Mac OS Prose
Commentary on news events primarily involving professional use of Apple Macintosh computers.



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  Wednesday, June 11, 2003

The Signs are Aligning.

Rumors are solid regarding the PowerPC 970-equipped Power Mac systems already manufactured and awaiting announcement, perhaps at the WWDC developer conference next week, before they go on sale.

Combine that with the release of beta versions of Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) a heavily optimized 64-bit compatible (if not 64-bit pure) OS that is rumored to have significant speed gains throughout--Quartz Extreme support or not.

And, add to this the announcement from Quark that the long-awaited QuarkXPress 6, a version fully compatible with Mac OS X, will actually ship next week, and you have signs of a serious upturn in the Mac prepress market.

Sales of Power Mac desktop have waned due to the negligible speed bumps that have reduced the G4's performance comparison to Pentium systems. Add to that the changes that Mac OS X brought as well as a slower economy, and you have the makings for dissent and dissatisfaction.

But this appears to be at an end, if WWDC shows what many Mac pundits expect.

I anticipate not only new desktops and the OS update but an additional minor product, another accessory that will cause Mac envy among the larger PC populace. While Apple knows that prepress and design drive much of their sales, they also know that their consumer targeting is paying off well, particularly with the iPod. And Apple wants to repeat this success as much as possible.

I am personally curious of what the new desktop systems will look like. Speculation indicates that it will still have handles and may also be much of the same configuration, but no longer so rounded. Boxy designs are in this year--have you seen the new Gen Y SUVs from Honda and Toyota?
7:39:40 AM    

  Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The News Is Picking Up.

It's not likely rumors, at least not in this magnitude. A number of rumor sites are reporting that Apple has ordered a substantial number (60,000) of the new PowerPC 970 chip.

The PowerPC 970 is a 64-bit processor with serious horsepower, as detailed in this Ars Technica article. The 970 has everything going for it and will bring the Macintosh pro desktops to parity--and beyond--with Pentium 4 systems. More to come on this.

Another Apple success: the introduction of iTunes 4 and the iTunes Music Store. In two weeks, Apple has sold 2 million songs from its relatively limited but expanding collection. Apple is also searching for developers to create a Windows version of iTunes that can also collect songs from the service. Apparently, the stock market is happy of the progress: Apple's stock has shot up over 33% since the introduction.
9:50:25 PM    

  Thursday, April 17, 2003

Apple scores a profit. And this may be only the beginning.

Apple scored a $14 million profit for the quarter. In a slow tech economy, it shows Apple still has a strong market viability--people still want their products.

The rumor mills have been swelling with pulp lately. Of these bits of flotsam include the rumor that IBM has given the go-ahead to mass produce the new PowerPC 970 chip. Strongly rumored as the G4 PowerPC chip's successor, the 970 is a 64-bit processor with essentially dual processors and AltiVec subprocessor with none of the bottlenecks found in previous chips. Moving Mac OS X to 64-bit support doesn't appear to faze Apple, and prototype logic boards have already been tested. In fact, it appears that Apple has already tapped an Asian company to begin work on production of these new boards.

Since Apple is no longer tied its production plans and hype machine with the former Macworld Expo in July (now a Seybold-replacement named "Create"), they may feel less pressure to get this new configuration out of the door. However, I suspect that attendees of the Worldwide Developers Conference, which Apple holds annually for its coders, will be awash with NDAs as they view not only the new 970 configurations, but also Mac OS 10.3, of which speculation abounds as to its features.

Good news throughout, if Apple can fit the pieces together and add that special polish they are known for that could make all this much more than just a new OS upgrade and new chip.
7:18:47 AM    

  Monday, April 7, 2003

Where There's Competition, There's Smoke.

For instance, consider a message from FWB Software (makers of the useful tool Hard Disk Toolkit) (via MacNN)that FWB will return to making RealPC, a descendant of the old SoftWindows PC emulator that was squashed into oblivion by the Connectix Virtual PC juggernaut.

Apparently, Connectix and FWB made an agreement not to make competing product, which led Connectix to stop any diagnostic repair tool development and, in turn, FWB stopped work on RealPC. Now that Microsoft has bought Virtual PC technology, FWB feels that the deal is off and its hammerin' time. This is a good thing in terms of consumer choice, but then FWB better get out the salve, as rarely does Microsoft leave its opponents without something being bloodied.

In other news, Apple announced the availabilty of Shake 3, a powerful digital compositing app. This software was owned by another company that Apple acquired a year or so ago. Shake was available for Windows as well as Mac OS, but no more--this version works only for UNIX platforms such as Mac OS X, Linux, and IRIX. Here's continues another shot across the bow in the graphic domination battle.
6:10:36 PM    

  Monday, March 31, 2003

The Adobe Spat: Dark Foreshadowings for Apple, or Not?

By now I'm sure you've read of Adobe's article that defiantly shows speed comparisons between Photoshop on a Windows PC and a Power Mac G4.. This article, in no uncertain terms, indicated that Photoshop was the "preferred" platform for Photoshop. The content was a complete slam at all things professionally and traditionally done with a Macintosh over the years.

And Adobe is right.

Keep in mind that Adobe is in business to sell their software. While Adobe and Apple have a strong relationship, Apple has done a few things to tick Adobe off in this business relationship, particularly in graphic editing. So it wasn't hard for Adobe to take a shot such as this.

Also note that there are many more PCs than Macintosh systems, although the ratio of PC graphic users to Macintosh graphic users is probably at 1:4. Adobe wants to ship more boxes of software, period, and the slower migration of Mac OS 9 users to Mac OS X, combined with the depressed economy and Apple's struggles to get a faster G4 processor in their professional desktops are all adding up to important business choices for Adobe to continue to make money.

Don't think that Adobe is going to ditch Macs anytime soon, or later. But this article is a wake-up call for Apple to get their stuff together on the hardware front or risk erosion of their software alliances.

News and rumors of the PowerPC 970 chip is enlightening, but Apple should do something they don't usually do: Announce a product ahead of time with the new chip. Now, I'm not really suggesting that Apple do an Osborne and announce a product so far in advance that existing sales slow. But users, vendors, and stockholders want a bone in terms of what's coming down the pike for Apple. I don't know how Apple can do this, but it's needed.
6:54:42 PM    

  Saturday, March 15, 2003

The commoditization of Macintosh hardware is taking its toll.

Apple announced the gigantic PowerBook G4 with 17" LCD screen over 2 months ago. Let supplies of the laptop are extremely limited.

Marketing for the eMac, introduced originally as an inexpensive education iMac but later made available to the general public, appears to be fading. The eMac's reputation is tarnished by problems with its video hardware that render the system unusable.

Recently, Macintouch notes in its reader reports of FireWire bus failures on the logic board that sometimes render the system dead. Apple's switch to a software-based modem is also causing connectivity issues for many. And recently Apple announced a exchange program for power supplies in the first edition Power Mac G4 Mirrored Drive Door systems.

What's up with Apple's hardware reliability lately?

Apple, like many computer companies, have contracted factories, many of which are overseas, to build their products. Because much of this labor is relatively unskilled and cheap to hire, it's possible that quality is being affected at the assembly level.

Another consideration are the parts that Apple uses. In the long past, Apple used customized everything, which drove the cost of a product higher than its PC counterpart. Today, to reduce costs, Apple uses more commodity hardware, such as ISA hard drives, power supplies, and SDRAM and DDR memory. Historically, Apple generally used the higher-quality commodity parts, but have they switched to a less-reputable company?

A last idea involves industrial design. Apple easily leads in this area with their Macintosh products and accessories, especially with the iPod, iMac, and PowerBooks. However, recent flaws in the design of the PowerBook give me pause, such as the weak and poorly-placed AirPort wireless antenna in the 1GHz PowerBook I use for work. Despite the fact that I am less than 100 feet from the third-party Lucent base station, I receive a signal but cannot get a IP address from the DHCP server. It's as if AirPort gives up too soon in searching for a DHCP server. While the AirPort software recognizes a strong signal from the base station, a third party tool, MacStumbler, repairs signals no stronger than 50%--and that was when I moved my laptop to less than 3 feet from the base station.

Apple is trying to build a reputation with new users that their products have better quality and reliablity, but with the recent problems in the news and discussion sites, I found it hard to back up a Macinosh's system hardiness.
1:46:00 PM    

  Saturday, March 8, 2003

I'm always fond of stories where Macs are underdogs and are even heroic.

Particularly this Wired article on a lone Macintosh PowerBook out with the Army's Third Infantry Division.

The subject of the story quipped that the Army IT department's motto is "we fear change." Not surprising, but then, uniformity aids military efforts more than not. Imagine trying to equip an army whose troops get to pick and choose their weapons. Not a good idea. The purpose for using the Mac and not the standard Army issue laptop was simple and logical. Kudos and good luck to him--his story is a practical testament to the graphical superiority of a Macintosh when the chips are down. Usually Macs are seen as used in the movies and TV by the good guys that need to save the world. Well, now we know of one living example.

On the subject of Macs used in government, you might find this page. One of the more interesting articles there is that of the official laptop used on Shuttle missions. Back in 1998, a NASA Mission Control team member noted to a Mac site that he used his PowerBook while in Mission Control while supporting a Shuttle mission. Neato.
8:33:50 PM    

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Last update: 6/11/03; 7:39:47 AM.

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