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Jobs' Keynote Steady, But No Sizzle

by Daniel H. Steinberg

There wasn't much in the way of news at Steve Jobs' Wednesday morning Macworld Expo keynote. Apple's CEO began by reviewing the status of the Apple retail stores, and rerunning the videos he showed at the fireside chat at May's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. The next set of stores are ready to open near Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago, and Dallas (as Jobs noted, carefully avoiding Austin and Houston).

He then discussed the current state of applications coming to Mac OS X. There are over 1,000 apps now shipping with 55 percent of developers surveyed reporting that they have a release scheduled within the next four months. Representatives from Microsoft, Adobe, Quark, FileMaker, Connectix, IBM, WorldBook, Blizzard Entertainment, Aspyr, and Maya all demoed Mac OS X applications that are shipping or are close to shipping.

The biggest piece of software news is the 10.1 update to the operating system that will be available as a free upgrade in September. The update features improved performance. The apps load faster, the menus are much more responsive, and you can choose to have applications scale down to the dock instead of using the "genie" effect.

Other 10.1 enhancements include system menus you can add to the top-right portion of the menu bar (where Classic apps often added their special menus -- these items are like those you'd find in the control strip), improvements to the Finder, and a movable dock. You can assign the dock to appear on the left, bottom, or right of your screen. You can burn CDs from the finder, and there is support for DVD playback and for many PostScript printers.

The hardware news was centered around the desktop line. There will be three new models of iMacs running at 500, 600, and 700 MHz. All three feature the ability to read and write CDs. The entry-level iMac has 128 Mbytes of RAM while the top two have 256 Mbytes. The hard drives are 20, 40, and 60 Gbytes, and the machines list for USD$999, $1,299, and $1,499.

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The PowerMac improves the speed a bit and also introduces a dual-processor machine. The machines come with a single 733-MHz or 867-MHz processor or with two 800-MHz processors. The top two levels allow you to play or read CDs and DVDs. The hard drives are 40, 60, and 80 Gbytes and the machines list for $1,699, $2,499, and $3,499.

The keynote then turned to the standard "show down" demonstration. Two graphics applications were used to show that a Pentium running at twice the processor speed was slower than the Mac. Jon Rubinstein, Apple's senior VP of hardware, then explained how this could be. Although his explanation was very accessible, it seemed a bit out of place at a consumer show.

He explained that the frequency was only one of the factors that contributed to the speed of a machine. The number of pipeline stages, the number of functional units, and the type and amount of available cache are all important. The G4's advantage, according to Rubinstein, is the shorter pipeline.

Jobs' final demo was the second edition of iDVD. He described it as an "example of Apple standing at the intersection of liberal arts and technology." Before sending the crowd on its way, he pointed out that while other companies are cutting back and having difficulties during these times, Apple is releasing award-winning hardware like the Titanium and the new iBook and a strong set of software offerings such as Mac OS X, iTunes, and iDVD.

Daniel H. Steinberg is the editor for the new series of Mac Developer titles for the Pragmatic Programmers. He writes feature articles for Apple's ADC web site and is a regular contributor to Mac Devcenter. He has presented at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, MacWorld, MacHack and other Mac developer conferences.

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