Feels Like the First Time

A forgotten breed of Mac users has reappeared: the first-time user. As iCEO Steve Jobs said in his keynote address on the first day of Macworld Expo, Apple expects iMac sales to reach 1.9 million by August, and 33 percent of those have been sold to first-time computer buyers.

With the return of that demographic, software companies are rushing to fill a void of consumer-oriented applications for the Mac.

Commercial Mac apps have focused mainly on the professional end, like high-end drawing and publishing software. But what's a newbie to do if he wants to make a simple newsletter to send out to friends or track his finances or just write a letter?

Companies like Corel, Intuit and Microsoft are attempting to get in on the re-energized market by releasing applications that highlight useablity and low prices, two important factors for consumers.

Corel announced an upgrade to its publishing software Print House, a title it originally released a few years ago but never revved for the Mac. The new version, due in October, features a project-based interface that makes it easy for newcomers to get right into producing a banner, card or other publishing job. The $79.95 suite also includes Photo House -- an image editor -- and 80,000 pieces of clip art. Since most consumers have an interest in the Web, Corel added a "publish to Internet" feature that converts pages to HTML and built in an FTP client so users can put up a Web page without ever leaving the application.

Intuit is betting consumers will want to use their new iMac or iBook to make sense of their finances. Quicken 2000, the first upgrade to the personal finance software since 1998, greatly expands Web use. Using Quicken and Quicken.com, users can track stocks and plan investments, as well as receive investment advice.

Microsoft knows something about consumers, and it's trying to make sure it makes Office a part of the home-use experience. Word 98 Special Edition for iMac and iBook comes with Word, clip-art images, greeting card templates, Internet Explorer and Outlook Express for $99.

Besides productivity applications, games are also following the new buyers to Mac OS. The Expo featured major games like Madden 2000, Tomb Raider III, Oni, Fly! and a slew of other highly anticipated titles that prove game vendors believe the Mac is a viable consumer machine.

Several vendors directly attribute the success of the iMac and the potential of the iBook for their developing applications for the Mac OS, and you can expect many more consumer-oriented programs to be announced in the near future.

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