Low End Mac

Macworld Expo Coverage

Macworld Keynote Address

Macworld Expo San Francisco
Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Dan Knight

Mac OS X

Mac OS X (ten) is almost ready to go - you'll be able to buy a copy on March 24, 2001 for $129. System requirements apparently remain the same: any Mac designed around a G3 processor with sufficient RAM and hard drive space.

The Beta period was an unqualified success, with 100,000 copies sold and 75,000 pieces of user feedback. Much of the feedback was positive, especially regarding stability and ease of installation. As for complaints, Apple has listened to our requests.

  • The Apple icon in the middle of the menu bar is gone, replaced by an Apple Menu on the left - just as we've always had.
  • AirPort, the Location Manager, and printer are all supported in OS X.
  • If you thought the dock was too horsey, you'll be pleased to know you can not only make it much smaller, but also easily hide it. You can even put a QuickTime movie in the dock and watch it there in miniature.
  • OS X includes a 3D screen saver which can also display you images, dissolving from one into the other.
  • Sheets will greatly simplify saving files, although you can optionally make the save dialog as powerful as we are used to. I suspect this could be the end of Default Folder, a utility I have found invaluable over the years.
  • Not only is there a new Apple Menu in the upper left corner, but much of the old Apple Menu's functionality is available via a popup menu from the dock.
  • Font management is better than ever with the Font panel.
  • Users can fully customize the toolbar in the Finder window, and for those who like a lot of open windows, the new Finder can spawn window when toolbar hidden.

According to Jobs, 1,200 "brand name" applications are under development for Mac OS X, and the majority should be ready by Macworld Expo in July. July is also the timetable for Apple shipping OS X as the default operating system with new hardware.

Power Mac G4

Showing a total disregard for unique product names, Steve Jobs unveiled the next generation Power Mac G4 with the slogan, "Power to burn." This includes a faster system bus, faster set of processors, faster PCI implementation, and faster graphics.

In answer to Apple "missing the boat" on CD-R and CD-RW, each new G4 includes the ability to burn CD-R and CD-RW media. In fact, the OS makes it as easy as drag-and-drop.

All the new models have a 133 MHz system bus and four more efficient PCI slots. The 2x AGP video slot has been upgraded to a 4x implementation, and all but the 466 MHz model will ship with Nvidia graphics cards. (The base model includes Rage 128.) There is also a built-in 10W amplifier for sound.

Speaking of speeds, the G4 is immediately available at 466 and 533 MHz; 677 and 733 MHz models will be available in February. All units have a single processor, although there is a dual-processor build-to-order option for the 533 MHz model.

The two less expensive models come with 128 MHz of RAM, while the faster units will include 256 MB. Units will ship with 30 GB and larger drives. Prices range from $1,699 to $3,499.

The top model will include a SuperDrive, which reads CD and DVD - and burns CD-R, CD-RW, and DVD-R. Apple will sell blank DVD-R media at 5/$49.95.

Power to Burn

The new G4 not only has the power to burn CDs and DVDs, but also the Pentium family of processors. Using Photoshop 6, Jobs ran a G4/733 head to head with a P4/1.5 GHz. The G4 won, of course, showing that despite half the clock speed (MHz rating), it was one-third faster at the kind of tasks the Pentium 4 was optimized for.

Putting MHz (and GHz) ratings to rest, Jobs noted that this makes the G4/733 equivalent to a 2 GHz Pentium 4.


Drag and drop CD burning is apparently part of OS 9.1, since burning CDs is now as easy as dragging your files to the CD, then telling the Mac to burn them.

A step beyond that, iTunes software (free from the Apple site) lets you rip your favorite CDs to your hard drive at full speed, create playlists, listen to them, see them, and even burn them directly to CD. All this is done with Apple's characteristic ease of use. iTunes currently supports the drives in the new Power Macs; other support will be added later.

To listen the the music, Apple is offering a set of pro speakers for $59, and the 15" flat panel display has been reduced in price to $799.

Steve Jobs shared his vision of the computer as a digital hub, connecting the Internet, MP3 players, digital cameras, and so much more. In other words, the personal computer is evolving to a new role; it is not dead.

In addition to iTunes, Apple unveiled iDVD, the first DVD mastering software as easy to use as AppleWorks, iMovie, or most other Apple and Claris products. (They have a gift for making things easy.) iDVD will be free with any model shipping with the new SuperDrive, allowing anyone to burn iMovie or other QuickTime streams onto a DVD.

PowerBook G4

As expected, Jobs had one more thing to show off at the end of the keynote: the eagerly anticipated PowerBook G4.

As regular visitors to Low End Mac know, I don't get particularly excited about the G4 processor. For almost any application, I consider anything above 300 MHz a nice treat, but not something worth paying a whole lot of extra money for.

What I do consider worth a premium price is a large screen, which the PB G4 delivers in spades. The "mega-wide" 15.2" screen displays two full pages - 1152 x 768 pixels, the same as Apple's old 21" two-page b&w display of a decade ago and the same setting I typically use on my 19" monitor at home. A bit more, say 1280 x 1024, would have been wonderful, but this is big enough. For the second time ever, I plan on buying a newly released Mac.

Why? Mostly for the screen: this is the first PowerBook to offer the screen real estate I really need. The 400 and 500 MHz G4 processors are nice, as are the five-hour battery, the DVD drive, dual AirPort antennas, 1" thinness, and 5.3 weight.

This titanium and carbon fiber machine outclasses the thicker Sony Vaio, last year's sexiest laptop. But best of all, this is a powerful Macintosh that should meet the needs of the road warrior (big screen, plenty of horsepower) and the thin-and-light crowd.

The PowerBook G4 is visually stunning, complementing the Cube. I haven't been able to get close enough to handle one yet, but it certainly looks like a winner.

The only drawback: you can't buy one today. The $2,599 400 MHz model and $3,499 500 MHz model will be available by the end of January. It's at the top of my hardware list for 2001.

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