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OPINION JULY 16, 2001
Talkin' Smack: The Macworld Smack Down

My annual list of demands for the Mac platform

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

Most of you know that Macworld kicks off this week. While the East Coast show is typically more consumer-oriented than the West Coast one, it does nevertheless offer the hope of some goodies for professional users as well. Of course, as the single most powerful journalist in the world, I am privy to some of the secrets that will be revealed this year—some pretty tantalizing ones at that—but you're going to have to wait for those.

"Aw, Dave," you whine, "can't you just tell us now?"

Certainly not, foolish reader.

"Why not?" you query.

Well, dear reader, I am honor-bound not to reveal any secrets until the proper date and time. You should know that.

"What do you mean 'honor-bound?' You don't have any honor. Tell the truth, now. You don't know anything, do you?"

Normally I would argue with you, dear reader, but I'm writing this on a Friday afternoon, and, after several 16-hour days of hammering on this keyboard for your benefit, I'd like to get it done. So, if it will shut you up, I will admit that I know nothing.

"That won't shut me up. But I'm glad you've finally admitted that you know nothing ... about anything."

Are you trying to zing me in my own column, reader? You're starting to get on my nerves there. Why don't you just wander off somewhere and play with your peecee so us Mac guys can get something done.

"Ooh, hold on there, Mr. Grumpus. Did you miss out on your juice today? Why so crabby?"

Well, I'm glad you asked. You've finally provided me with a segue into my topic for the week.

"Oh, then I take it back. I want to argue some more."

Too late. Now, normally you know me as the always-smiling, ever-cheerful Dave, spreading his Macintosh joy all over the world. But this week is the week I lay out my gripes about the platform, risking the contempt of you, dear reader, and all the rest like you out there who will, no doubt, accuse me of being a traitor to the platform for what I'm about to say. Still, it must be done, for this is also the week out of every year when I have nothing else to write about.

So, in preparation for my list of gripes, I psych myself up to be as crabby as possible so as not to pull any punches. Hence my short-temperedness with you.

"Aha. But this still doesn't explain why you claimed to know something when you didn't."

Shut up, or I'll eat your head.

So now to my annual list of demands. I have but six this year. Remember, these are demands for the professional market. I don't care what the next iMac looks like or what's going to come along to replace the Cube. These are the demands that I think will help make the Mac a better platform for those of us who work in creative fields.

1. First, like all Mac users, I want some significantly faster processors introduced into the lineup. Not some little, puny step forward in clock speed. I want a definitive jump ahead of anything offered on the peecee platform. Barring this, I demand a written apology from Motorola for failing to keep up in chip development. I know what you're all going to say about this, but read the next one first.

2. I want Apple to develop OS X for AMD chips. Not Intel. I could care less about Intel. Now, I know you think Athlons are just rip-offs of Pentiums, but they're not. They are very fast—twice as fast as a Xeon operating at the same clock speed. We had a Polywell single-processor AMD workstation in the office, and it was the equal of a dual Xeon workstation at rendering. Both were faster than my Mac, and that's just not right, not when the Polywell costs the same as my Mac. So why shouldn't I be able to run my OS of choice on my processor of choice? AMD never did anything to hurt Apple. There's just no reason not to develop for Athlon chips. Plus, what do I care about Motorola?

3. I want tablet support in OS X. Very few creative professionals can make the switch to OS X without support for a pressure-sensitive tablet.

4. And speaking of that, I want OS X to be done. As in complete. I want any device I hook up to it to work immediately and with no hassles. And I don't want any quirks left in the interface. I paid $130 for OS X the day it came out, and it's taken way too long to get it into final form. I love it for its elegance and stability, but it needs to be finished.

5. I want Apple to put out a high-end workstation that blows everything else away. Something for the 3D artists and video professionals out there who need raw power in addition to elegance—you know, the SGI market. I want a 16-processor Mac with 16 PCI slots, half of which are filled up with high-end graphics cards, SCSI controllers, ICE boards and all those crazy ASICs that were in the old Mac IIfx. Charge $30,000 for it. People will buy it. Even if they don't, it doesn't matter. There must be no question that the Mac is the most powerful thing there is.

6. I want Apple to support its own applications in OS X—especially Final Cut Pro. I've heard a lot of people complaining about Adobe's seeming lack of commitment to the new operating system. But when Apple can't come through, it's just ridiculous. And let's not forget device control—or even device recognition, for a start.

So that's about it. I guess, in the end, it wasn't all that painful. If half of these demands can be realized this week, I'll be shocked and stupefied. I'll also be convinced that the Mac platform will be in good shape for the next year. If none of them come true, I'm not sure what Apple's trying to say about its commitment to the professional market. Without a finished OS X and without something more in the way of power—either through higher clock speeds or added pro-level features—the platform will without a doubt go into a slump as AMD and Intel workstations continue to move forward.

As with all of you, I'm looking for a very positive keynote speech from Steve Jobs Wednesday. We'll just have to wait and see.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.

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