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Macworld Report

By Mike Kaltschnee


This is at least my hundredth computer show. My first one was AppleFest ‘83 when I was just 19. I have attended many of the shows around the country: Seybold, Comdex, Internet World, PC Expo, SIIA, Networld, countless seminars, and even a Linux show. I’ve even done time as an exhibitor for a few dozen events. What a pain.

I have to admit that Macworld, out of all of these shows, is the only one that I get excited about. Comdex is so huge that it’s a hassle. Bill Gates, although well prepared, is an okay speaker (but how often can you hear a billionaire?).Traveling to shows, waiting in sometimes ridiculous ticket lines, and paying $20 for a hamburger lunch makes a show a huge hassle. However, Apple does something right. Sure, you have the lines and hassles of a Show, but I go to Macworld to escape into Steve Jobs’ world once in a while.

He has the ability to make you think that Apple is changing the world during his Keynotes. Maybe they are changing the PC business color, style, floppy (lack thereof), and adding a coolness factor to owning a box filled with chips and drives.

This year there was one moment when silence ruled, when they announced that a free service, iTools, was going to cost money (and be renamed ".Mac").

This charge was designed to make a service costing Apple serious money into a minor profit center. However, the Mac faithful were not used to bad news during a Jobs presentation.  The good news is that you’ll get 100mb of Internet storage, virus checking, and all sorts of other benefits (and at a half-price discount if you already have an account).

The new computer introduced was the expected, but still very cool iMac, with a 17"  flat-panel display. Instead of being a typical square, Apple made it a "widescreen" model. When I got my turn to play with one, it made a lot of sense; you could have two documents open side by side. A cool $2,000 will enable you to take home last year’s high-end machine, worth at least twice as much 12 months ago.

New iPods with the barebones model now starting at $299 made this the premier line of musical devices to own. The latest iPods sport a cool volume and playback control that makes this device more and more like a high-end portable CD player at a quarter the size and weight. 10 and 20 gigabyte versions let you carry up to 4,000 songs, but they’ll run you up to $500. With the addition of calendar and address book functions, I might get an iPod instead of a new Palm soon.

On the show floor, I saw all sorts of neat things. Games are more prevalent than last year, and more Windows titles have been ported to OS X. I have my eye on Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds, since I like Half-Life and I guess I’m a Star Wars Fan. Lots of cool add-ons for the iPod, including chargers, cases and accessories.

I guess the coolest thing was the television adapter for the Mac that gives you ‘Tivo-like’ abilities for $179. Plug it into your computer, install the software, and visit their Web page to configure the device. You can then record tv shows to your hard disk and even burn them onto CD for later viewing. No monthly fee like Tivo for the program guide.

I was impressed by the upcoming version of OS X. I don’t really need a new instant messaging client (I use Audion and Fire under OS X) but I do like many of the 100+ updates included in the next revision, including enhanced printer support, Bluetooth, Sherlock 3 and especially iSync.  The new program iSync will coordinate addresses and calendars between your Web pages, Palm, cell phone, and e-mail program.  This feature is what will help complete Apple’s ‘Digital Hub’ strategy and make the Mac the center of your computer-based toys.

Apple may have its faults, but they’ve been leading the computer business since the Apple II+. You may not like them, but if you want to see the future, you might want to go to Macworld once in a while.

Mike switched to the Mac long before those silly commercials.  Windows users can bug him at: mikek@demorgan.com.