What Exactly Did Happen Last Week?

MACWORLD is over, the dust has settled, and it is time to take a look back and try to figure out what it is that exactly happened. There are some obvious things, like the long overdue announcement of a new mouse and keyboard. And not only did they announce a new mouse, it is a GREAT mouse. The tracking is amazing, the styling is what you would expect from the Apple design group, and the buttonless button concept works extremely well. Yes, it still has only one button action, and that does suck, but as far as an upgrade from the hockey puck, this is a true winner. The keyboard, the Apple Extended Keyboard done in graphite, will be a welcome addition to many desktops. Other knock down winner announcements included the new iMac line and the MP G4 machines. While not appealing to everybody, a US$799 iMac will be a big seller, and represents a strong product in the low-end market. The new colors are really just the old colors done better, except for the Snow iMac. In a pretty weird twist, the Snow iMac is as close to a boring beige computer as Apple has gotten in years. Regardless, the price/performance level of the new machines is rock solid, and they should rejuvenate the slumping iMac line. The MP G4s, whether released as a stopgap for the lack of faster G4 chips, or as a true technological breakthrough, are amazing machines. More importantly, the architecture is in place for dual G4 700+ chips when they are available. With the release of OS X, and the system level ability to utilize multiple processors, the MP G4s will achieve another level of performance. Oh yes, OS X. While there was much good to come out of MACWORLD, news about OS X is not on that list. Jobs said that OS X Beta is on schedule to ship by the end of September. Only the most anal calendar watchers and "Apple can do no wrong" enthusiasts consider this to be part of "Summer." September has a "Fall-like" sound to me, and I?ll be surprised to actually see it then. Yes, summer does not officially end until the 21st of that month, I know. But, come on. When Jobs told us that OS X would be ready by summer at MACWORLD San Francisco, most thought we would have a real, working product announced at MACWORLD New York. Now the unfinished beta version isn?t even ready for public consumption. This is a story we have all heard before, and was one of the more disappointing events of last week?s Expo. The wait for OS X continues. One of the more "gray" announcements coming from Apple since the return of Jobs is the G4 Cube. While there is no doubt that this thing is really neat, who do they think is going to buy it? Some say it is more a technology demonstration than a "real" product, but that does not seem to make a lot of sense. Others have suggested that it will be geared toward the person who wants an iMac, but not a Jade one and not a 15" CRT display. That is probably closer. Lastly, some have suggested that Apple is targeting that product at the person that has money to spend and wants the "coolest" toy on the block. Perhaps, but I can?t imagine that a huge market. My guess is that the current low-end G4 tower, the G4/400, exists only to rid Apple of stock of G4 chips running at the now antiquated 400MHz clock speed. Eventually, the G4 tower line will be again reconfigured to place the Cube solidly between the high-end iMac and low end G4. That is a strategy that seems to make sense, and a performance/price point that may help the machine sell. Only time will tell. All in all, the Expo was a great event. Attendance, though I have not seen official figures, was outstanding. The show floor was packed for three straight days, and the number of new products and vendors was outstanding. When it appeared that Jobs and Apple did not have any tricks left up their sleeves, they pulled one on the crowd with the Cube and MP machines. Expect MACWORLD San Francisco to address the portable line, and focus squarely on OS X. Perhaps they will announce that the final version will be ready by next summer?s MACWORLD New York.

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