Last Tuesday`s keynote address; at the opening of the MacWorld San Francisco conference; by Apple CEO Steve Jobs held little or no suprises for mac users who had been frequenting rumour sites online or following the spate of recent lawsuits by Apple. However it did not stop faithful attendees from reacting joyfully with each new product announcement.
However these new products were not necessarily aimed at the hardcore faithful, but to lure new users to the Macintosh fold. Leading this charge was the Mac Mini; a computer that may possibly be the future of household digital convergence.
The Mac Mini is Apple`s first foray into a sub-$500 computer and standard features include a 1.25Ghz G4 processor, 40Gb hard disk, 256Mb Ram, upgradable to 1Gb, slot-loading combo drive; CD-RW/DVD-Rom, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 Firewire (IEEE-1394) 400 port, ethernet and digital and analog video out support. The computer is not necessarily for first time buyers, as it comes bereft of keyboard, mouse or monitor. Because of its small footprint, the machine is not user upgrade, however optional factory installed upgrades include ram, Apple`s wireless solution; Airport, Bluetooth, SuperDrive; DVD-RW/CD-RW and an 80GB HD. There is also a marginally faster version of the Mini Mac with a 1.42Ghz G4 Processor and an 80Gb hard drive standard that retails for $599.
One of the first things you notice about the Mac Mini is the incredibly small profile; the machine measures two inches high by six and a half inches deep and wide; about the same height as a VCR. Although this machine seems primarily geared towards enticing ipod owning PC users to switch, the machine lends itself; with some tweaking; to become the centre piece of the long touted digital convergence. With WebTV attempting a second coming, this may be the ideal time for a device that connects to the internet, can manage your music, edit and create video and can connect through your television.
The other big hardware announcement at MacWorld was the ipod Shuffle; Apple`s entry into the flash MP3 player market. The Shuffle is incredibly small; and the assertion that it`s smaller than most packs of gum is not an exaggeration; in an average adult hand, it is barely visible and the retail prices of $99 and $149 for the 512MB and 1Gb versions make them readily accessible to almost everyone. On the day of the show, 20,000 were available for sale at the San Francisco Apple store two blocks away and within three and a half hours they were completely sold out. Ideal for users on the go and parents pandering to their children`s desire for an MP3 player, the Shuffle is an ideal size at an ideal price.
Lost in all the hardware hype at MacWorld was Apple`s attempt at not offending software manufactures with the iWork suite. iWork features two applications, Keynote 2; an upgrade to the original presentation application and a brand new piece of software called Pages.
Pages fills a void on the mac platform somewhere between Microsoft Publisher and Adobe Pagemaker; a simple user-friendly publishing application. With Adobe`s discontinuation of Pagemaker, low end users no longer had an option on the mac until now. Pages offers a multitude of templates for letters, newsletters, reports, brochures and resumes, that allow users to drag and drop their existing photos and text into.
Apple`s announcements at this expo catered to new and basic users, leaving high end users some what out in the cold, however there were many other exhibitors at MacWorld expo that filled that void.