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Mac Pundits Try To Predict The Future At Feature Presentation

MWSF - Mac Pundits Try To Predict The Future At Feature Presentation

by , 5:00 PM EST, January 9th, 2002

Sure, Steve Jobs introduces several spiffy new products at this year's Macworld Expo, but some may be wondering what Apple has in store for us in the future. Fortunately, Wednesday's Feature Presentation, titled "This Ain't Your Parents' Mac: The Present and Future of the Mac Platform," attempted to discuss these issues. The session was moderated by Rick LePage, Editor-in-Chief, Macworld. The panel consisted of Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus, Author/Consultant, Henry Norr, Technology Columnist, San Francisco Chronicle, and David Pogue, Author; State of the Art Columnist, The New York Times.

The first question posed to the group was what they though of the iMac. Bob indicated that he thought the new iMac was terribly overhyped, and that the actual product, while impressive, was not earth-shattering. However, David brought up the fact that with this product, Apple was forging new ground yet again. First they got rid of the beige box, and now they are getting rid of the box itself! The group predicted that, similar to the original iMac, lots of other items, such as consumer items, will be dome-shaped. Copying the precision mechanics of the metal arm would be difficult, though.

Next, the group was asked how they thought this machine would sell, specifically to educational customers. Henry was concerned that the new iMac may not hold up to abuse that students typically apply to anything fragile. Rick pointed out that the educational market seems to be more interested in iBook, which is more rugged and suited for the educational market. The discussion then turned to the relative value of the new iMac, when compared to other Macs and other platforms. David mentioned that, at this point, some PC makers such as IBM and Gateway have similar systems that have flat-panel displays, but they are either more expensive or have less features. Bob, seemingly convinced, said he may want to sell his current G4.

The next question was what the panel felt was missing from the new iMac. David rattled off several things, such as lack of slots, no choice of screen, and a slower system bus. It was also noted that, while Apple has embraced wireless connectivity via AirPort, they are still using cables to connect some peripherals to the unit. It was thought that infrared could be used for the keyboard connection, but it could bring back memories of the dreaded IBM PC Jr. Henry also suggested that some of the ports could be put on the front, for ease of access.

The group then speculated on what other devices they would like Apple to release. Bob suggested a system, perhaps tied to the iPod and using wireless, that would transmit your music to whatever location you were presently at. Henry seemed to concur, guessing that down the road, there would be more applications, utilizing even higher speed wireless bandwidth, to send audio and even video data to other devices.

As to how everyone felt about Apple releasing no new PowerMac machines, Henry felt that Apple was focused only on the iMac for the last several months, and didn't want to spend time on a product line that has received a recent upgrade. The conversation then gravitated towards clock speeds and Megahertz, and how simple clock speed seems to be less and less important to your average consumer. The fact is, for standard applications, today's processors are more than adequate.

The next topic was how can Apple expand, and what new stuff they should released. Henry mentioned that Mac hasn't had much success in the mainstream market, but they are strong in their niches, and should continue to be. David then voiced a concern that, now that Steve Jobs has filled in his product grid, will he want to stick around? The group then moved on to new products that they'd like to see. David noted that the iPod is a hit, so why not expand the scope of the device and make it a true pod, in that it would be a type of ferry that could help move your digital content around.

The final top was what could be done to improve OS X in the near future. A quick survey of the audience indicated that about 80% are currently using OS X as their primrary OS, and that about 10% had tried to switch from 9 to X, but moved back to 9. As for who though it was a good idea to make OS X the default OS on shipping Macs. Most people thought it was a good idea, but there was a sizable number that did not. David felt that the plumbing of OS X, based on tried and true UNIX, needs little or no improvement, but that the OS X interface could stand some improvement. Bob indicated that he was happy with the stability of OS X, and wouldn't go back to OS 9. Henry had a less positive experience, stating that although crashed aren't as severe under OS X, he's found less application issues with Windows XP than OS X. Predictably, this received a round of boos from the crowd. He also felt that some Microsoft applications on the Mac could stand improvement compared to their PC counterparts.

Which, if any of these predictions, will come true? Tune in for MacWorld New York 2002 and find out! In the meanwhile, this presenatation from some of the Mac world's most influential writers was entertaining, informative, and and interesting look at what might be coming down the pipeline.

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