A taste of the future

Another year, another of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conferences and another Steve Jobs keynote full of product announcements. This issue of Macworld is packed with everything we could glean about those announcements: the new Mac Pro, the Xserve update, and the next version of Mac OS X.

At WWDC, Apple’s high-profile CEO isn’t the entire circus, he’s just a ringmaster—and that’s just fine. His presentation was, as always, followed by a week of technical sessions with developers who are busy creating the next generation of incredible Mac products, both hardware and software. Many of the products you’ll see in 2007 will spring out of this conference.

Meet the Mac Pro

When the Power Mac G5 made its debut in July of 2003, Apple was coming off of a debacle. The mirrored-drive door Power Mac G4 had been dubbed the “wind tunnel” by the clever classes, thanks to its ridiculously loud fans. The Power Mac G5 was engineered by Apple to address that problem: the company cre-ated a desktop enclosure with four separate thermal zones and nine fans to keep the G5 cool, yet quiet.

Flash-forward to today: the change underneath that silvery case is staggering. Two dual-core Xeon processors live in a compartment that’s less than half the size of the enclosure that the G5’s dual processors used. And the remaining space is no longer left empty for the sake of airflow: it’s packed with additional features and has room for all kinds of expansion options. You want space for two optical drives and four hard drives? You got it.

The Mac Pro has more room, more processor cores, and more ports—five glorious USB ports, four FireWire ports, and two Ethernet ports—all at a remarkably aggressive price. Every time Apple comes out with a new pro desktop computer, it’s always the “fastest Mac ever.” The Mac Pro may not only be the fastest, but also have the best price:performance ratio in the platform’s history.

Leopard’s debut

You know the showbiz axiom about how you should always leave ’em wanting more? That’s how I felt about Jobs’s Leopard announcement. He teasingly mentioned several superdouble-secret Leopard features that Apple wasn’t ready to announce yet. As a strategy, it seems reasonable. Holding back on announcing new features now means that Apple will have something left to make a big splash with when Leopard gets closer to reality—either at Macworld Expo or when it ships. Yet as a Mac user, I want to know more now —all of this holding back drives me batty.

The new Time Machine backup software looks brilliant in concept, though the proof will, of course, rest in how well it actually works. But still, how typical is it of Apple to create an easy-to-use interface that changes the behavior of millions of computer users?

It was great to see the announcement of Spaces— as someone who put this on my Leopard wish list, I’m excited to see Apple support multiple workspaces with an interface that will take it beyond the province of the geeks and into the world of everyday users.

One announcement that hasn’t gotten enough play is that Leopard will come with Front Row built in. So even if you don’t have a system that supports the Apple Remote, you’ll be able to buy some sort of separate remote control to gain control of Front Row.

And I want to applaud a feature that didn’t even make it into Steve Jobs’s very own top-ten list: an upgrade to iCal. I’ve been using iCal for about a year now, and my biggest frustration is that it’s a one-way street. I can show other people my calendars, and they can show me theirs, but there’s no way for several people to control one calendar. With the Leopard version of iCal, which supports the CalDAV standard for calendar sharing, iCal’s Achilles’ heel seems to have disappeared. Huzzah!

Wrapping up

These flurries of announcements often contain far too much information to process in one sitting. That’s why our staff has spent a lot of time poring over Apple’s announcements and volleying numerous questions to Cupertino. We’ve dug through the details and have managed to put together a clear view of what’s new. You’ll find a lot of that information in this very issue. And there’s a lot more to come. Stay tuned for even more about the Mac Pro in future issues. And of course, when Leopard arrives next spring, we’ll pounce on it, just like a—well, you know where I’m headed with that one.

[ Will you buy a Mac Pro? What do you want to see in Leopard? Visit our online forums and let us know what you think. ]

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