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Talkin' Smack: The Macworld Letdown

Or, why bad things happen to good Mac users

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

Following last Wednesday's announcements, I'm not sure what I can say that hasn't already been said a million times in forums all over the Internet—usually punctuated by a couple of asterisks between an f and a k. The blame can't be placed entirely on Apple though. After all, they're at the mercy of Motorola, which, at present, is far more concerned about its ever-declining cell phone market share than chip development for the Mac. Or maybe they're still too busy firing employees caught smoking in the parking lot to worry about such trivial matters as megaHertz.

At any rate, for creative professionals Apple's Macworld performance was a big zero, except in a few of ways, which I'll get to after I'm finished ranting.

The rant
The No. 1 concern of Mac professionals right now is speed. While the jump to 867 MHz is certainly nicer than 733 MHz, it did fall far below the hopes of those who've been waiting for the PowerPC to bridge the megaHertz gap and at least squeak its way up to the 1 GHz mark.

I know, I know: "Clock speed isn't everything; it's chip design that counts." I'm aware of that. Nevertheless, at a certain point, clock speed does start to edge out chip design. And, at the present time, with Intel up at 1.7 GHz and AMD at 1.4 GHz, there is simply no contest, despite the phony Photoshop exhibition Steve Jobs puts on every year when he has no good news to report. Look, I hate peecees as much as the next Mac psychofanatic, but I've seen the Athlon in action, and it is simply much faster than the current PowerPC. It's just ridiculous for such a blatant lie to be perpetrated on the Mac users.

Oh, and speaking of lies, remember how Steve Jobs said the 867 MHz Mac was "available today," as in last Wednesday? That's not what the Apple Store says. It says that if you order one now, you get the privilege of waiting four weeks for shipment.


So what else didn't Apple deliver this time around? Well, we still have no word on Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro for Mac OS X. Guess Apple can't be too sore at Adobe, seeing as they can't write their own professional applications for their own OS. Does anybody else find it ironic that Windows Media Player for OS X will come out before Final Cut Pro?

Honestly, what's the holdup? Apple went around telling everybody how easy it would be to make their apps work with OS X, but they themselves can't seem to do it. Apple's not short on cash, yet we've seen much smaller developers (and some large ones) delivering their OS X applications with apparently no problem—Macromedia, Emagic, Toon Boom, Maxon, NewTek and, yes, even Microsoft. And these are not light-weight applications (well, except for Microsoft's). In fact, NewTek even had their OS X version of LightWave 6.5 out before there was a driver that could read their dongle.

I'll tell you what the trouble is: device compatibility and control. You can't get OS X to recognize your DV camera, so why bother releasing Final Cut Pro? Even in the latest build, which Jobs announced Wednesday as well, there seems to be trouble even recognizing a simple USB-based digital still camera. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Six monkeys typing on six TRS-80s in WordStar for a week could write a TWAIN driver. And that includes the time it would take them to learn WordStar and the DOS menu system.

And so, in the parlance of our medium, Apple did indeed f**k up pretty bad.

The unrant
All of these things said, there were still some good things revealed last week for professional Mac users. A few came from Apple.

I refer to the new midrange Mac, which, when it becomes available, will probably represent the best Mac deal in history. Why? You get the fastest single-processor Mac in history coupled with a DVD burner and new/improved DVD authoring software for $2,499.

The other good news from Apple was the promise (ahem) of a new and improved OS X 10.1–one that, to my great relief, will apparently fix some of the interface problems we've been contending with since day 1, most notably the slowness of the interface. It will also, apparently, support DVD fully (including DVD-R, as iDVD 2 runs only in OS X). And with a little fudging it will apparently support some digital cameras as well.

Finally, for the corporate users and presentation professionals out there, the news of the new iDVD 2 should offer a tantalizing reason to get one of the new Macs. With support for 90 minutes of content, motion menus and background encoding, it begins to move into the realm of actual professional tools.

Still, with all the fibbing that's been going on in the Mac market lately, it's difficult for me to believe any of these things will ever exist without seeing them for myself.

So, for me, the only really good news from this year's Macworld came from third-party developers. I am quite excited about Corel's Painter 7. I'm happy as anything about Toon Boom Studio and Emagic's Logic Audio for OS X. And I'm shocked as the dickens about the impending release of Alias|Wavefront's Maya for OS X in September, despite the departure in June of Richard Kerris, director of Maya technologies, and eight other staff members.

These are the real gems from the show. I look forward to a future Macworld where Apple isn't upstaged by third-party developers.

Displace the hate
Now, if my time served here at Creative Mac has taught me one thing, it's that writing a nasty review of a Macworld event generates tons and tons of hate mail. So this time around, I'm going to do something about it in advance.

Right now, at least half of you have a good portion of your hate letter to me already composed in your heads. However, my colleague, Charlie White, has written a much nastier roundup of the Macworld show, and it would be best if you vented your hatred in his direction rather than mine. You can read his tirade here.

I know this kind of seems like I'm betraying one of my colleagues here at Digital Media Net, but let's not forget that Charlie is an unrepentant peecee user who almost never has anything good to say about the Mac and who even once wrote a column called "The Mac Sucks," which ran on Creative Mac the week before I took this job. Imagine coming into a new job and having to deal with that! (Even though it was 18 months ago, the horror is still fresh in my nightmares.) So rather than bringing me down on a busy Monday, go read Charlie's column and tell him what you think about it. Again the link to Charlie's column is http://www.digitalvideoediting.com/2001/07_jul/editorials/chazzletterr31.htm.

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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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