“What nobody expected followed: Dual processors will come standard on the G4 450 and 500. For the same price. And they ship today.”

 

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July 19
Keynote Analysis:
Y
ou Had to Be There
You've heard the news; here's how it played in the room

by Tim Wilson
Man About Town™
[email protected]

It's hard to overstate the excitement in New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center when Steve Jobs made the announcement, perhaps the most eagerly anticipated news since the introduction of the Macintosh G4.

A new mouse.

Oh yeah, and something about dual processors, gigabit Ethernet and bigger hard drives for the same price.

You might think I'm joking about the mouse to make some snarky journalistic lead, but I was there, and, I'm telling you, the loudest applause I heard at any point during the keynote was for the new mouse. The appearance of that mouse got more applause than the appearance of Chairman Steve.

To be precise, the applause was for the commercial for the mouse, a screaming, gleaming clip set to the opening roar of Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild." (Beginning with "Get your motor running" through "... Take the world in a love embrace...." for those keeping score at home. Long-time Mac partisans will surely know that the commercial ending with those words is no accident.)

That's during the keynote. The biggest applause of all came just after the keynote, when Steve Jobs told us that everyone in the room was going to get a new mouse to take home. The place exploded.

Yes, I got one of my own. No, you can't have it.

Breathtaking
Many of us were expecting some of what came next, the announcement of a dual-processor G4. We expected the little dog and pony demo that showed the dual 500 pounding a 1 GHz Pentium III. Heck, even the single-processor 500 MHz G4 chip beat the Pentium by a full 20 percent in said demo.

What nobody expected followed: Dual processors will come standard on the G4 450 and 500. For the same price. And they ship today.

There were literally gasps in the room. Presumably at least a few from folks who bought a single processor G4 last week, but really, I'm not aware of any desktop system that ships standard with dual processors, of this strength, at this remarkable price.

Also standard with these new computers is gigabit Ethernet, 100 times faster than the version of Ethernet on Macs that shipped just yesterday. This is speed previously seen in $1000 add-on cards, again, included free.

How fast are we talking about? The demonstration was of uncompressed standard definition video, streaming from a remote server at over 16 MB/sec. This will have profound impacts for content creators who are dealing with large files, and most definitely had the crowd abuzz.

"Holy shit, they've done it again"
(from Apple's promotional video announcing the G4 cube)

The sound of jaws dropping at the sight of the G4 cube was amazing. It was a combination of gasps and camera shutters and muttered profanities of awe throughout the room. (The scatological praise quoted above, near the end of the video introducing the Cube, got one of the biggest laughs of the morning.)

You've all heard that the cube is only 8", but I suspect you're not realizing how small that is. Indeed, it was hard for us in the room to gauge the size of the thing while it was being projected onto 20' TV screens around the room.

When Steve picked it up, though, I could see dozens of people around the room holding their hands in front of them, gauging the size of for themselves. Trying it on for size, if you will.

At only $2,299, this will clearly be the CPU of choice for the design crowd. Even better from a designer's perspective is that the new monitors, introduced to go with the cube have only a single slender wire that simultaneously carries the picture, the power and the juice for two USB ports on the display stands.

This is the kind of elegance that put the first Macs on the map 16 years ago and that set the iMac apart two years ago. If the reaction in the room was any indication, you should reserve yours now.

She comes in colors
Ah, the iMac. Three point seven million sold in two years, equivalent to 5,000 a day, 211 per hour, one every 18 seconds in the last 2 years. Thirty percent of them are sold to first-time buyers; 14 percent are sold to those switching from Wintel.

"When we set out to put the "i" in iMac, we really did it," said Jobs: 89 percent of iMacs are connected to the Internet.

It's clear from the crowd's reaction that many assembled were among those numbers, including the reporter next to me, John Lohr from the New York Times.

The strongest reactions, though, came not from the colors, but from the commercials announcing them. Dion's "Ruby, Ruby" was especially effective (although the color itself had a mixed reaction, followed by Jobs's speedy assurance that "men like the color too").

Steve's favorite was Kermit the Frog’s classic "It's Not Easy Being Green" to announce the color of Sage, although he wanted Elvis singing "Blue Suede Shoes" badly enough that he did that deal himself.

The big winner in the seats, though, was the music for the color Snow, Cream's "White Room." The reporter in front of me, from an Italian journal, was one of many who stopped taking notes on his PowerBook to use it to play air guitar.

Music lovers had a number of other treats this morning, including Steve's own home movie set to U2's "The Sweetest Thing" and the appearance in a Microsoft VP's MP3 playlist clips from Aimee Mann and Radiohead.

Microsoft: Not just for lawbreaking thugs anymore
A number of VPs from other companies showed up, but two in particular got very warm receptions. The loudest welcome was for the fellow from Microsoft, as if to say, "Don't worry, we won't hurt you."

It took him a while, but he eventually got the crowd trained to say "only on the Mac" to describe a number of new features in Microsoft Office 2001. What made it so difficult to keep with, though, is that he showed so many dang features that are only on the Mac! It really does appear that the best version of the new Microsoft Office will indeed be "only on the Mac."

One of the saddest things that we Mac users hear is about games that are only NOT on the Mac. It's particularly exasperating for companies like Bungie that actually started as Mac-only. It was thus especially heartening to hear that, even though Microsoft recently acquired Bungie, the two companies are in partnership with Apple to bring Bungie's entire library to the Mac, including the instant classic Halo. The reaction to this was definitely the strongest of any non-Apple announcement.

It's all about the mouse
It was actually pretty exhausting to sit through all this. As we stood in line to get our free mice, we ticked off to each other the enormous news we'd heard—in addition to the above. I didn't even mention the new keyboard, a sweet little demo of OS X, Apple's Internet initiatives, the addition of Circuit City to their sales channel and much more.

I had to rewrite this story a half dozen times because the news kept changing so quickly. After the G4 Cube announcement, for example, I decided there was no way I could lead with the mouse announcement.

I was delighted—if sorry I hadn't saved any earlier drafts—when Steve said, "I began with the mouse, and I want to end with the mouse. For me, everything that we've done, all the announcements we've made, can be summed up in the mouse. It's all about the mouse. So we want to give you one." Pandemonium ensues; you know the rest.

But I think he wasn't just setting up his final gag. There are ways in which that's simply true. It indicates that Apple is listening to its customers. (Jobs was forced to concede the consensus that the "hockey puck" is the worst mouse ever.)

It sums up the elegance of Apple's industrial design, its apparently effortless implementation of new technology and, above all, its sense of fun. The funnest desktop computer in the world, the most beautiful, the most powerful, just got more so.

So, yeah, you've heard the news, but in person, it was truly amazing.

Same deal with the free mouse. You really had to be there.

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