Keynote Recap: Announcements, Surprises Galore

Steve Jobs, in his typical showman fashion, started and ended Wednesday?s keynote presentation with Apple?s new long rumored mouse. The new Apple rodent is much as the rumors had predicted; it has no button and is equipped with an optical tracking system, much like Microsoft?s popular IntelliMouse Explorer. The entire mouse actually serves as the "clicking" mechanism, with a click activated with a rocking motion anywhere along the jellybean shaped chassis. To the disappointment of some, the new mouse abides by Apple tradition and still supports only one button action. Contextual menu users are still going to be married to the control key.Much to the delight of the keynote crowd, Steve Jobs offered a new mouse to all in attendance for free. After using the new mouse for a little while, several Mac Observer staff members are preaching its comfort, and see-through coolness. The new mouse will ship standard with all desktop Macs.Others will be happy to know that the old Apple Extended Keyboard is back, but decked out in iMac plastics and a sharp graphite color. The full sized, 108 key keyboard is welcome to those that have suffered through the iMac, chicklet keyboard. For those not ready to buy a new Mac, Apple is going to offer the new input devices for US$59 each starting in September.Not wanting to slow the building momentum, jobs compared the real world performance of the G4 and the Intel Pentium III processors using Photoshop. The G4 500 outperformed the 1GHz PIII by 24 seconds in a series of Photoshop tasks. Not satisfied with the status quo, Jobs did announce the long awaited and much anticipated multi-processing G4. The new G4 lineup follows the same Good/Better/Best that it has since the machine?s introduction. The Good configuration is a G4/400/20, while the Better and Best set ups now feature multiple G4 processors. The Better system is a dual-processor G4/450/30, while the Best features dual G4/500/40. All of the new systems have added Gigabit Ethernet, allowing for high-speed data transfer over networks. Jobs demonstrated the capabilities of the new Ethernet feature by editing and playing streaming broadcast quality video over that connection. This was very impressive. Even with the added features and multiple processors, the current price points for the Good/Better/Best configurations will remain the same for the new models. Better yet, the new MP G4s are available immediately from The Apple Store.Amidst a host of hardware announcements, OS X received minimal interest or attention. Originally expected to ship in final form this summer, then as a beta this summer, it is now unlikely that we will see OS X Beta before Labor Day. Worse, the final version of OS X may not be ready in time for MACWORLD SF. While MWSF was never an official release date for final, nor was this Expo for Beta, Apple has missed at least one golden opportunity for providing their latest OS to their customers. Apple now hopes to have Beta available sometime in September, perhaps at the Seybold conference.On a more positive note, the entire iMac line received a much needed overhaul. Most notably was the introduction of the new Indigo colored US$799 iMac. Indigo is the latest incarnation of "iMac blue" and presents a bright, vibrant casing, unlike the somewhat dull shades of the previous iMac lines. Along with the Indigo iMac, three other versions were announced. A US$999 iMac DV 400/64/10/CD includes a FireWire port for digital video editing made easy with the latest version of Apple?s iMovie software. The DV model is offered in Indigo, or a bright new Ruby. Think of Ruby as Strawberry done right. A new iMac DV Plus 450/64/20/DVD is offered in three colors, Indigo, Ruby, and a new green shade, Sage. The crown jewel of the iMac line is the new iMac DV Special Edition, with the impressive specs of 500/128/30/DVD. Costing US$1499, and available in the traditional Graphite and a nearly opaque new Snow color, the iMac DV SE is truly a computing powerhouse. The US$799 model is expected to ship in September, while the rest of the machines are available now. You will be able to order the machines from The Apple Store, or visit your local CompUSA, or newly added retail partner, Circuit City.The new iMac line brings with it a new set of commercials, with the Kermit The Frog/Sage iMac commercial drawing roars of approval from the riled crowd. This commercial may be the next award winner from the Apple Computer TBWA/Chiat/Day team.On the software side, Jobs announced and demonstrated Apple?s new iMovie 2. Adding improved visual effects, and advanced editing tools, the new iMovie will ship with all desktop Macs, and be available as a download from Apple for US$49 August.Users also received a preview of Microsoft Office 2001. Featuring a number of Mac only features, the new Office application is set to leapfrog Office 2000 for Windows, much as Office 98 outclassed Office 97 for Windows.Microsoft also announced that the much-anticipated Bungie produced game, HALO, will indeed be shipping for the Mac. Bungie showed a new demonstration video of the game, and each preview of the ground breaking 3D game looks more impressive than the last. A ship date was not announced, but HALO appears to be worth waiting for.Jobs major announcement today was the much rumored much-anticipated G4 Cube. The 8" cube has impressive specs, and comes in two models. The first list for US$1799 and has a G4/450/64/20/DVD, and the US$2299 model has G4/500/128/30/DVD. Expandability appears to be minimal, at least on the inside of the machine. The glass encased cube sits on a clear stand the inside can be accessed by turning the system over, and releasing a latch that lifts the entire machine out of the plastic case. Like the new iMacs, the G4 Cube is convection cooled, and thus does not require a fan. The typical area of ports can be found along the bottom, and like all Apple computers, save the US$799 iMac, can be equipped with AirPort. Once single slot on the top houses the slot loading, vertical DVD player, which drew a large round of applause from the keynote crowd when demonstrated. The Cube admittedly breaks the 4 tier Apple product matrix, but offers a powerful and less pricey alternative to the G4 towers. The "Wow Factor" of the Cube is also very high, and should appeal to the highly demanding Mac crowd.Lastly, Apple announced three new displays. Each display features revolutionary one cord connectivity, including video, power, and USB. Each of the displays offers two USB ports on board, allowing for easy connection of the keyboard or other peripheral like a Palm cradle. The first is a stunning 17" CRT display featuring a flat, Diamond-Tron tube and a clear, iMac-like casing. The other two displays are a new 15" Cinema Display, and the one-cord version of the 22" Cinema Display. The new displays are priced at US$499 and US$999, while the large Cinema Display maintains its current price point.All told, it was an action packed, product filled keynote. The entire desktop line was revamped today, and the MP G4?s are hands down the most high powered personal computers in the world.Stay tuned to The Mac Observer for more detailed information on all of today?s product announcements.