|[Editorial] Apple: Not Just a Hardware Company
by Oliver Dueck
Beginning with the iMac last summer, Apple has been offering its customers a very impressive line of computers. Apple has shown that it can still be very innovative, both in the design aspect and through the rapid adoption of new technologies.
In the last sixteen months or so, we have seen the introduction of FireWire, USB, AGP, wireless networking, and the G4 processor with its very impressive Velocity Engine (formerly dubbed AltiVec). Not to mention the refreshingly unique case designs for the iMac, iBook, and G3/G4.
With all of this exciting hardware taking center stage, it is all too easy to forget that Apple is a software company as well. While overshadowed by its hardware line, Apple's software offerings have come a long way in recent times. I realized this after attending an Apple Canada Software Tour event, where the company's latest wares were shown. Chances are, you too may not have realized what kind of great software Apple has been pumping out lately, so I'm going to give a brief synopsis of the coolest stuff.
Apple's most important software product is, of course, the Mac OS. The latest incarnation is dubbed Mac OS 9, and is packed with a truckload of new features and enhancements. The two areas I am most impressed with are Sherlock 2 and multi-user support.
Sherlock made its debut with Mac OS 8.5, and gets a thorough revamping for duty in Mac OS 9. Sporting a new interface (think QuickTime 4.0), Sherlock 2 includes 8 "channels" which you can search, and you can also add your own. Not only can you search for files on your hard drive or for web pages; you can also look for people, shop, and more. With a handsome interface and speedy performance, why would you not use it for all your searching needs?
Do you share your Mac? Then you will love the new Multiple Users control panel. Each person who uses the system has to log in, and you can define privileges for each user; for example, restricting access to certain applications, CD-ROMs, printers, etc. Additionally, you can now use your voice as a password, and encrypt individual files.
Another example of a cool Apple software product is iMovie, which is bundled with some new iMacs. iMovie is a video editing tool that makes it a cinch to create impressive home videos, especially when combined with a FireWire-capable video camera. With iMovie, you can drag and drop scenes in whatever order you choose, and then add transitions, sound effects, music, and so on. Unfortunately, iMovie is not available as a stand-alone product, but Apple also offers the industrial-strength Final Cut Pro suite.
If you work on a LAN, you will surely appreciate the power of AppleShare 6.3, a server that handles HTTP, FTP, SMTP, POP, IMAP, and whatever other acronyms you throw at it. You can now share files via TCP/IP, and an AppleShare server will show up as a Windows NT file server in a Win NT user's Network Neighborhood.
Lastly, the latest version of AppleScript, which ships with OS 9, works over TCP/IP. This means you can use AppleScript to control a Mac anywhere on the internet - provided it is properly configured, that is. At the Apple Canada Software Tour, the presenter used this capability to import graphics and text into Adobe InDesign from a remote machine running FileMaker Pro and Cumulus. It was impressive, to say the least. Even VirtualPC 3.0 is scriptable, which means you can use AppleScript to manipulate your Windows apps.
As you can see, Apple's software engineers have been hard at work in bringing us great software to go with our great hardware. And there are many others which I haven't talked about here; Mac OS X Server, Final Cut Pro, QuickTime 4.0, KeyChain... The list goes on.
So the next time Apple introduces its latest hardware offering, take a moment to see if any new software has been announced along with it. Chances are, you will be impressed.