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Apple on Top of Its Game: the Macworld SF 2003 Report
Pages: 1, 2

Open Source is great -- the Safari web browser

There have been long standing rumors that Apple was working on their own web browser. The assumptions, because of some of the people involved, was that it would be based on the Gecko engine that Mozilla, Chimera, and Netscape use. Instead Apple turned to the Linux community and based their Safari browser on KHTML. Jobs explained that Apple had chosen to do its own browser because of speed. He particularly pointed out that the load speed of Safari is three times faster than Microsoft's Internet Explorer according to the i-Bench Tests version 4.0. Similarly the JavaScript test showed Safari with a two to one advantage over IE. The final demonstration was how fast the browser launches.

Like all of Apple's new software, Safari requires Jaguar. If you have Jaguar, install Safari and take it for a test drive. For the most part, it behaves very nicely (there's a problem with signed applets). Because this is a beta release of Safari, Apple has made it easy for you to point to sites that it doesn't handle correctly (such as the MathML test suite). If you encounter a page that isn't being rendered right you press the bug reporter in the upper right corner.

The look is very clean. The bookmarks look like the iTunes interface. Adding pages to the menu bar is easy. The load status of the page is displayed with a progress bar behind the address in the address bar and not at the bottom of the page. Google has been integrated into the toolbar as it is in Opera. The snap back feature, however, is different. When you enter a site and start navigating here and there, you can press an orange arrow to snap back to the first page you viewed on that site. This feature is also available in the Google search. You can perform a Google search and start navigating to the results of the search. Any time you reach a dead end, press the snap back and you return to the Google search page. The key feature that Chimera users will miss is the tabbed windows so that you can easily tab around among web sites without cluttering your screen with multiple browser windows.

Jobs paused to talk about Safari's roots as an open source rendering engine. With a clear reference to Microsoft and their stand against open source, Jobs said, "Some people have a problem with open source. We think it's great." He announced that Apple would publish the improvements to the KHTML codebase on the web later that day. You can this code from the Darwin page or on the WebCore page.

A presentation tool built for Steve

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Keynote is Apple's $99 answer to Microsoft's PowerPoint. Jobs has been using early versions of Keynote at the MacWorld keynotes for over a year. Jobs explained that, "Keynote was built for me." It shows. It is a simple to use presentation application that lacks some of the features that Jobs never uses. I actually took it for a test drive and converted my MacWorld presentation from PowerPoint to Keynote. Keynote was able to import the PowerPoint presentation and convert it to its own format (although it had difficulty with one other PowerPoint presentation).

As Jobs demoed, Keynote has a slide navigator much like the thumbnail side panel in the Preview application. There are alignment guides that help you put text or images where you want them. Keynote feels smooth and not choppy like other applications. The Graphics support opacity, resizing, and rotation. You can bring up the inspector to adjust different properties in slides or specific objects on the slides. It is easy to create a table and from that create a chart. There are image libraries that chip with the product. Jobs created a chart and placed an image in the background of the chart. It is easy to create attractive slides. As with iDVD, Apple includes a variety of Themes for you to choose from. There aren't as many as you can find for PowerPoint, but you can also create your own.

With Jaguar the entire video chain is piped through Open GL. This means that slide transitions can take advantage of OpenGL 3D transitions. In addition to the two dimensional effects like cross dissolves, wipes, pivots, and twirls, the three dimensional transitions included moving around a cube and a mosaic of flips. These were attractive but could easily be overused.

Keynote is easy to learn and use. I miss the slide sorter view of PowerPoint so that I can see more of the show and move things around more easily. With the slide navigator in Keynote you can create a hierarchy and collapse entire sections so it is easier to navigate and share portions of a show. The feature I missed the most was the ability to link to an application or AppleScript. When I give a demo of, for example, the Terminal application, I speed it along by clicking on the word Demo that is hyperlinked to the Terminal application and brings it up. This isn't the way Jobs does a demo. He turns off the slides and moves to the demo machine where he does his demo. The app was built for him.

Keynote imports from and exports to PowerPoint. The size of the files can be much bigger in Keynote. I began with a PowerPoint file that was 384K. After I input it into Keynote and chose a theme, the resulting file was 3M. I then saved it back as a PowerPoint file and it was 1M. You can navigate into what Keynote builds and find the XML file containing the actual text of the presentation. Jobs said that he expects the open file format will lead to other presentation creating applications being created.

Jobs and Microsoft

When Apple began the switcher campaign Microsoft got angry and responded vocally. They made noise before the July MacWorld Expo that users weren't adopting Mac OS X very fast and that sales for the Mac version of Office were disappointing. Jobs predicted that Mac OS X would hit five million users by the end of the year and he claims that that goal has been met. The goal for next year is to almost double this number to somewhere between nine and ten million users. At the summer MacWorld keynote Jobs pointed out that, despite Microsoft's claims, this is the fastest OS adoption in history. He was quick to point out how many Microsoft users still use previous versions of Windows such as 95 and 98.

Jobs began this year's keynote by showing some of the people from the Switcher campaign and announcing that 68% of the 7.8 million unique visitors to the switcher site are running Windows. The statistics from the Apple Stores show that 50% of the computers sold in the stores are for Windows Switchers. The stores are situated so that eighty-five million people live within fifteen miles of an Apple store with more slated to open in 2003.

Jobs paused to make his semi-annual point about the Apple Stores; in December, there were 1.4 million visitors. "That's equivalent," he said, "to twenty MacWorlds last month alone." Despite this repeated comparison between attendance at the MacWorld Expo and his store traffic, Jobs must be aware that he doesn't get this level of press coverage for announcements he might make at these stores in an average month. The semi-annual MacWorld keynote address continues to be a great platform to get the Apple message to the press and hence the public.

One of the messages at this MacWorld targets Microsoft. After discussing the success of the Switcher campaign, Jobs complemented Microsoft on extending its Office Party promotion where Office costs $199 if you buy it when you buy a new Mac. From then on, the Microsoft references were all negative. He argued that Safari is a browser that performs better than Microsoft's IE. He introduced Keynote as a presentation application and showed how the interface and file format was better than PowerPoint. The demonstration ended with the feeling that this wouldn't be the last Office application to be introduced by Apple.

A quick trip to the show floor was enough to remove any doubt as to Apple's attitude toward Microsoft. The Apple employees staffing the Apple booth wore a t-shirt that defined the noun Switcher as "an individual who has suddenly awakened from a deep, dark PC coma."

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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