Seybold 1999: More Than Just the G4

Power Macintosh G4: As far as many are concerned, that sums up Steve Jobs’ big Seybold announcement today.

It was certainly an impressive introduction. Depending on what software you’re currently running, the 500 MHz Power Mac G4 can be two-to-three times faster than the fastest G3 or Pentium III available today.

Power Mac G4 AGP SawtoothThe case is a more professional looking graphite gray with silver and clear plastic. It has everything the Blue and White G3 had, except for the ADB port, and it seems to do everything a bit faster.

The entry level 400 MHz G4 has the same $1,599 price tag as the 350 MHz G3 it replaces! (Full specs are already posted on Low End Mac.)

But as impressive as the G4 is, it wasn’t the biggest announcement of the day.

22″ Cinema Display

Apple’s new flat panel Cinema Display is breathtaking. At 22″ and 1600 x 1024 pixels, it’s the largest LCD ever. And its proportions are comfortably close to the 16:9 ratio use in enhanced DVD movies, making it not just a great computer monitor, but also a great way to watch your favorite movie.

Not only that, but it will be a real cash cow for Apple. With 18″ LCDs going for $3,000 and up, the $3,999 Cinema Display is a pretty impressive (albeit expensive) value. But you won’t be able to buy it from CompUSA or your local dealer – only through the Apple Store, and then only with a 450 MHz or faster Power Mac G4.

Got $7,500?

Impressive, but still not the most significant announcement of the day.

No New iMac

The biggest no show was the rumored 17″ iMac. It’ll probably be out by mid-November, but it was not announced at Seybold.

On the other hand, Apple has now sold over 2,000,000 iMacs.

The iBook

Apple hasn’t shipped a single iBook yet, but it has orders for over 140,000. At that rate, it could eclipse the still-popular iMac for a few weeks.

And then there’s AirPort. The Power Mac G4 has an AirPort antenna and accepts the same 11 Mpbs AirPort card as the iBook. The two could communicate wirelessly at full ethernet speed without a hub.

Impressive, but not the most impressive thing shown today.

The Ads

Apple showed four television ads, one of which will air tonight. Two feature the iBook, a computer you can love. One features the AirPort hub as a UFO. Striking. Brilliant. But I don’t know if it will communicate.

Best of the bunch: The Power Mac G4 ad, which should be on TV tonight.

Background: The US government restricts export of “supercomputers”, defined as any computer that does one gigaflop (one billion floating point instructions per second). The G4 is rated at 1-4 gigaflops, qualifying it as a supercomputer.

Apple Tanks adWhite background. Power Mac G4. A tank driving behind it. Voice says, “Power Mac G4 is the first personal computer classified as a weapon by the federal government. That means it can’t be sold in some nations, although ‘peace loving’ people around the world will have access to it.

“As for Pentium PCs, they’re harmless.”

Brilliant. It ranks right up there with the Snail and Bunny Suit ads.

But even that wasn’t the best part of Apple’s presentation.


Macs have had speech capabilities since the Mac Plus era and rudimentary speech recognition since the two Quadra AV models of 1993.

They could recognize some commands, but they couldn’t take dictation. With IBM ViaVoice software, you can talk to your Mac and have it write down your words.

Very impressive, but Apple had even better things in store.

Mac OS 9

As big a leap as the G4 is over the G3, as awesome as the huge Cinema Display is, and as impressive as dictation is, Mac OS 9 is even bigger.

I’ve been a Mac user since System 6.0.3. I remember the revolution of System 7, the breakthroughs of System 8, and a lot of improvements along the way. But, for the most part, the improvements were evolutionary changes, often incorporation of elements available in third-party programs.

Mac OS 9 is evolutionary, too, but it also makes some very big leaps.

  • OS 9 is designed for multiple users. You can log in with your voice. It will recognize you and use your preferences (screen background, network ID, window views, etc.). Everyone in your home or business who shares the computer can have it remember all their favorite settings.
  • Beyond that, the Keychain keeps track of all those infernal IDs and passwords you need for Hotmail, the New York Times, your favorite online Mac vendor, etc.
  • Is security important to you? Encryption is part of the OS.
  • The Internet is your network. Not only can Sherlock 2* search the Internet, you can also connect to any OS 9 equipped Mac on the Internet. File Sharing isn’t just on your local network, but over the entire Internet. (Of course, you’ll still need a User ID and password to log in.) The new network browser will help you find shared volumes on the Internet.
  • Not only is the Internet your network, but your OS can update itself over the Internet. Does Apple have a new driver or patch? The OS can take care of it for you.

And we haven’t even touched on what may be the most significant part of Mac OS 09: AppleScript over TCP/IP. This was demonstrated by having a Mac in San Francisco control a Mac in New York, which had some photos needed for a brochure. Via AppleScript and the Internet, the SF Mac told the NY Mac which photos it needed – and at what size. The NY Mac resized the images in Photoshop before sending them to the SF computer.

Gigaflops, wireless networking, big LCDs, and voice recognition are all impressive, but from my perspective the breakthrough technology is AppleScript over the Internet. It’s not quite Timbuktu, but on the other hand, it’s handled by scripts so you don’t have to manually control the remote computer.

* Sherlock 2 has a different interface with one striking feature – at least in the demo version. Sherlock displayed an Apple banner every time it was used. Great way for Apple to promote computers, new OS versions, etc., to a friendly audience….

Keywords: #powermacg4 #cinemadisplay #macos9 #seybold