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Apple Polishing at Macworld

Oh My. Here Comes The Deluge Of Hate Mail Again By Charlie White
We're getting lots of messages here at the Midwest Test Facility asking my opinion about We're not fooled. We were going to buy another new Mac for our Midwest Test Facility after this Macworld, but now I've put that off again.

Macworld, OS X and the new G4s that were introduced by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. I suppose I've bashed Macs so much (but I've bashed PCs, too!) that readers want to know what I'll say next about the struggling fruit company. What do the newest Mac-nouncements mean for digital video editors? In a word: Nothing.

That's not to say that garden-variety Mac-sumers won't be excited about the rollout of lower-priced, more powerful iMacs, higher processor speeds for G4s, slightly improved speed on OS X, and new flat panel displays. But they are consumers. We are professionals, and there was nothing there for us.

Sure, the increased speed of the new 867MHz G4s could make a slight difference. But there goes Jobs again, saying something that is simply not true: 867 MHz G4s were not "available now" as he exhorted to the adoring crowd, resulting in considerable ooo-ing and ahhhh-ing. A quick phone call to the Apple Store reveals that no, the G4s are not available now. It'll be two to four weeks before we can get our hands on one. Digging deeper, I discovered that at the Web site for the Apple store, the quote was four-to-six week availability -- shortened to two-to-four weeks when I called the Apple Store and checked the Web site again a week later, Saturday, July 28. (If you'd like to see for yourself, go to http://store.apple.com/ or call 1-800-MY-APPLE. You'll need to go through the whole ordering procedure at the Web site to see that that G4 867 isn't shipping yet, as of July 28.) I'm quibbling over a few weeks here, sure, but it's a credibility issue. No wonder Jobs is so enamored with the words "unbelievable" and "incredible." To me, that says "not believable," and "no credibility." If he's lying about this, what else is he lying about?

The problem here is that Jobs is a victim of his own hype. The "top this" factor is at work, where Jobs has to raise the bar yet again with every sermon he preaches. Then he takes the stage, and runs into problems (again) getting a digital still camera to work with OS X, has trouble getting a DVD to work, and then shows the crowd the latest Mac TV commercials. What's really important here? Marketing or substance? When the marketing tools are trotted out, Jobs is in his element, but when it's time to show us a real improvement, unless it's something cosmetic, he falls flat.

Worse, he engages in downright fraud. Consider the tired old "smoking Pentiums" routine. Funny that when Jobs compares a Mac with a representative of the PC world, he picks on a single-processor Pentium 4 compared to the (as-yet-unavailable) 867 MHz G4. Where was the AMD Athlon chip, another "Pentium Smoker," in this carnival fun-house? And, how long will it take for Mac-nuts to understand that the G4 is only faster than a Pentium 4 when you're running a small number of filters on certain applications under certain conditions? I say, next time, Jobs, get a copy of LightWave up there and render a few frames with that G4 against the fastest PC and we'll see who gets smoked.

But here's the clincher: The OS X software announcements truly mean nothing to professional video editors because still, inexplicably, even Apple's own excellent editing application, Final Cut Pro, doesn't run natively on OS X. Sure, as Jobs bragged, there are over 1,000 native Mac OS X apps shipping. But as I predicted 18 months ago, there is still no way to edit professional video on OS X, and I stand by my prediction that there won't be until 2002. When I made that prediction in January of 2000, I got boatloads of hate mail from smug, vulgar, know-it-all Mac zombies, calling me every name in the book. Call me what you want, but I was right.

Yes, we've done our research (a favorite criticism of the backseat-driving Mac-heads), and we're not fooled. We were going to buy another new Mac for our Midwest Test Facility after this Macworld, but now I've put that off again. There's nothing in there for me. As Apple CFO Fred Anderson said at a teleconference the other day, "There is wait-and-see attitude among pro consumers about Mac OS X." There are not enough apps and too much hype. I think of it this way: When we're editing on our Avid Symphony (running on Wintel), we can't tell which OS is running underneath, nor do we care. The best thing is, it's here today, it hasn't crashed in two months, and it's getting the job done. No hype, just fact.

Now we get to the worst part of all of this: If you want to edit on the Mac today, you'll be using OS 9.x. And, even if the G4 were ten times faster than a Wintel box, that still wouldn't make up for all the waiting for a reboot every time some little thing goes wrong in that ancient tape-and-bailing wire OS. One fault, in one application, and the entire lame and decrepit contraption is brought to its knees, and all the work you've done since your last save is down the drain. It's a mess, and unless Apple gets some kind of pro video editing capability happening soon on OS X, the game will be over for professional digital video editing on the Mac. But I'm not declaring the Mac dead, at least not yet. But for digital video editing, I'm doing what that Apple suit Anderson said the other day: I'm waiting. We'll see.

If you don't want to hear this from me, one who has criticized the Mac on numerous occasions, perhaps you'd like to hear the opinion of my astute and highly respected colleague over at CreativeMac.com, Dave Nagel. Although normally in favor of Mac and all things Apple, even dear Dave has his doubts about Steve and Company after this most disappointing Macworld Expo. Take a look.

Charlie White has been writing about new media and digital video since it was the laughingstock of the television industry. A technology journalist and columnist for the past eight years, White is also an Emmy award winning producer, video editor and shot-calling PBS TV director. Talk back -- Send Chazz a note at [email protected].

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