Every year there are two MacWorld Expos, one in San Francisco and one in New York. Of the two, the San Francisco expo is considered the more prestigious but for the last two years, the New York expo has been the site of some of the most major announcement in the Macintosh community. Last year Steve Jobs made an unscheduled personal appearance at the keynote address to announce the new iMacs and this year he returned to announce the new iBook.
The great thing about this year’s expo was all the new products from hardware and software manufactures. Amoung my personal favourites were the iBook and the accompanying wireless hardware technology – the AirPort, Adobe’s Indesign – desktop publishing software set to rival current market leader – QuarkXpress. Also high on the list were the Apple watches, gemulator – a Mac OS (Operating System) emulator for Windows and UNIX environments, two games from Bungie Software and the plethora of colour coordinating items for owners of iMacs and Blue and White G3s.
This year’s expo experience began on my arrival to the Javits Center. The size of the building is impressive, stretching across four New York city blocks: from 38th Street to 34th Street and bounded in front and back by 11th and 12th Avenues respectively. (On average a NY city block is the distance from the Brian Lara Promenade to Queen Street.) The thongs of people who wanted to attend the keynote address were lined in front of the building from the corner of 37th on the 11th Avenue side, down to 34th and 12th and back up to corner of 34th and 11th with some attendees who had been there since 5:30am. I slipped as quietly as I could through the masses and made my way upstairs to the hall where the keynote address was being held, but there was a line for the media as well, it close to 10 minutes before I got into the hall and I ended up getting one of the last seats in the media area. By the time the keynote address began a total of 5,500 had packed into the auditorium and I had given up my seat from which I had no view of the podium to sit on the floor in view of one of the two giant monitors that had been erected.
One of the personal high points of the keynote address was the Jobs’ announcement of the forthcoming Mac OS 9 which includes an upgrade to the OS search tool Sherlock. Sherlock allows users to search not only their local hard drives but the Internet using nontechnical vocabulary. Sherlock II which demonstrated by Phil Schiller of Apple, now allows users to search by specific categories including News: which allows the news to be sorted by date, Shopping: which will display the pricing and availability of your query and Mail: which allows users to use to search for people on the Internet.
Gaming software manufacture Bungie also made a noteworthy presentation during the keynote address. They presented a theatrical trailer for a new game Halo which takes advantage of OpenGL for Macintosh. This enables your computer to display accelerated three-dimensional graphics.
All of this excitement was generated in the first hour of the address and we hadn’t even seen the iBook yet (see separate story). Not content to wow us with the iBook, Jobs then offered us the chance to voice our opinion on the television campaign for it, before completely flooring the audience with the wireless technology called AirPort.
Apple’s AirPort solution includes the AirPort Card, which fits inside Apple’s new iBook, and the AirPort Base Station, which resembles a UFO from a cheap sci-fi movie, but don’t let appearances fool you. The base contains a 56K modem and a 10BASE-T Ethernet port for connecting to a phone line, cable modem, DSL modem or local area network for terrestrial Internet access. It allows for up to 10 users to connect to it from distances of 150 feet or less.
After all these spectacular announcements, I thought the exhibition floor would hold no other major interest for me, this was until I saw the Apple Watches, these elegantly designed timepieces are a must have for any Macintosh aficionado. I should mention that the exhibition floor took up three halls which make up about 40 per cent of the floor space of the third floor of the Javits Center.
After falling behind in the desktop publishing race with inconsistent and problematic versions of long-time Quark competitor Pagemaker, Adobe returned in force to the field with Indesign. From this demo, it appears that Indesign is the heir apparent to the QuarkXpress throne. For anyone who has ever had to use Quark on a daily basis, particularly in organising large quantities of text, Indesign features a gamut of tools, to make tasks like hyphenation and justification, a relative breeze. As one of these people, I could spend days singing the joys of this new application, it may not replace QuarkXpress with this version but if Adobe continues on this path, it may well be the Quark killer.
One portion of the exhibit hall was completely dedicated to the purveyors of games and standing out in that arena was Bungie not for the Halo preview, but for another exquisitely rendered game – Oni. Oni is a third-person 3D action/adventure inspired by classic Japanese anime and drew larger crowds than the LucasArts’ Episode I Racer based on the pod racing scene from Star Wars Episode I.
For those of you not using the Mac platform, but wish you could, I discovered an Mac OS emulator called Gemulator quite by accident. Somewhat like Connectix’s Virtual PC which emulates a Windows environment on a Mac, Gemulator SoftMac allows Microsoft Windows users to read Macintosh disks, boot Mac OS, and run Macintosh programs. But unlike Virtual PC, Gemulator is a hardware and software solution; using an add-in card that contains physical Mac OS ROM’s as well as the SoftMac software.
To cover all of the exhibits to almost two days, during that period they were no lulls in the crowds. It was estimated that over 46,000 people attended this year’s Expo. According to IDG Expo Management, this was “a major success” with a 35 per cent increase in attendance and over 80 per cent of the 362 exhibitors presenting new products. The next MacWorld Expo is scheduled for San Francisco on January 4 – 8 2000, as yet no date has been set for the east coast conference. However next year promises to be another feature filled year Macintosh users worldwide.