JANUARY 07, 2003
Analysis: After the Keynote
And finally, Apple today introduced a piece of software that Jobs didn't even bother to mention in his keynote address: X11 for Mac OS X. This is Apple's implementation of the windowing environment on Unix operating systems and an incredibly significant piece of news not only for users, but for the platform as a whole. The software is designed to provide an easier transition to the Macintosh from other Unix environments. And, according to Apple, any X11R6.6 application can now be ported through "a simple recompile." In addition, it provides access to standard Mac OS X features, like Quartz and OpenGL Direct Rendering, and it integrates with Mac OS X, including Aqua interface features, such as minimization to the Dock. Don't bother me this weekend! I'll be playing around with X11!
What's the verdict?Even if Apple were the only company making announcements at this year's expo, I'd be ambivalent in my feelings. On the one hand, I didn't expect much from Apple, and I got a little bit more. On the other, whenever Macworld comes around, I harbor the same secret fantasies about Jobs's keynote address as many of you, always waiting for some kind of a definitive sign that the Mac platform is making significant progress in processor performance to offer serious competition to the PC world. And I'm always disappointed.
I mean, the new PowerBooks are nice, but they're no faster than the old. And there were no new G4s or fabled G5s announced at all. So we're not even getting incremental progress anymore. All of this can change in the weeks and months ahead, but, for now, there's nothing terribly spectacular to talk about from Apple on the systems front.
But then, processors are only a part of the story. Apple has done a great job in the area it can easily control: the software. It's once again advanced the amateur creative market with iMovie, iPhoto and iDVD. And it will continue to make strides in the professional market with Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Shake, Logic and other applications. But we'll just have to wait for those advancements.
Fortunately, Apple wasn't the only company at Macworld, and the creative market this week has seen some fantastic announcements from Pinnacle Systems (CineWave for OS X), Aurora (Igniter for OS X), Discreet (Combustion 2.1), Anark (Anark Studio for OS X), Digidesign (Pro Tools for OS X) and the Foundry (Furnace for Shake), among others.
But regardless of these, I believe that this will be a pivotal year for the Macintosh platform, and it all hinges on some difficult decisions Apple has to make with regards to the PowerPC processor in the next few months. The size of the Mac market can grow or shrink, depending on what Apple decides to do. But it will not continue to "hang in there" with the current discrepancy in price and performance between Macs and PCs. The Macworld keynote address would have been a great forum for Steve Jobs to reassure Mac users about the future, about the Mac's ability to compete in ways other than backlit keyboards and shiny aluminum computers. And if not at Macworld at the beginning of a new year, then where and when? I guess we have to wait to find out.
Contact the author: 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. You can reach him at [email protected].
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