Apple Makes Its Case for OS X

Even a surprise appearance by Steve Jobs during Apple's keynote speech at the Seybold Seminars Tuesday morning did little to generate news, earth-shattering or otherwise. There was the announced release of Mac OS X 10.1 slated for this weekend -- but that announcement was widely expected since Apple had vowed to ship the much-anticipated update in September and the company had just under a week to make good on its promise. Phil Schiller, Apple vice president of worldwide product marketing, eschewed any new product announcements, focusing his entire 90-minutes-and-change speech on the new features in OS X 10.1. And most of that ground had already been covered when Jobs first announced the update in July at Macworld Expo New York.

Still, Tuesday's keynote was an important step in getting Mac users to embrace OS X. Schiller's speech marked Apple's strongest and clearest pitch to date about how users can expect to benefit from the new operating system.

Mac OS X is undeniably a major step forward for the Mac platform, replacing a 17-year-old OS with a state-of-the art version that sports protected memory, symmetrical multiprocessing, and Unix underpinnings. The OS X 10.1 update is even more critical, adding performance boosts, interface enhancements, and additional features that were missing when the new OS debuted in March. Apple believes OS X 10.1 moves the operating system out of the realm of early adopters and onto the desktops of everyday Mac users.

"If you're a X user, you're going to love this," Jobs told the crowd at Seybold Tuesday morning. "If you're not a X user, now is the time to become one."

The problem is, up until now, Mac users who haven't made the switch to OS X haven't been given much incentive to do so. Apple has touted the operating system's features, shown off every nook and cranny of the Aqua interface, and demonstrated the Dock's "genie" effect over and over again -- what it hasn't done as successfully is explain how these changes are going to enhance how you use your Mac.

Jobs tackled that problem at Macworld Expo in New York when he brought ten Mac developers up on stage to demonstrate OS X-native versions of their software. From an Aquified Microsoft Office to cool games such as WarCraft III and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, the developers that took the stage in New York gave users a glimpse at the real-world value OS X has to offer.

Seybold's graphics and design crowd has more pressing concerns than whether the Tony Hawk game is OS X-native, however. So in ticking off the improvements and features in OS X 10.1, Apple's Schiller wisely and effectively tailored his remarks to emphasize what the new OS can offer print and Web professionals.

Take iDVD 2.0, which requires the OS X update. Apple's Mike Evangelist touted the DVD-authoring tool -- now set to ship in October -- as an easy way for graphics and design pros to create client demo reels with motion menus, sound effects, and other high-end features.

"Imagine giving this to a client and them popping it into a DVD, and it's this beautiful," Evangelist said of a sample DVD he created with less than a dozen clicks of his mouse.

Schiller and his Apple colleagues touted other OS X 10.1 benefits that impact print pros. The updated OS fully integrates ColorSync 4, letting users embed ColorSync profiles within any OS X 10.1 file. ColorSync has shipped with the Mac OS in some form since 1995, but Apple officials say it's never been integrated as fully as it has with the latest version of OS X.

OS X 10.1's enhanced AppleScript support also received its share of attention during Tuesday's keynote -- good news for the designers who rely on scripting to automate time-consuming tasks. A demonstration by Apple's Sal Soghoran that used AppleScripts to pull text and graphics out of FileMaker Pro and iView Media Pro databases and place them in an InDesign file brought the house down.

"I've been scripting the Macs since 1992, and I'm really excited about OS X 10.1," Soghoran told the crowd. "Now is the time for the scripters out there to come over to Mac OS X."

Besides emphasizing OS X 10.1's features, Schiller also pointed to forthcoming graphics and design applications that take advantage of the new OS. Adobe, which already announced OS X-native versions of Illustrator and InDesign this week, demonstrated GoLive running in OS X during Schiller's speech. Graphics pros also have OS X-native versions of NewTek Lightwave 3D and Alias/Wavefront Maya to convince them to switch to the new OS.

"Office may be the poster child" for an application that successfully embraces OS X, said Bryan Lamkin, Adobe senior vice president of professional publishing, during his stint on the keynote stage. "But word processing is child's play compared to what we're doing on the platform."

The graphics and design pros present Tuesday cheered that sentiment. But doubtlessly many in the crowd noticed that several major applications they rely on daily still haven't been retooled for OS X. Adobe is still mum on when it plans to release a native version of Photoshop. And apart from the spring release of FreeHand 10, Macromedia has been just as reticent to talk about when Dreamweaver, FireWorks, and Flash will be ready for OS X. Until those applications start appearing on the horizon, all of OS X 10.1's sterling features may not be enough to convince print and Web designers to make OS X their default operating system.

Apple isn't terribly concerned. It figures the transition to OS X will take about a year, with OS X 10.1's release representing the halfway mark. Jobs told the crowd that many major Mac apps should come out in the next three months, leaving "three more months to get the laggards in."

That's not exactly breaking news, but then again, Tuesday's keynote wasn't about surprise announcements and startling new revelations. It was about reminding Mac users why OS X is such a big deal to begin with -- and why they'll be happy when those native applications arrive.

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