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Trends at Macworld

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- Tip Jar

There were a lot of unique items at Macworld Expo, but also some types of products available from several sources.

Optical Mice

Perhaps the biggest trend is toward optical mice. Apple's new Pro Mouse is optical, as is the popular Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer. I won't even pretend to list all the companies with optical mice, but they included Contour Design, Macally,

Apple had the most clever mouse design of the show, one which should go down in computer history as a conceptual breakthrough. The Apple Pro Mouse doesn't have a button; the mouse is a button. That is, there is no specific part of the mouse that you have to push to click. Instead, pushing anywhere on the front (cable) end of the mouse gives you the click. It's a concept that only works with the single-button mouse Apple still prefers. It's brilliant.

Compact Mice

Nearly as common as optical mice were compact mice designed for the road warrior. Apple's certainly qualifies, although most compact mice were even smaller. Almost all of the compact mice used optical technology, and my favorite was the Contour Designs mini-mouse, which comes with a compact case to hold the mouse and USB cable in your laptop's case.

Enhanced Keyboards

Apple led the charge with their new Pro Keyboard, which replaces the old USB keyboard and gives users all the keys of the old 105-key Apple Extended Keyboard. Better yet, the Pro Keyboard is color neutral, so you can add it to any USB Mac without worrying about color. Best of all, the Pro Keyboard is more compact than the other USB extended keyboards on the market.

With the Pro Keyboard, Apple has created a very different market for keyboard makers - it's no longer sufficient to provide an extended keyboard, since that comes standard with all new desktop Macs. Instead we're starting to see "media" keyboards with extra programmable keys to launch files, switch programs, etc.

More Accelerators

We saw the first accelerators for the Power Book G3 models, as well as a 400 MHz G3 upgrade for the PB 1400 from Sonnet. There's even a G4 upgrade, although I'd think twice about battery life before putting one of those in a laptop.

AirPort

Farallon made a big deal about their Skyline card, which is an AirPort-compatible PC Card. I would have loved one for the PowerBook I had with me, but nobody was selling them. I believe it was also Farallon who is working on a combination AirPort-compatible base station and ethernet hub.

FireWire

I can't even think to count the number of FireWire drives, scanners, and other devices shown at the Expo. Intel may be pushing USB 2.0, but FireWire is firmly established.

Final Thoughts

If the Cube is for the executive market, will there be an executive (i.e., thin and light) PowerBook, too? A lot of road warriors would sure love a smaller, lighter Mac laptop for writing in the field.

What's up with the single-processor G4/400 - all the other Power Macs now have two processors. My guess: Apple needs to unload 400 MHz machines.

Why did Apple start the Cube at 450 MHz? I'd imagine a Cube/400 would cost several hundred dollars less than the Power Mac G4/400. Of course, it Apple is trying to unload G4/400s, they wouldn't want to undercut it with a 400 MHz Cube.

For that matter, why not a G3-based Cube? I'm sure one with CD-ROM instead of DVD could sell for as little as the basic $799 iMac. As a Mac user and information systems manager, I know that a 350-400 MHz G3 is plenty of power for most users.

I'm definitely going to have AirPort access for the next Expo. I also need to arrive a day earlier and leave a day later - and maybe add some time for site seeing.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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