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Welcome To MacWorld

CBS News Producer/technologist Dan Dubno nibbled various Apple products at the company's trade show in New York. Here's his report:

MacWorld is not a trade show: it's a religious revival for Apple and a time to smash Windows (Microsoft's that is.) In the past, I had no particular love for the oh-so-artsy Apple world: since 90 percent of personal computers ran Windows, I felt I could safely leave the other 10 percent that ran the Mac OS to fend for itself.

But when the 5 Gig 1,000 song iPod MP3-player came out, my heart skipped a beat. Then, very much in love with the new streamlined iMac, I succumbed to buying this delectable machine. (Ah, with a 15" flat screen hovering over a stainless steel arm attached to a powerful computer base and the DVD-burning "Superdrive", perfection.)

I liked the new OSX software, especially DVD-creation tools like iDVD and video editing software, like iMovie2. Before I realized it, I too was quietly renouncing the Dark Force of Microsoft and embracing the light of underdog Apple, led by CEO Steve Jobs. When I saw Apple's new aggressive campaign spanking Microsoft, "Switching Over," I saw myself.

So, I got up outrageously early this morning to go to the MacWorld religious revival... and waited for hours in lines with other faithful (who bring Powerbooks to the convention like personal Bibles) to hear Steve Jobs do his shtick.

For one thing, the Apple folks are NUTS about secrecy. They don't want to blow Steve's magic show. But, now it can all be safely revealed: highlights of the magical gadgets, gizmos, and software changes coming out of Apple in the weeks and months ahead.

I'm astounded that releasing fixes for operating system software makes some folks ecstatic, and they sure seemed to embrace the 150+ new features in today's announcement of Mac OSX, version 10.2. Boxed in a racy animal skin print, this new release is code-named "Jaguar."

Basically, there are some nifty improvements that will make our Mac-lives even easier: faster searching tools; easier file access; a substantially improved Quicktime 6; etc.

The searching-software Sherlock (now version 3) has been rewritten to include Internet services: quickly locate movie schedules at nearby theaters; latest stock information; yellow page listings with maps, etc. Throwing in the kitchen sink, Apple decided to dust off their pretty decent handwriting recognition software from the Newton days and toss it too (renamed "Inkwell") into the operating system.

There were novel improvements: "Rendezvous" is a software technology that automatically configures and connects other devices (like Airport A.K.A. 802.11B or WIFI) without troubling the user.

Mr. Jobs, in his trademarked black t-shirt and jeans, showed how music on one laptop could be played by another laptop over a wireless network connection that was configured instantly.

Not only can music be shared this way (using iTunes); other devices, like printers, can be configured without knowing anything about network protocols. Major printer companies (HP, Epson, and Lexmark) are planning to include this "Rendezvous" technology in their upcoming machines, Mr. Jobs said.

There's a new e-mail and address program, thank goodness, plus iChat (which is basically the Mac answer to and compatible with AOL's Instant Messenger.) I was deeply impressed by the new mail features, especially the ability to comprehensively eliminate junk mail automatically.

Unfortunately, this feature is one I really would like to test immediately, but we will have to be patient. It will take a few more weeks before the new "Jaguar" OS 10.2 is released to the public (on or about August 24th.)

When it comes to hardware, nearly everyone heard through the grapevine that Apple would introduce some beefier iPod MP3 players. The 5 Gig drive I already have and love that plays 1,000 songs will now fall in price to $299. A 10 Gig (2,000 song) version will sell for $399.

And, the mother of all MP3 players, a 20 Gig version, playing 4,000 songs, will sell for $499. I love my iPod because it so easily connects and synchronizes my music files on my Mac.

But "composers" and "music categories" were sadly left off the iTunes software. That, too, has been fixed and the new iTunes3 software is available for free download today. You can even rate and organize your music in a more intuitive manner and I expect I'll waste hundreds of hours messing with these new tools.

Steve Jobs also announced versions of iPod for Windows that will be released sometime late this summer. The Windows iPods will include a version of the popuar Music Match software that will sync music files between the iPod and a PC. To make these even more irresistible, the iPod can start functioning as an organizer; calendar; phonebook, even game console. (Well, you can play Breakout on it...)

Jobs promised that a new synchronizing software development, iSync, would assuredly revolutionize all of civilization, or thereabouts. Well, it was cool to see how this free software will synchronize a host of daily critical organizer material with new GPRS cell phones (from Sony-Ericsson); the iPod; even Palm handheld organizers.

"Oh, and one more thing." It's an old joke at MacWorld. Saving the best for last, up from the stage rises the new 17-inch widescreen iMac with an 800 mhz PowerPC G4. Inside, an astounding Nvidia GeForce4 Mx graphics chip that puts higher-end graphics machines to shame. The cinema-display is lovely and the price, a mere $1999, with the DVD-burning superdrive. (A must-have.)

The revival meeting was over and thousands slowly made their way out to the show floor, each prayerfully clutching their Powerbooks and iBooks.

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