Expo Keynote: OS X, New G4s, New PowerBook

Steve Jobs kicked off Macworld Expo 2001 San Francisco with his keynote address Tuesday. "We're going to start 2001 off with a bang," Apple's CEO said, and then he proceeded to unveil Mac OS X's ship date, a new line of Power Mac G4 computers with speeds up to 733MHz, a new line of PowerBooks, and three new digital media software products.

Mac OS X

The first topic of the keynote was Mac OS X. Jobs began by extolling the virtues of Apple's new operating system, which most Mac followers are familiar with. He also credited the testers of the Mac OS X beta -- over 75,000 beta feedback comments so far.

Jobs addressed Mac users' complaints about OS X, including the lack of an Apple Menu, no clock in the menu bar, and no disks on the desktop, by saying: "We're listening" The CEO said that Apple will take its users complaints into account while it develops OS X.

Then, it was on to new features of Mac OS X. First, a screen saver -- not only the floating OS X icons shown previously, but a screen saver module that will zoom in and out and crossfade between any images you choose.

"Let's get into the fun new stuff," Jobs said after showing off some previously announced features. He clicked and held his mouse button on a folder in the Dock and received a pop-up menu of items in that folder; the same feature on an application offered a list of windows tied to that application. Likewise with a disk icon, allowing quick access to all the files on the hard drive.

The Apple menu, previously an unusable logo in the center of the menu bar, has moved to the traditional left side of the screen and regained its functionality. "We see the Finder as just another app," Jobs said, indicating that some features have been moved out of the Finder and into the new Apple Menu. Sleep, Restart, Shut Down, and Log Out commands now appear in the Apple menu, rather than in the Finder. The Location Manager also appears in the new Apple menu, as do Dock and System Preferences.

Jobs moved on to the Font panel, which has been redesigned to be shrinkable -- the interface rearranges and drops extraneous items as you shrink it.

He then showed off redesigned tool bars in Finder windows: a status bar can be added, and the tool bar is a bit smaller. Moreover, users can customize their tool bars using a Customize Toolbar command, dragging tool bar items around on the screen until they're satisfied. Clicking on a new, white button on the far right of a Finder window will collapse the tool bar entirely.

Citing feedback from users that they loved the old Finder, Jobs showed that when that button is clicked and the tool bar is closed, clicking on folders in the Finder will spawn new windows automatically, just like Mac OS 9.

Jobs moved on to the applications that run on Mac OS X, saying that 100 Mac OS X apps will be announced this week alone, and that 1200 "name-brand" apps are in development, with 350 announced. "Macworld July is going to be the coming out party for Mac OS X apps," Jobs said, anticipating a flood of new OS X apps this summer. He followed that announcement with a demo of Alias/Wavefront's 3-D applicataion Maya, which Jobs described as "the biggest Mac OS X app," even bigger than OS X itself. Maya will go into beta in the next few weeks, and then ship in the next quarter.

"You will be able to buy Mac OS X . . . on Saturday, March 24," said Jobs, finally giving a ship date to this long-awaited operating system. The price will be $129. In the summer, when the "avalanche of Mac OS apps starts to happen," Apple will begin shipping OS X on its computer systems.

New Power Mac G4s

Jobs then launched new Power Mac G4s, with a theme he called "power to burn." And admitting that 500MHz is a speed that seems poky, Jobs said the new models will max out at 733MHz.

There are four new Power Mac G4 models: 466MHz, 533MHz, 667MHz, 733MHz -- all are single-processor machines. (A dual 533MHz configuration will also be available.) All of them have CD-RW drives ("we're late to this party, but we're here," Jobs said), 133 MHz system and memory buses, AGP 4X (and nVidia graphics cards in the top three models), new audio with a 10w digital amplifier, gigabit Ethernet, and four PCI slots.

The stunning new SuperDrive, standard on the top-end Mac, can write DVDs (playable on consumer DVD-video players), CD-R, and CD-RW discs.

To go with the new CD-RW drives in all the new systems, Jobs then demonstrated Apple's new way of burning CDs. He inserted a blank CD and Mac OS 9 formatted it for him automatically, and he dragged files onto the CD icon, writing them either by choosing Burn Disk from the menu bar or by opting to write them when ejecting the disc.

Jobs announced new Apple Pro Speakers -- reminiscent of the G4 Cube speakers -- and price cuts on the 15-inch Cinema Display (down to $799).

iTunes

Jobs then spent some time detailing his vision of the future of the PC market. He expressed concern with opinions of members of the media and his peers at other computer companies -- opinions which seem to suggest that we're entering a post-PC era. Rather, Jobs says that we've left the PC's "age of productivity," and are now entering a new age of the "digital lifestyle."

"The Mac can become the digital hub of our emerging digital lifestyle, adding tremendous value to our other digital devices," Jobs said. Pointing out that the Mac has a better display and user interface than cell phones, PDAs, DVD players, CD and MP3 players, digital camcorders, digital cameras, and the like, he said that the ideal place for a Mac is as the hub, the center point, that connects all your other digital devices.

Highlighting the growth of the digital music world -- listening to MP3s at home and at work, for example -- Jobs introduced Apple's next step beyond iMovie: a digital music application to burn your MP3 playlists on custom CDs, transfer your music to portable MP3 players, and listen to Internet radio stations.

First, Jobs showed media players from Microsoft, Real Networks, and MusicMatch, and decried them as being difficult to use and limited in terms of features (in order to force people to buy a pro version). And then he introduced Apple's answer: "something we call iTunes."

iTunes is a single, brushed-aluminum-style window dominated by a playlist window, with a tool bar at the top and a "source" pane at left. A browse pane lets you filter by artist or album, and you can enter text in a search box to filter by any string you like. It also supports CDDB for CD track data lookup. A "miniaturize" button shrinks the app's full-screen mode down into a small play controller.

Once you build a playlist, you can press the Burn button and iTunes will burn an audio CD. Downloading files to MP3 players is a drag-and-drop process, with the MP3 player showing as an icon in the source pane.

iTunes is free and runs on Mac OS 9. It's available immediately from apple.com -- however, the current version only supports the CD-RW drives bundled with Apple's new systems. Jobs said plug-ins to support the most popular CD-RW drives will appear on Apple's Web site in the future.

DVD Authoring Software

Jobs then introduced another new Apple program: iDVD, a simple DVD-authoring application. Using a drag-and-drop interface, Jobs used iMovie to create a DVD interface with buttons for all the movies on the DVD. He also dragged in digital photos and placed them in the interface, creating a slide show of still images.

iDVD's preview features let you view the DVD as it will behave on the DVD player, complete with a virtual remote control to use. And a set of customizable appearance preferences lets you set the font, button, and background styles for the DVD. You can even drag pictures into iDVD to use as backgrounds for your DVD pages.

iDVD includes MPEG-2 compression that uses the G4 to cut encoding times from 24x to 2x (according to Jobs), meaning you can encode 30 minutes of video in one hour.

iDVD will be bundled with every Mac machine which contains the SuperDrive. Apple will also be selling Apple-certified media in packs of five for $50.

For professional customers who need to author DVDs, Apple announced DVD Studio Pro, a new $995 professional product due at the end of January. Jobs said it was a complementary product to Apple's Final Cut Pro editing software.

New PowerBook

Jobs then announced Apple's new PowerBook, a 1-inch thick, 5.3-pound laptop with a titanium frame. Due by the end of January, the silvery new PowerBook G4 Titanium has a 15.2-inch screen and a DVD slot-load drive standard. Resembling many ultra-small PC laptops, its screen is remarkably thin. It has a full-size keyboard, and the battery is tucked away in the bottom of the laptop, rather than sliding in from the side. (Apple claims the new battery has five hours of battery life.) Graphics are powered by 8MB of graphics RAM and a Rage Mobility 128 chip.

Ports on the back are VGA, S-Video, IrDA, USB (two), FireWire, 10/100, and Ethernet.

Less important -- but still of note -- the company has also inverted the Apple logo on the PowerBook, so that people watching you work don't see an upside-down Apple.

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