Mac Pundits Try To Predict The Future At Feature Presentation

Sure, Steve Jobs introduces several spiffy new products at this yearis MacworldExpo, but some may be wondering what Apple has in store for us in the future.Fortunately, Wednesdayis Feature Presentation, titled "This Ainit YourParentsi Mac: The Present and Future of the Mac Platform," attempted todiscuss 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. Bobindicated that he thought the new iMac was terribly overhyped, and that theactual product, while impressive, was not earth-shattering. However, David broughtup 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 boxitself! The group predicted that, similar to the original iMac, lots of otheritems, such as consumer items, will be dome-shaped. Copying the precision mechanicsof the metal arm would be difficult, though.

Next, the group was asked how they thought this machine would sell, specificallyto educational customers. Henry was concerned that the new iMac may not holdup to abuse that students typically apply to anything fragile. Rick pointedout that the educational market seems to be more interested in iBook, whichis more rugged and suited for the educational market. The discussion then turnedto the relative value of the new iMac, when compared to other Macs and otherplatforms. David mentioned that, at this point, some PC makers such as IBM andGateway have similar systems that have flat-panel displays, but they are eithermore expensive or have less features. Bob, seemingly convinced, said he maywant to sell his current G4.

The next question was what the panel felt was missing from the new iMac. Davidrattled off several things, such as lack of slots, no choice of screen, anda slower system bus. It was also noted that, while Apple has embraced wirelessconnectivity via AirPort, they are still using cables to connect some peripheralsto 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 suggestedthat 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 wouldtransmit your music to whatever location you were presently at. Henry seemedto concur, guessing that down the road, there would be more applications, utilizingeven higher speed wireless bandwidth, to send audio and even video data to otherdevices.

As to how everyone felt about Apple releasing no new PowerMac machines, Henryfelt that Apple was focused only on the iMac for the last several months, anddidnit want to spend time on a product line that has received a recent upgrade.The conversation then gravitated towards clock speeds and Megahertz, and howsimple clock speed seems to be less and less important to your average consumer.The fact is, for standard applications, todayis processors are more than adequate.

The next topic was how can Apple expand, and what new stuff they should released.Henry mentioned that Mac hasnit had much success in the mainstream market, butthey are strong in their niches, and should continue to be. David then voiceda concern that, now that Steve Jobs has filled in his product grid, will hewant to stick around? The group then moved on to new products that theyid liketo see. David noted that the iPod is a hit, so why not expand the scope of thedevice and make it a true pod, in that it would be a type of ferry that couldhelp move your digital content around.

The final top was what could be done to improve OS X in the near future. Aquick survey of the audience indicated that about 80% are currently using OSX 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 defaultOS on shipping Macs. Most people thought it was a good idea, but there was asizable number that did not. David felt that the plumbing of OS X, based ontried and true UNIX, needs little or no improvement, but that the OS X interfacecould stand some improvement. Bob indicated that he was happy with the stabilityof OS X, and wouldnit go back to OS 9. Henry had a less positive experience,stating that although crashed arenit as severe under OS X, heis found less applicationissues with Windows XP than OS X. Predictably, this received a round of boosfrom the crowd. He also felt that some Microsoft applications on the Mac couldstand improvement compared to their PC counterparts.

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