My Turn

Reflections on Macworld New York

Andrew W. Hill - 2001.07.19

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

I don't know about you, but I personally found the keynote speech a let down in many regards. I tuned in over a 56k modem from San Francisco, so the quality wasn't the best, and it was 6:00 a.m. PDT when it started. If you missed it (or decided to sleep) you can see it on Apple's site.

To start with, I prefer the hardware announcements over the software announcements. The segment on iDVD was cool, but the "10 for X" was far too long. For those who missed it, they had representatives from major software companies - 10 in all - come in and talk about their OS X development. Mostly it was an Aqua showcase. IBM gave a good demonstration of ViaVoice, and Alias/Wavefront's high powered 3D animation abilities we're also shown well. Micro$oft, Adobe, Quark, and FileMaker seemed to just be showing off their interfaces. One demonstrator made a big deal of the fact that the window was translucent. Yes, it's nifty, but I didn't need to spend four or five minutes of my life reveling in it. The "10 for X" section took about an hour - half of the presentation. I spent a lot of that time reading Low End Mac while watching the keynote on my second monitor.

By contrast, I found the demonstration of Mac OS X 10.1 fairly interesting. Perhaps I prefer Jobs' presentation technique to the company spokespeople (who then called in auxiliary spokespeople). I felt that too much of a deal was made about the CD-R recording built into OS X, as it was identical to the OS 9.1 software that was shown off at Macworld San Francisco.

The iMacs seem overpriced. The speed bump was pleasing, but I would like to see another $800 iMac. I'm sure marketing found that people wanted megahertz more than a price cut, but it seems like a blow when someone tells me they bought a 600 MHz PC for $400. Sure, the Mac is faster and nicer, but for two-and-a-half times the price most people I know would compromise. If all the prices were dropped $200 I would be happy with them. With one exception: color.

It should be said that I was never a fan of the Blue Dalmatian, and I always had a feeling that the Flower Power would be fairly limited, but come on Apple. Your choice is black or white. Sorry, graphite or snow. I'm a fan of indigo (not as much as I was of ruby), but it's only available in the lowest model. I had much higher expectations of Apple's design department here. They may as well go back to beige with this kind of selection.

The Power Mac speed bump will probably irritate many people. I feel it was overly harsh to take the top of the line speed and make it the entry level. Anyone who just bought the $3,500 G4/733 last month will be severely upset - not because they could have had a better system today for $2,500, but that someone has an almost identical system Power Mac G4for $1,700. I would have liked to have seen the MPC7450 used in the G4/733 (New York, 2001) as it was in the San Francisco 2001 model, but presumably they didn't for cost. From what I can tell it looks like they used the MPC7440 instead. That and the SuperDrive are the buyers of the SF01 G4/733's only consolation.

I am not a fan of the new case. Sure, I've only seen the pictures on Apple's website and the poor quality video (I was viewing on a 56k) from the keynote speech, but it looks like they just redesigned the front. There is space for two 5.25" devices, but Jobs did not mention anything of the kind in the keynote. Messing around on the Apple Store website didn't help either - their only option was for a Zip 250; no mention of a second CD-ROM.

I also would have liked to have seen more RAM in the machines. RAM is stupidly cheap right now. The $1,300 iMac has twice the RAM of the $2,500 G4, which I find puzzling. Both are midrange models, and the professional machine has less RAM than the consumer model. To upgrade the G4/867 (NY01) to 256 MB RAM, you must pay Apple $200 to swap a 128 MB module for a 256 MB. I understand that it wreaks havoc with an assembly line to have built-to-order machines, but $200 is unreasonable. I cannot imagine that it would cost Apple more than $10 extra per system to have 256 MB standard. That's 0.4% of the computers price.

The "Megahertz Myth" presentation was well done in most regards, and I think that it was probably very effective at showing why a PC is not as fast as a Mac - even when the PC has a faster CPU speed. They described things by a comparison of the pipeline length and the CPU speed. If you use these as the only factors, the Mac was significantly above both the Intel chips, but the UltraSparc III was under the Intel chips by a like amount. This weakened the argument somewhat, because I doubt anyone would say that a 450 MHz G4 is the same speed as a 900 MHz UltraSparc III.

Personally, I was hoping to see more on the hardware side of things, and while the boost in chips speeds was well appreciated, as was the announcement of the 2 MB L3 cache in the G4, this did not make up for a mediocre iMac showing, reruns of last Expo's demonstrations, and an hour of showing off what the new button bar looked like in multiple OS X applications. Not good enough for me, I'm afraid. But like I said, it was 6:00 a.m. when I started watching.

Andrew W. Hill (a.k.a. Aqua) has been using Macintosh computers since 1987 and maintains that the Mac SE is the perfect Macintosh, superior to all - including the Color Classic. He is on the verge of being evicted from the family home due to its infestation of Macs (last count: about 50). Andrew is attempting to pay his way through college at UC Santa Cruz with freelance web design and Mac tech support.

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