It's approximately 11 A.M ET and I've just finished watching Steve Jobs' MacWorld Keynote address on cable TV.
The entire show would have been a complete disaster if not for a few saving graces. Allow me now to recap and opine
on what was shown.
The hardware announcements were disappointing. The iMac is some three years old now and has remained mostly
unchanged yet despite this they completely breeze over their past savior once again. Not so much as a new color to be
seen, just the return of Snow to replace the controversial Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian. Clock speed bumps to
500, 600 and 700 Mhz, RAM is 128 at the low end 256 in the others, 20, 40 and 60 gigs of disk space with CD-RW
across the line. Pricing starts at $999
After quickly touching on the iMac he comes to the PowerMac G4, I assumed this would be a big deal as the focus of
the hardware obviously wasn't the iMac. Rather than an all new design we're presented with a slick silver face lift of
the current tower along with a a much needed and welcomed clock boost, way up to 867 Mhz for the midrange with a
Dual 800 at the high end. The big news with the towers is that 733 becomes the entry level model and the SuperDrive
is now standard on the mid-range as well as the high end. I would have expected a combo drive on the entry tower
given it's a flagship product but it's CD-RW. Pricing starts at $1699
What came next was simply sad. I didn't know if I should laugh or cry at how sorry a sight it was. After the usual
"bakeoff" showing a G4 beating up a Pentium, Apple actually paraded out one of their top engineers to give a lecture
on processor design to a packed room of Mac Addicts who were expecting to be blown away. He was attempting to
dispel the "Mhz Myth" by telling us how an 867 Mhz G4 can be faster than a 1.7 Ghz Pentium 4 do to the way the
two processors are designed . He did get his point across but the animation provided was showing what happens
when the P4's 20 stage pipeline is running at equal speed to the G4's 7. To be fair the P4's animation should have
been animating at twice the speed. Seeing as this is a dog and pony show for Apple, complete fairness isn't to be
The way I see it, Apple must be feeling some serious internal pressure if they felt it necessary to give an engineering
lesson at their biggest trade show. It was clearly an attempt to prove to their customers that their products aren't
behind the competition. That's a desperation move if I've ever seen one and clearly something needs to be done.
While it's apparent that today's hardware announcements won't win Apple much praise I can't imagine anyone being
disappointed with the software shown. Save for some bad mojo from the demo gods the software had a great
Steve had reps from 10 software companies come out and show their upcoming Mac OS X products in a segment he
called "10 for X". The apps briefly demoed, in no particular order, were: Microsoft Office 10, Adobe Illustrator and
Indesign , Blizzard's Warcraft 3, Aspyr's Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, Quark Express 5.x, Filemaker Pro, IBM's Via
Voice, a really slick OS X only Worldbook Encyclopedia, Connectix's Virtual PC and Alias/Wavefront's Maya.
Jobs provided a sneak peek at the upcoming Mac OS 10.1 which is set to be released in September. This build seems
to address most of the major complaints made by Mac users over the last few months. The speed appeared to be
incredible, Apps and windows flew open, resizing was butter smooth in all views even when resized at high speeds, the
columns in columns view are resizeable, the Dock can be moved to different parts of the screen, a new, faster,
minimize effect called "scale", control strip like buttons can be added to the right of the menu bar, drag and drop data
CD burning from the Finder, a DVD movie player and several other little things I may be forgetting.
The more savvy X users reading this will recognize some of those "new" features as hidden options already available
in OS X. Nevertheless, It was a very impressive demonstration of things to come. Let's just hope those results aren't
only attainable on one of those new Dual 800 G4s.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the problems experienced during the demo. At one point the DVD Movie Player
appeared to quit or hide itself unexpectedly. Then Jobs had some problems showing off 10.1's improved Digital
Camera support. At first it was believed that the camera was malfunctioning but when he came back to it later in the
show Mac OS X appeared to freeze after he managed to demo a screensaver that used the imported photos. This is the
nature of in development software and is why it is to be available in September rather than today.
Towards the end of the show, Jobs gave a peek at one of his personal favorites, iDVD 2 running on Mac OS X. To
my surprise and delight it appeared to be a Cocoa app as it was using "drawers" as part of it's UI. New features in
iDVD 2 include the ability to create "motion menus" those are the animated background and menus that you often see
on Hollywood DVDs. You can even embed background music tracks to go with your animated menus. The app
maintains it's simple interface and it looks to be able to create some very slick stuff.
There are also performance improvements. Because of OS X it's fully multi-threaded so you can do things like
encode video in the background as you build your menu interface, write text in real time over running full motion
video backgrounds while another full motion video is playing in a smaller window floating over the larger one. If you
have an MP G4 configuration it can take advantage of both processors and actually encode MPEG 2 at "just under"
1x speed. Which means 1 hour of video can encode in just under 1 hour. Single processor G4s still encode at 2x
Now that it's all over and I've had time to reflect I'm left with mixed feelings. Strictly from a personal standpoint I was
satisfied with the show on the strength of the software. It is afterall the software that actually allows people to mold
ideas into reality. Mac OS 10.1 simply looked amazing despite the demo snags and if the shipping product is as slick
as the demo I think even skeptical Mac users will be impressed with "The World's Most Advanced Operating
If I look at it from the perspective of what I think Apple needs to sell more computers; I'm disappointed. The iMac is
getting old and really needs an exciting replacement while the G4 towers still haven't broken the vaunted 1Ghz mark
that users seem to be itching for. It is good that the entry level tower is now at 733 Mhz because a 466 Mhz
"professional" computer for $1700 just looked bad.
Despite my prior comment I can see why Apple may be holding back the rumored re-designed iMacs for strategic
purposes. Right now the iBook and Titanium G4 are still hot items so their strength alone may be enough to carry
Apple through this quarter when combined with the speed bumped/refreshed towers and the usual shipments of
iMacs. Once the xBook sales start to level off, they can roll out the redesigned iMac and once again have a big seller
to carry them until the next major redesigned product. Furthermore, if it is indeed based on a flat panel it is wise to
give panel prices more time to fall before a roll out so they can release the new machine at the best price point
I imagine Wall Street won't react kindly to the keynote and users will be disappointed but if you step back and
analyze things you may see, as I have, that they aren't as bad as they first appear. Apple likes to think ahead and they
were quoted as saying that they don't see the PC sector rebounding anytime soon.
Is it not better to make the most of each product release and ride high sales waves for as long as possible before
introducing another sales wave? That way they stretch out their income over longer periods.
If Mac OS X 10.1 turns out as good as it looked, Apple continues to improve their class leading applications and the
3rd party apps roll in then I don't think they will be in any major trouble this quarter though their stock may take a
beating. It's been my observation that Wall Street and reality don't often cross each other's paths, however. Unless
you're an Apple shareholder I wouldn't concern myself with stock prices.
To quote Dennis Miller, "but that's just my opinion, I could be wrong."