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Macworld Expo NY 1998: The Keynote Address

Macworld Expo NY 1998: The Keynote Address

I arrived at the Expo fully expecting Steve Jobs to be on stage at the Keynote Address. I later learned that I was mistaken; Steve was only supposed to appear from California via a satellite link. But to everyone's surprise (except me - whose misguided impression turned out to be correct), Steve showed up.

Steve is a master at delivering these speeches. His delivery, combined with the very effective videos that interspersed his talk, are literally inspiring. They make you want to stand up and cheer (and run out and buy a few iMacs while you are at it).

Hierarchy of skepticism This time, borrowing from Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Steve introduced his hierarchy of skepticism about the Mac. His point was that, no sooner do Mac skeptics become convinced that Apple has successfully navigated past one hurdle, than they focus on the next one. The levels were Survival, Stability, Product Strategy, Applications and Growth. Steve walked you through how Apple had successfully gone beyond the first four levels (skeptics no longer worry whether Apple will survive or whether they can maintain a stable business, etc.) and was now dealing with the fifth and final one.

The iMac and beyond Steve explained Apple's simplified product line of four basic products (desktop and portable machines for professional and consumer users). The professional products are the G3s already shipping. Consumer portables will not appear until 1999. The consumer desktop, the iMac (scheduled to ship August 15), was center stage today. The other main topic was the future of the Mac OS. Much of the talk was a rehash of what had been announced in May at the iMac/PowerBook G3 "big bang" and at the Developers Conference. But there were several surprise or otherwise notable announcements:

iMac 56K modem The iMac will ship with a 56K modem rather than the 33K one originally announced. (See press release for more details.)

AppleWorks ClarisWorks will be renamed AppleWorks and a new AppleWorks 6.0 (with significant new features) is expected to ship with the iMac. It's one of a healthy assortment of products that will be bundled with the iMac, including Kai's Power Soap. (See press release for more details.)

Apple DVD-Video Kit for PowerBook Apple announced a combination DVD drive expansion bay unit and PC card (with MPEG-2 decoder) for the PowerBook G3 Series. It comes with some really great looking software used for controlling the playing of DVD movies. (Check the press release for details.)

USB stuff As you may know, the iMac comes with USB ports (rather than SCSI or serial ports). Third parties are busy at work preparing USB compatible devices, including Imation, Iomega and SyQuest drives - all done in the iMac translucent color theme. There will also be a USB version of the Palm III cradle. All USB devices load dynamically: you can hot swap them and you don't need to restart the iMac to use them! (Check the press release for details.)

Apple profits Apple will post its third consecutive profitable quarter (exactly how profitable will be announced next week).

Mac OS 8.x and X Steve's coverage of the future of the Mac OS featured information about Mac OS X - with its protected memory and preemptive multitasking. Steve also gave some firmer expected release dates: for example, the Mac OS 8.x version code-named Sonata and Mac OS X will ship almost simultaneously in the third quarter of 1999. This seemed a bit odd to me. I have to wonder why anyone who has a Mac that can run Mac OS X should be interested in Sonata. But maybe this will be clearer as the launch dates get nearer. Rhapsody (now called Mac OS X Server) will ship before 1998 is over. And coming within the next two months is Mac OS 8.5.

Steve demo-ed one especially great feature of 8.5: its new Find File functions. It can quickly search the text content of files and rank the results in the order of relevance to your entered keywords (its much faster and more sophisticated than the current Find File). It can also do a search of the Internet (combining results of multiple search engines) and save the search results as a Finder file. Using this is especially convenient if you have "permanent" Internet access (such as via a cable modem), so you don't have to dial up each time you want to use this Find File feature.

Another new feature demonstration, improved network copy performance, almost turned into a disaster as the Mac seemed to freeze the first time the test was run - the progress bar halted about 1/8 of the way through the copy process - while the copying on a Windows machine (used as a point of reference) chugged along. The demo worked successfully on the second try - although the Mac only barely beat out the Windows machine.

Games Steve also talked up the latest change in in Apple's on-again-off-again commitment to games software (it's on-again!), showcasing many new games now shipping or soon to arrive (see press release for more details) - including Myth II and Starship Titanic (coming in October)! (Douglas Adams made an appearance at the Apple Masters talk later in the day and signed free copies of the Strategy Guide for the game. He apologized for the delay in the release of the Mac version of Starship, explaining that the company was too small to get both platform versions finished at the same time and that to delay the release of the Windows version was not financially feasible.) Tomb Raider II is also on its way (Aspar Media had a "live version" of Lara Croft at their booth and you could walk up and get your photo taken with her; needless to say, this was a popular activity).

There was more to Steve's talk, including a demo (by others) of the just released (in beta) Disney Blast Online for the Mac and of Internet Explorer 4.01 (every presenter's "browser of choice"). But this seems enough for now.