The Practical Mac

The New PowerBooks, Safari, and Other Apple Innovations

- 2003.01.14 - Tip Jar

Now that the hoopla surrounding Macworld San Francisco is starting to die down, we can take a more objective look back at the events of last week. Here is my two cents worth on the highlights:

New PowerBooks

Two new PowerBook G4s were introduced: a 12" model, which is smaller than any PowerBook model ever, including the old Duo series, and a 17" model, which has the largest notebook screen on the planet.

The 17" model has been greeted with almost universal acclaim. It has been hailed as a portable that will allow even graphic professionals to forsake a desktop Mac. I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment. With top-end G4 power, a 17" LCD screen, FireWire 800, Bluetooth, AirPort Extreme, a 60 GB hard drive, 512 MB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce4 440 Go with 64 MB of DDR SDRAM all standard, this is a no-compromise Mac. The fact that it is a notebook is gravy.

I am not sure I would characterize the 17" PB as a portable, however. Rather, it is more of a transportable. In other words, you won't be using this PB on the flight to San Francisco. It is far too large. The main way I envision it used is being carried from place to place and set up at the destination.

PowerBook G4 Trio

Even the 15" PB is barely useable as a portable. It overlaps many airline tray tables. My wife packed hers to take to school not long ago, and we discovered it does not fit in a standard notebook bag very well. However, I consider this a fair trade for the extraordinary amount of screen real estate on both the 15" and 17" models.

The 12" PowerBook, on the other hand, has received a lukewarm response. However, this is the hardware product about which I am most enthusiastic. Personally, I want a PowerBook for the G4 processor; I don't especially care about the screen size. Portability and the ability to use the notebook on planes, trains, buses and various and sundry locations along the way is of paramount importance to me. The G4 processor is a close second in importance.

I am also pleased to see that the SuperDrive is a build-to-order option on the 12" PB. The introduction of this notebook at $1,799 almost makes me regret my recent iBook purchase. The 12" PB is probably not for everyone, but I believe it fills a niche in the Apple product line. I hope sales of this model will be sufficient to warrant its continuation, and I am optimistic about its future.

Safari

Safari is an (almost) built-from-scratch Apple Web browser. I love it and have already made it my primary browser. So far I have only encountered one site which caused problems. I was able to click one button and report the problem to Apple.

Safari is noticeably faster than any other browser I generally use (these being primarily Internet Explorer, Netscape, and iCab; Opera has not made it into my repertoire yet, and it has been quite a while since I used OmniWeb). It still needs tabbed browsing, though.

While I like the fact that it does not have a screen border at the bottom, thus maximizing display space, I do miss being able to hover the mouse on a link and see that link at the bottom of the window. The link may actually appear somewhere else; to be honest, I have not checked that closely.

In my evaluation, I was primarily interested in loading as many different sites as humanly possible in order to check out its rendering ability. Other bugs/irritations I have noticed are:

  • The password manager does not work on all password dialog boxes.
  • If there is a form fill feature, I have not found it.

All in all, this is an incredible first effort. To roll out a brand new product that is at 97% of where it needs to be right out of the gate is unheard of these days. Outstanding effort, Apple.

Final Cut Express

I have not evaluated Final Cut Express, but there is no doubt it is a much-needed program. I predict good sales to those whose needs cannot justify the hefty price tag of Final Cut Pro, but who need more features than are offered in iMovie.

Keynote

I have not yet evaluated Keynote either, but I am already very excited about it. From all accounts it is a PowerPoint killer. Can Word and Excel killers be far behind? I don't think so. No one seriously doubts that Apple programmers are even now hard at work producing their own versions of these Microsoft programs.

That is probably why we have not seen a major update to AppleWorks - a replacement is on the way. I can't wait.

AirPort Extreme

54 Mbps 801.11g, backwards compatible with AirPort 802.11b, and a price reduction. Everything we could have hoped for and more.

Bluetooth and Rendezvous

Bluetooth is low-range (25 feet or so) wireless technology that promises to deliver low-cost wireless keyboards, mice, printers, and a host of other peripherals. It is already built into a few cellular telephones, allowing them to sync with your Mac address book. Rendezvous is a technology that allows computers, printers, and other peripherals to automatically discover and configure network resources. The combination of these two technologies will allow us to do what we have dreamed of since the earliest days of the Apple II and IBM PC:

  1. Unbox your printer.
  2. Plug it into an electrical outlet.
  3. Start using it.

A few printers are already Rendezvous-enabled, and some also have Bluetooth. Currently, none have both. However, this will change any day now. In a matter of weeks, the scenario above will be reality. As is typical of any computing innovation, Apple is leading the way on this one.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the new products and innovations Apple introduced last week. For the full story, visit Apple.com and browse around. These are exciting times in which we live. LEM

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Steve Watkins is the Vice President for Information Technology for a mid-sized bank, an attorney, and an Army Reserve JAG on extended active duty. He has been a Mac user for about 12 years. He has owned some PCs along the way - but always came back to the Mac. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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