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Macworld Expo 2007: The RoundupA smattering of some noteworthy products not called "iPhone"
Allow me to begin with a rhetorical, albeit serious, question: if they held a Macworld and there were no Macs, wouldn't it just be called "World?" As much as I would love to smugly sit back while you ponder that enormously profound query, instead let us endeavor to break through the enormous hype bubble generated by the introduction of the iPhone to get at a select handful of some of the more interesting items unveiled at or around this year's Macworld. Well, interesting to me, anyway.
Let's begin with some terribly exciting news, at least to all you Intel Mac-coveting LightWave users out there: NewTek is finally bringing a Universal Binary version of LightWave 3D into the world. Apart from the predictable promise of "noticeable speed and performance improvements for Mac users," NewTek president Jay Roth has gone on record touting double the rendering speed on Intel-based Mac Pros when compared to high-end PowerPC systems. In any event, big developers committing to the Intel Mac platform is welcome news any way you slice it. The Universal version of LightWave 3D will be available in March, and is a free update for current registered LightWave 9 users. NewTek is also ramping up an Open Beta initiative for the Universal version, so watch for that in the near future. The non-Universal version of LightWave 9 (with aforementioned free Universal update) is available now for $795 ($395 for previous version upgrades). Visit http://www.newtek.com/ for more information.
Speaking of another heavy hitter with a stable of products requiring Universal updates, Adobe was at least able able to cross another item off its "isn't on the Mac/isn't Universal" list with the introduction of Flex Builder 2 for the Macintosh. Flex is a framework for creating Flash-based rich Internet applications, and consists of MXML, ActionScript, and the Flex class library. And while you can develop Flex-based apps for free using Adobe's Flex SDK and the text editor of your choice, Adobe has packaged everything up into a single IDE known as Flex Builder (not free, of course), which is based on the Eclipse development environment and provides Flex-specific design and layout tools in addition to the code-based editing one might expect. Flex Builder 2 for the Mac is delivered as a Universal binary application and is available now starting at $499. For more details, check out http://www.adobe.com/products/flex/.
Switching gears a bit, Roxio weighed in with the release of Toast 8 Titanium, the latest iteration of the do-everything disc burning application. And if I may butcher a phrase, Toast 8 is even more "do-everythinger" than before, boasting a slew of new features which can only be properly revealed through a bullet list:
- The interface has been completely revamped and generally enslickened (as long as I'm inventing horrendous word monstrosities) to streamline the four major disc burning tasks (data, audio, video, copy)
- Extensive support for TV tuners, including EyeTV software and devices and (finally!) TiVo, which allows for burning of TV shows to disc-based media and export to iPods or PSPs
- The previously standalone Jam product has been smooshed into Toast, adding features like crossfading, track-trimming, and volume normalization
- Disc recovery options for saving data from damaged discs
- Blu-Ray recording
- Data spanning, which automatically splits data across multiple discs as necessary
All in all, a ton of new stuff. Toast 8 Titanium is available now for $99 (list, though deals are out there to be had), with special discounts and rebates for owners of previous versions. Visit http://www.roxio.com/ for the full scoop.
Finally, we wrap up software with some virtualization news. While VMWare and Parallels are gearing up for a slapfight of epic proportions, CodeWeavers weighed in with its alternative to a full Windows-on-Mac installation with the release of CrossOver Mac 6.0 (there were no versions 1-5, incidentally, at least for the Mac). Rather than a monolithic Windows environment, CrossOver Mac allows you to install select Windows applications directly, bypassing the need for a full Windows install (or even a Windows license, for that matter). Not every program will work on CrossOver Mac, but many do (like IE6, various versions of Outlook, or even games like Half-Life 2), and it's worth a shot if you only need to run a single Windows program on your Mac. CrossOver Mac will run you $59.95 and is available now for Intel Macs only (which seems obvious, but there it is anyway). Check out http://www.codeweavers.com/products/cxmac/ for more information and a list of compatible applications.
Apple may have owned this year's major hardware introductions, and while Steve glossed over the Mac entirely, that doesn't mean that there weren't any new Macs announced. In fact, the long-awaited Mac tablet is finally going to be available, only it's not coming from Apple. Axiotron (designer) and OWC (distributor) have teamed up to deliver the ModBook, which takes the guts of an off-the-shelf MacBook, stuffs it inside a magnesium alloy case, and marries it with a Wacom digitizer to make the first true tablet-based Mac. The ModBook even keeps the built-in iSight camera, optical media drive, and compatibility with the Apple Remote while adding GPS into the higher-end models. The ModBook is not yet shipping but is available for pre-ordering direct from OWC (http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/ModBook), and comes in three configurations ranging from $2279 to $2849. Special introductory pricing through January 31 will save you some cash (anywhere from $80-$150, depending on configuration), and they'll even throw in a free GPS upgrade if you order the base model.
This next one is technically a software announcement, but since it has to do with Mac support for a hardware product, it goes here. Logitech's 3Dconnexion subsidiary announced Mac OS X drivers for its SpaceNavigator 3D input device, finally bringing long-awaited Mac support to at least one 3Dconnexion product. The SpaceNavigator is a "simple" knob that provides more precise support for panning, zooming, and rotating around 3D objects (or flying through virtual 3D worlds, a la Google SketchUp) than a standard mouse. The SpaceNavigator starts at $59; more information, including a list of supported applications and the Beta driver download, is available at http://www.3dconnexion.com/.
Finally, we have a product that wasn't even introduced at Macworld (CES, FYI), but it certainly counts here if for no other reason than it appears to be a very viable alternative to the new Apple TV (formerly "iTV") media center: Sling Media's SlingCatcher (AKA the "reverse SlingBox"). Instead of streaming TV to your Mac or PC, it streams media from your computer to your TV. Sound familiar? Now, it's not even supposed to be available until mid-year, but where the SlingCatcher gets interesting is in the fact that it's priced at under $200 and places fewer restrictions on the types of content you can stream to a TV. Any video in any format that your machine can play is apparently fair game, and plans are in place to enable media streams directly from partner Web sites (no computer required), though no partners have yet been announced. $100 less than Apple TV with more flexibility sounds pretty good, and I suppose we'll find out if the hype is justified when the SlingCatcher ships later this year. You can find out more (eventually, anyway) at http://us.slingmedia.com/page/home.
Wrapping up the wrap-up
Apple may have sucked all the oxygen out of the room with the iPhone announcement, but there were still some pretty cool things to see and be shown at (and in the case of the SlingCatcher, "around the time of") the 2007 Macworld Expo. Let's hope these few tidbits tide you over until Apple gets busy and rolls out iLife '07, iWork '07, more details about Leopard, 8-core Mac Pros, the standalone widescreen 6G iPod, and whatever else. Should be any day now, of course, so I'll start holding my breath.
Though the fame, riches, and notoriety of being a DMN contributor are both tantalizing and substantial, Kevin Schmitt still stubbornly insists on continuing his work as the Director of Interactive Services at EFX Media, a production house located just outside of Washington, D.C. Feel free to follow his updates and contact him through Twitter if you have something to share - he's ready to believe you!
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