You love your Mac, but a hard drive and operating system do not a complete computer experience make. Peripherals that get raw materials onto your Mac and let you see them on screen and in print are vital. You can expect plenty of news on the digital camera, scanner, monitor, and printer fronts at the January 2000 Macworld Expo.
Canon, Kodak, Olympus, AGFA, KB Gear, and Epson will be on hand to show their digital cameras, which keep getting cheaper and better. It’s now possible to buy a 2-megapixel digital camera with manual override features and an SLR-type body for under $1,000. Other 2-megapixel cameras, such as the Epson PhotoPC 800 and Nikon Coolpix 700, retail for $600 to $700. And because Sony announced a 3.24-megapixel CCD sensor in September, you can expect 3-megapixel cameras to start shipping in the first half of 2000.
As digital cameras become better and more affordable, they may become more attractive as an alternative to traditional film cameras. Several companies are poised to profit from this possibility. Shutterfly,
PhotoAccess, and Ofoto all now offer or have announced services that allow you to send the companies digital image files over the Internet. The services output the files as photo-quality silver halide prints and mail them to you. You can also create online albums that friends and relatives can view and order prints from.
But if digital camera technology is to be adopted wholesale, the industry will have to overcome some key issues. Digital camera batteries have a short life. Even though many cameras now ship with greater-capacity NiMH batteries and rechargers, they still must be recharged often. Many cameras have LCD screens that are difficult to read in daylight, a major annoyance when camera commands can be accessed only through the screen Cameras often lack sufficient buffer memory to store a high number of images taken in the rapid-fire burst mode. Other cameras have a long refresh rate which causes a frustrating lag time between when you snap the photo button and when the camera actually takes the picture.
Digital cameras may be the rage, but if you want to digitize those piles of images stored in shoeboxes, you need a scanner. Flatbed scanners, once among the costliest computer peripherals, have plummeted in price in recent years, to the point where you can buy a decent model for about $100.
As with most other Macintosh peripherals, almost all scanners being released these days include USB interfaces, and many feature iMac-inspired industrial designs as well.
At this year’s Macworld Expo, most of the leading scanner manufacturers will be on hand with new or recently released products: Agfa, Canon, Epson, Microtek Lab,
NEC Technologies, and Umax Technologies. Each of these companies offers inexpensive flatbed scanners with USB interfaces. Another exhibitor, Imacon, will be demonstrating its FlexTight family of transparency scanners: the $12,000 FlexTight Photo and $17,000 FlexTight Precision II.
One of the most interesting new scanners is NEC’s PetiScan, a $179 model that doubles as a flatbed and hand-held scanner. Targeted at laptop users, the 300- by 600-dpi scanner can capture postcard-size images in a single pass; stitching software included with the scanner lets you combine multiple scans into a single image.
Monitor technology has followed two development tracks recently: shorter depths and flatter screens. These trends are evident in recent product introductions as well as in new displays that will be on the Macworld Expo show floor.
Although not exhibiting at the show, Hitachi recently introduced their SuperScan line of short neck shadow mask displays. They claim that their 21″ model has the shortest depth of any 21″ CRT.
Also missing from this year’s list of exhibitors is long-time Mac monitor mainstay
Miro Displays, who nonetheless paid for some very expensive — and empty — booth space.
Having recently sold their monitor business to KDS, Miro will focus on color calibration products and software. They will also continue to sell the Artica digital LCD panel, but the sale of this product will move over to KDS after the beginning of the year. KDS has been selling its Avitron line of aperture grille (i.e. trinitron) monitors for some time, though not specifically to Macintosh users. That should change with their recent deal with miro to handle the Artica LCD display. Also look for their new line of Avitron flat CRTs in January. These will include a 17-inch, 19-inch, and 21-inch AV-21 TF.
Mitsubishi will have the first public showing of the 2040U, a 22-inch CRT featuring the company’s Uni-Pitch aperture grille technology and an integrated USB hub. Also in their booth will be an LCD panel and LCD projector showcasing a new color-enhancement algorithm that Mitsubishi claims can significantly improve the color quality of LCD-based devices. And if you’re in the mood for a little luxury on your desktop, check out the new LCD line that’s the result of a joint venture between Mitsubishi and Oberhofer Hand-Crafted Computers. For $1,499 for the 15-inch LCD panel and $3,599 for the 18-inch, you can get an LCD panel, keyboard, and mouse in a variety of finishes: “executive burlwood,” “metallic taupe,” “plush cherrywood,” “golden cherrywood,” and “natural maple.”
There’s a lot of excitement in the printer category. Just a few years ago, consumer-level printer pickings were slim. At the upcoming Expo, big names such as Canon, Hewlett-Packard, NEC, Brother, and Lexmark will try to wrestle Macintosh market share from Epson, the standard bearer in the lean years.
All the vendors promise to announce new and improved products at the show, but they won’t divulge specifics. Epson will show the Stylus Pro 5000, a graphics professional printer that’s now available without a pro-level RIP for a considerably lower price. In the consumer space, Dan Crane of Epson says the DPI race doesn’t make sense anymore. While Epson and other vendors sell printers that can output at 1440 dots per inch and higher, most people can’t see a substantial quality difference over 720 DPI.
Peter Bergman of Canon is enthusiastic about the resources his company is committing to re-entering the Mac market. Bergman sees a large opportunity for Canon in the color ink jet and Multifunction device space; expect new model announcements in those markets. Brother will also show new printers and multifunction devices.
Finally, at the Expo Kodak will show its Personal Picture Maker photo printer, which was developed by Lexmark.