Macworld ends drought with slew of new products

The product drought is over for Mac enthusiasts, who just two years ago were relegated to second-class-citizen status before Windows' market might.

The product drought is over for Mac enthusiasts, who just two years ago were relegated to second-class-citizen status before Windows' market might.

How times have changed.

At the Macworld Expo in New York today, more than 400 companies--50 first-timers--will introduce a plethora of new products, many focused on Apple Computer's core graphics market and niche consumer areas, such as digital photography and digital video.

Like January's San Francisco event, much of the focus at this week's show is on IEEE 1394, or FireWire, a high-speed means of moving large chunks of data, such as video, between peripherals and PCs.

But unlike earlier shows, where professional products such as video and storage technology dominated the mix, this year's Macworld will offer more consumer products and games. Still, hardware products using FireWire and USB will have a strong presence.

Storage will get a big boost as several companies introduce new DVD-RAM drives. The high-capacity storage device, which Apple ships standard on higher-end PowerMacs, is capable of writing data that can be read on most computer DVD drives. DVD-RAM is quickly outpacing CD-RW, which reigns on Windows PCs, as the rewritable technology of choice on Macs.

Among the new products being showcased this year:

• Microsoft will announce that Office 2001 for the Macintosh will ship in early autumn and will usher in a new branding program around the productivity suite. New features include the Entourage contact, time and email manager and better file sharing with Office for Windows.

• IBM will update its ViaVoice for the Macintosh with the new Enhanced Edition. Among other features, the $149 voice recognition program adds direct dictation capabilities from AppleWorks 6, Word 98 and Internet Explorer 4.5.

• Personal storage maker QPS had several new products ready for the show, including the Que Note 12x4x32 CD-RW external drive for notebooks. The company also introduced FireWire DVD-RAM drives with new, larger 4.7GB capacity. Older DVD-RAM models topped out at 2.6GB.

• LaCie, which had specialized in SCSI storage, is moving to FireWire in a big way. New FireWire products include a 4.7GB DVD-RAM drive, 12x4x32 FireBooster CD-RW drive, 75GB external hard drive and 32GB PocketDrive, which also uses USB.

• Early FireWire hard drive adopter SmartDisk, formerly VST, will debut four new capacities--5GB, 10GB, 20GB and 30GB--also available in costlier USB combo versions. Models range from $349 for the 5GB FireWire drive up to $949 for the 30GB version.

• Fujitsu will expand its line of magneto-optical drives with the DynaMO 1300 series. The drives, which take 1.3GB disks, will be available in USB, SCSI and internal models. The USB version will sell for $299 and the SCSI model for $499.

• Epson's FireWire contribution is the Expression 1640XL scanner, with hardware-based resolution of 1600-by-3200 dpi and 42-bit color depth. A special-edition model goes for $2,499 and another geared toward graphic arts for $2,699.

• Macsense has a four-port DSL-cable router on tap--in translucent gray and ice--that supports Mac OS, Windows, Unix and Linux. The $199 router, which is aimed at consumers and small businesses, acts as a firewall and allows the sharing of high-speed connections among several PCs.

• 3dfx will introduce the Voodoo5 5500 PCI, the first product in its new family of high-end Mac graphics accelerator products.

• ATI will launch its high-end Radeon graphics card amid subdued fanfare. A press release yesterday revealed Apple's plans to unveil three new iMacs and two PowerMacs using new ATI graphics chips.