MacCentral Week in Review

Editorial: .Mac adds more bang for the buck
By Peter Cohen, pcohen@maccentral.com

First of all, I'd like to thank the dozens of newsletter subscribers who took the time to respond to last week's editorial, "The Real World," in which I talked about my son's school's decision to switch from Macs to PCs. Your feedback ranged from similarly disheartening stories as mine to some great Mac success stories. I'm culling through your letters now and hope to have a followup posted to the Macworld Editor's Notes weblog sometime next week. If you missed it, you can still read it online as part of last week's MacCentral Week in Review retrospective -- and if you have anything else to add, I heartily encourage you to drop me a line.

This week Apple news was punctuated with a surprise improvement to .Mac, Apple's subscription-based online service. .Mac provides users with e-mail, Web access, the ability to backup and store files online along with other handy features. At a time when many subscribers' accounts are up for renewal, Apple more than doubled the service's basic storage capacity from 100MB to 250MB. Apple also gave users the ability to adjust that 250MB between their e-mail and iDisk as they wish -- thus removing a previous 15MB limit on e-mail directories that .Mac users had to pay extra for to overcome. Other changes were made too -- you can read about them in MacCentral's coverage.

All told, it's a fair upgrade to Apple's service that provide even more bang for the hundred bucks the service still costs annually, and it helps make .Mac more competitive with other e-mail and Web page hosting services that cost less. But at a time when other services like Google's still-in-testing Gmail offer 1GB for free, some Mac users don't see the value. Most of the complaining I've seen seems to come from people who look at .Mac as an e-mail service and little more.

.Mac packs a surprisingly broad range of features into a single service, with e-mail, Web page hosting, online file storage, backup, calendar, contact and bookmark synchronization and other features. And while you can get similar functionality by paying fees to commercial or shareware developers or through other online services, nothing integrates with the Mac OS X user experience as well as .Mac does. Hopefully Apple can continue to bolster the value of .Mac by improving the system's basic services. But we need more than just server space -- we need the ability to do more with what we're uploading. Our Macs are the hubs of our digital lifestyles, remember?

To that end, I'd recommend that Apple take a closer look at social networking Web sites, which have just exploded in popularity over the past few years -- sites like Orkut, Multiply and Friendster have enabled people to create virtual online communities. Flickr, a photo management and sharing site, is a great example of this. My friend pitched it to me this way: "Imagine if Apple's .Mac photo sharing -- nice and easy, right? -- was mixed with social software, blogging functions, and more features than you could shake a stick at."

It's a online extension of the digital hub concept that makes a lot of sense, and one enterprising developer named Fraser Speirs has even created an iPhoto plug-in for it. I'd love to see Apple own something like this, perhaps expanding its scope to also include digital movies and GarageBand tracks. I've had my account up for a couple of days and didn't have any problems getting files to it or linking them to my own personal Weblog. (Flickr's definitely hit a chord with Mac enthusiasts -- its Macintosh group is one of the service's most popular.)

One area where Apple definitely needs to continue to improve is in .Mac customer service. No service is ever totally without interruption, and .Mac is no exception. Even though .Mac maintains a support Web page with the current system status for all of its major components listed, it's not always accurate -- we received several e-mails from readers this past week who experienced mail-related service interruptions, and now I'm starting to wonder if this migration to larger disk size might have had some bearing. While the service came back online, substantive answers took far too long.

Apple News

Macs help Sky Captain save the day, win converts

When Sky Captain -- hero of Paramount Pictures' hit film "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" -- swooped out of the sky in his P-40 Warhawk and protected New York City from an army of giant robots, he wasn't just convincing moviegoers to suspend their disbelief. He also helped convince visual effects supervisor Darin Hollings that Macs could carry the load just as easily as, or better than, the UNIX-based SGI and Linux-based PC workstations he previously used.

Apple intros Logic Pro 7, Logic Express 7, Jam Packs

Apple on Wednesday announced Logic Pro 7 and Logic Express 7, the newest major releases of the company's pro music creation and audio production software. What's more, Apple announced two new Jam Pack expansions for its GarageBand software.

Analysts, Apple on Logic, GarageBand

Apple to expand European iTunes next month

For schools, Apple offers special iMac G5, eMac

New Power Mac G5 Uniprocessor firmware update posted

Apple ranks 12th on 'Best Commuter' list

Visit MacCentral's Apple Hardware and Apple Software forums.

Hardware News

Freescale announces dual-core PowerPC processor

While much has been made of efforts by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Intel Corp. to bring dual-core processors to PCs and servers, Freescale Semiconductor Inc. announced Tuesday at a conference in Frankfurt, Germany, details of a dual-core PowerPC processor designed for embedded applications, such as networking and storage.

Alpine ships car stereo iPod interface

Griffin ships radioSHARK

TrayDock mounts SATA, IDE drives via FireWire

MCE ships 16X 'SuperDrive' for Power Macs

DVB-T comes to PowerBooks via SCM, Elgato

BTI's iPod Battery II offers 40 hours of music

Olympus offers new DSLR, point-and-shoot cameras

Visit MacCentral's Hardware forum.

Software News

New EarthLink Mac software fights phishing scams

When Adobe speaks about camera raw problems, people listen. And the software giant spoke loudly on Monday when it released an update to the free Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop CS. The plug-in update adds support for a new Adobe-proposed file format for digital negatives -- a clever marketing name the company wants to use to replace the less-friendly camera raw.

Ubisoft ships Myst IV Revelation

Vue 5 Esprit 3D scenery software ships

Gak Pak offers 9 plug-ins for After Effects

Fonts.com gets 30 exclusive Monotype fonts

Epson EasyPrint simplifies photo printing

Pangea offers OS X game programming guide

Visit MacCentral's Software forum.

Around the Web

Is Apple gaining ground?

The appeal of the iPod and iMac G5 could be widening Apple's customer base, BusinessWeek reports.

New iMac even more exquisite than last one

Microsoft asks EU court to suspend remedies

Inside Mac comes to Bay Area AM radio

Virgin launches subscription-based music service

Sony's new Euro ads hope to counter iTunes

Visit MacCentral's Lounge forum.

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