happy to show the assembled masses what it is preparing for September.
Of course, this wonderful stuff will be all yours…in September. Now, I’m definitely a bit disappointed. Just like last year, I really wanted to get my hands on something at Macworld. Unfortunately, I keep forgetting that Apple uses the astronomical definition for summer.
I’ve been using OS X since the day it came out, so waiting an extra two months won’t kill me. However, it would have been nice if OS X could have been the default OS on all the computers that Apple will sell between now and September. I wonder how many of those buyers will even realize they have the option of using OS X?
But Where are the Applications?
I had a chance to see a bunch of new applications at this year’s Expo. As one would expect, many of these were OS X-compatible or OS X-only. Much like OS X 10.1, though, many of these applications were not quite ready for prime time.
This first became evident in the “10 on X” segment of the keynote. At first, I thought this was going to be ten applications for OS X, so by the time Microsoft and Adobe finished showing a total of five applications, I thought, “Great, there goes half this feature.” Turns out it was ten developers writing software for OS X, and it also turns out that there was a little something for almost everyone.
Predictably, Microsoft showed half of the new Office 10 suite, Word and Excel. Word looks like a well-behaved OS X application, but Excel was clearly the crown jewel. Along with an Aqua-fied version of the basic spreadsheet tools, Excel will take advantage of the OS X’s Quartz technology. Things like transparent graphs should make Excel an even better partner for PowerPoint, which was not shown.
Last year, Microsoft was previewing Office 2001 on the show floor before it was ready for sale. I was hoping it would take a same approach with Office 10. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, so I decided to skip the Microsoft booth—I really had no desire to sit through a product demo for an application I’d been using for almost a year.
Not so predictable was Adobe’s contribution to the keynote. The company had been quite tight-lipped about its OS X plans and they did not have a presence on the show floor. However, it trotted out a total of three applications—Illustrator, GoLive, and InDesign. Although ship dates were not announced, Adobe appears to be moving in the right direction.
I know many graphics professionals were disappointed that an OS X version of Photoshop was not shown. However, Photoshop is an utterly massive application and it will likely take some time to port. I can’t see Adobe rewriting its other applications for OS X and not releasing what is arguably its crown jewel.
Microsoft and Adobe are arguably the two most important Mac OS X developers outside of Apple. That said, offerings from the other eight featured developers are also important to the success of Mac OS X. Here are some of the highlights.
Quark followed Adobe and highlighted InDesign’s main competition, QuarkXpress. The page layout application sported the expected tools and also showed some impressive Web design capabilities.
In my opinion, the most impressive consumer application of the ten was the newest version of IBM ViaVoice. Basically, it’s the application that everybody wanted when version 1.0 came out last year. Not only did the demonstration show text dictated directly into an application, but it also showed the new Command mode, allowing the user to dictate commands (“Send e-mail”) to the computer. This new version looks much more powerful and useful than its predecessor.
Once again, Apple took the opportunity to focus on game developers, bringing both Aspyr Media and Blizzard on stage. The companies demonstrated Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and Warcraft III, respectively, with both games running on OS X. One game that didn’t garner a spot on the keynote stage was Giants: Citizen Kabuto. This is an absolutely massive game that will be published by MacPlay and is being ported by the Omni Group. One reason Apple might have wanted to highlight Giants: it is being ported using Cocoa and could thus be the first commercial game that will require OS X. Now, before you think MacPlay is eliminating a large portion of Giants’ possible audience, you should realize that this game will likely require a G4 processor.
I like what I’ve seen of ViaVoice, but it is nowhere close to being the coolest application shown. That distinction goes to Alias/Wavefront’s Maya. This profession animation tool opens the Mac to a brand new market. And, oh yeah, it’s extremely cool. Many of the demo files were created before the show floor opened, but the demo showed some fairly complex graphics being created and edited with a minimal amount of effort. It’s one of those things I really don’t need and really can’t afford but that I definitely want!
Maya is demoed on the Expo floor by warping the universe of this doomed robot.
Apple wrapped up the X fest at the keynote by showing iDVD 2. This version included several new features, most notably the ability to use movies in your menus. Behind the scenes, Apple increased the maximum movie length from 60 to 90 minutes and decreased the encoding time from 2x to almost 1x (on the latest dual 800 MHz G4). iDVD 2 requires OS X 10.1 and will ship in September.
In addition to the applications shown at the keynote, several companies were showing OS X versions of popular Classic Mac applications.
For folks using a Macintosh to provide Internet access to a number of other computers, Vicomsoft’s Internet Gateway can be an indispensable tool. Vicomsoft was showing the full range of its products at the show and managed to provide me with the only freebie I salvaged from the Expo—a CD full of demo software.
Another company responsible for popular Macintosh networking software is Netopia. The company responsible for netOctopus and Timbuktu Pro was showing OS X versions of both applications. The Netopia representative I spoke with said that the final version of Timbuktu would be available in August.
With Apple shipping some sort of writable optical drive with almost every computer it sells, one of the applications folks are looking forward to is Roxio’s Toast 5 Titanium. This respected CD burning application offers many more options than the combination of Apple’s iTunes and Disc Burner. Roxio previewed Toast running natively under OS X and made Preview #1 available for owners of Toast 5. Furthermore, existing Toast users will be able to get this OS X upgrade for free.
A Roxio employee shows Toast 5 running in OS X to those in attendance.
Random Wanderings About the Show Floor
Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I spent enough time on the expo floor this time around. I was certainly tired when I left the show, but I think that had more to do with my 6:15 AM train out of Boston than my level of activity at the various booths.
That fact notwithstanding, it wouldn’t be a Macworld Expo if I didn’t pick up interesting information or see some intriguing things.
As far as Apple was concerned, this was a desktop Expo. But walking around the show though, many of the cooler products were designed with the road warrior in mind. Although I don’t own a PowerBook, some of these items made me stop and take a second look.
Most of these items were at the QPS booth, maker of the Que! line of drives. QPS was showing a very portable FireWire RAID solution using stacked M2 hard drives. The M2 drives are each about an inch tall and have their FireWire ports positioned so the ports connect when the drivers are stacked on one another. I saw five or six of these drives stacked and held together by a plastic pull-tie (which I’m assuming was for security and not a requirement) and connected to a PowerBook with a single FireWire cable. The M2 comes in 6, 10, 20, and 30 GB flavors.
A PowerBook G4 connected to a portable RAID solution.
QPS was also showing some new combination units. These units combined a hard drive and a removable media drive (either an LS-240 floppy drive or 640 MB MO drive) in a case roughly the size a Que! CD burner. While the drive is a bit large to carry everywhere, it looks like a handy solution for the road warrior needing more options than are offered by other drives.
At the other end of the size spectrum was SmartDisk’s FireFly drive. As the name implies, this 5 GB drive connects to a computer using FireWire and, like the insect, is quite small. It’s width and depth both are about 0.5" larger than your average credit card and it is 0.5" tall. I sometimes use an external hard drive to move large files between computers. That drive’s large size and the SCSI interface pretty much tie me to desktop computers. With the FireFly drive, I can easily see myself working with my laptop at some other location.
During my show floor wandering, I did manage to catch up with fellow staffer Chris Turner. Yup, ATPM succeeded in doubling its staff coverage of this year’s Expo. From the sound of things, Chris had a slightly better time at the show than I did; he nabbed tickets to this year’s Apple developer bash. Last year, the musical entertainment was provided by Smashmouth. This year, the Wallflowers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I need to become a developer.
Although Adobe was absent from the show floor, there were other companies happy to show that there are other ways to realize your artistic talent. To get this point across, Corel was inviting show attendees to sample Painter 7 by handing out postcards containing a blue bunny rabbit and the words “pro create” (not to be confused with Apple’s tag line for the QuickSilver G4s—“Pro create”). The creation I witnessed at the Corel booth was a tutorial on image manipulation using Painter and a Wacom tablet. There were roughly ten Macs set up that attendees could use to participate in the tutorial. Personally, I thought this was a great idea. I mean, any company can say “Our application does this and it does that,” but the people who used Painter not only know some of what the application can do, but they know how to do it. This has to make a greater impression on prospective customers.
Show goers take part in a Painter 7 tutorial session.
Being such a fun-loving guy, I managed to spend some time in the gaming area. With the demise of 3dfx, Apple became the defacto home base for all things gaming. It’s not that Apple didn’t do a good job at it, but 3dfx did such an amazing job that Apple’s effort just didn’t measure up. Of course, 3dfx had the added benefit of former Ambrosia employee Jason Whong eating bugs all three days.
Apple’s game setup was focused on two areas—a group of Macs that appeared to be running games for OS X and a large screen where game-related movies were shown. Of course, the gaming area was where Chris and I decided to meet. While we were trying to locate each other, I witnessed the funniest moment of the Expo. There was a movie featuring recognizable video game characters playing some networked game in a college dorm-like setting. The point of the movie loses something when I try to explain, so let me just say this: I go to a tech school and I’ve seen my share of net play matches. Whoever made this movie absolutely nailed the experience. Comments like, “Roll the dice to see if I’m drunk!” are not out of the ordinary.
The usual suspects were present in the games area—MacPlay, Aspyr Media, MacSoft, GraphSim. The three aforementioned OS X games are all looking quite good. MacPlay announced that its Caribbean dictator game Tropico was complete. American McGee’s Alice, a first-person thriller that once again takes you through the looking glass, looks fantastic. Other games shown included Summoner, Baldur’s Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast, Sacrifice, The Sims (which will be Carbonized) and the new House Party expansion pack, and older games like Sin, Majesty, Bugdom, and Scrabble.
Catching some air in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2.
With 3dfx gone, the title of loudest gaming booth would be passed on to another company this year. The winner, fittingly, was Creative. The SoundBlaster Live! was shown in all its glory. Creative had about half a dozen Macs set up with SoundsBlaster cards and FourPointSurround Speakers. I believe each machine was running a SoundBlaster enhanced version of Unreal Tournament. While sound may play second fiddle to graphics in many gamers’ minds, a good sound system adds a whole new aspect to game play.
Creative is really trying to push the SoundBlaster on the Mac platform. Those at the Expo know Creative had an excellent deal on both the SoundBlaster alone and packaged with the Cambridge SoundWorks fps2000 speakers. Although there won’t be an OS X driver for at least a few months, I decided to take advantage of one of these deals. I’m really excited about this product and decided that a few months of waiting for a driver was worth saving almost half the cost of the combined card and speakers.
If you’re interested in more information about this card, you should check out the xlr8yourmac audio bulletin board. A SoundBlaster discussion is being run there by a member of the SoundBlaster team. The two Creative employees are quite up front about the status of their work and seem genuinely interested in thoughts about their product. With behavior like this, they are a welcome addition to the Mac family.
Alright, so this wasn’t the most exhilarating Macworld I’ve attended. But unlike previous shows, Steve Jobs didn’t need to pull a rabbit out of his hat to convince folks that Apple’s not going away.
Yes, the new iMacs were a letdown for those expecting LCD iMacs. No, the much anticipated OS X update wasn’t available at the Expo. Neither were many of the applications users were hoping to see. For the most part, the only new mainstream applications that were available at the show were a few games and World Book 2002 (for OS X only, by the way).
What this Macworld did was set the stage for things to come. We now have an idea of what developers are working on for OS X. Apple showed us what it’s planning with the first major OS X update. My uneducated guess is that we’ll see new iMacs again in a short period of time. Personally, if I were going to be in Europe in late September, I’d consider a side trip to the Apple Expo in Paris. It could be an exciting 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