Face Time with the New Macs

Rothenberg: This week's Macworld CreativePro may be much diminished from Expos of years gone by, but it will still give professional users a chance to check out the hottest wares—and air their biggest concerns.

Out of the woods and back in harness, I seem to have weathered Apples Worldwide Developers Conference with my Mac crystal ball more or less intact.

I cant entirely shake the suspicion that Apple rescheduled its annual developers gathering from May to June at the 11th hour expressly to complicate my familys summer vacation plans. While smore duty kept me out of the public discourse in the days following Apple CEO Steve Jobs keynote presentation, I was pleased to note that my pre-WWDC predictionsturned out to be pretty much spot-on.

Although I chickened out over endorsing reports of new videoconferencing hardware and software, Im still pretty satisfied with my predictions that Apples new Power Mac G5would ship in mid-summer, ahead of a September ship date for Mac OS X 10.3, a k a Panther. And while I may have been a bit too aggressive in guessing that the G5 towers would start shipping at this weeks Macworld CreativePro, the show will certainly represent the first opportunity for Mac end users to get up close and personal with demonstrator models of the new 64-bit hardware.

Its that personal contact between Mac users and Mac products thats going to be the main distinguishing feature of CreativePro, the show formerly known as Macworld Expo/New York. While WWDC has risen in the Mac firmament, Im afraid this weeks gathering bears an unfortunate resemblance to a brown dwarf.

As Apple-watchers will recall, the Mac maker late in 2002 seized on show organizer IDG World Expos plans to relocate the event to Boston in 2004 as an excuse to scale back its commitmentto the East Coast Macworld. While Januarys gathering in San Francisco will apparently continue to feature a Jobsian keynote address and a full complement of major Mac vendors, attendees of the summer show will have to settle for Greg Joswiak (vice president of hardware product marketing) and a show floor devoid of such heavyweights as Microsoft and Adobe.

With the possible exception of an announcement or two about the Xserve server or other, lesser Apple wares, Im skeptical that this weeks event will include many software or hardware fireworks from Apple or its major vendors. (I, at least, havent heard a peep—practically unheard-of in pre-Macworld circles.) Nevertheless, CreativePro willundoubtedly serve one function that the developer-focused WWDC—or a thousand demos in a hundred Apple Stores—cant: as a gathering spot where professional-level end users can discuss the major issues affecting the high end of the market.

Beyond the Panther/G5 convergence, some other interesting developments have befallen the Mac software space since Januarys Expo. Heres a couple of buzz topics for the Mac cognoscenti:

  • Microsofts exit from the Mac browser market. Did the single biggest third-party developer of Mac applications jump or was it pushed when it announced that, in light of the rising popularity Apples Safari browser, the company will eschew future Mac revs of Internet Explorer? And if Redmond is looking to avoid competing with Apples bundled packages in the future, what does that bode for other points of overlap—say, Mac PowerPoint now that Apple has introduced its own Keynote presentation software?

    My colleague David Morgenstern noted to me that while both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates will be sitting out this show, this weeks scene ironically echoes the one in August 1997, when the two Silicon Valley pirates united at the Macworld Expo/Boston keynote to declare the end of the platform wars. While Windows numerical superiority remains—and while Microsoft seems happy to continue making money from Mac OS X development—the spirit of creative competition continues to galvanize both companies. (Let s just hope it doesnt result in a paucity of software alternatives.)

    My prediction: Microsoft still sees a nice little cash cow in the Mac, not to mention a fine hedge against further anti-trust proceedings. Whats a little Panther-Longhorn showdown—or a mini-browser war—between friends? Actually, were expecting to see new Mac Office SKUsin the coming months, including a Professional release that folds in Virtual PC, the Mac Windows emulator Microsoft recently acquired with Connectixs software portfolio.

  • Adobes exit from Mac video editing. Another presumptive victim of Apples moves to bring applications development in-house, Adobe Premiere will cede the Mac market to Apples Final Cut Pro and ship for Windows users only.

    Adobe may be pulling out of the Mac video space, but it remains the single biggest developer of graphics applications for the platform and a solid supporter of Mac OS X. While Adobe continues to work closely with Intel to optimize performance of the Windows versions of its software, you can also count on Mac OS X-optimized versions of Adobes core graphics applications, including InDesign 3, Photoshop 8, Illustrator 11 and GoLive 7. Plus, expect the Mac to loom large in new publishing-workflow and file-management packages from Adobe.

    Adobes next moves have a direct bearing on another recent development in the Mac space: the long-awaited Mac OS X release of QuarkXPress, the industrys de facto standard for page layout. The delivery of XPress 6 should satisfy considerable pent-up demand among professional users whove hesitated to make the switch from Mac OS 9; however, it also may prompt large publishing houses to make hitherto deferred head-to-head comparisons between the feature sets of XPress and Adobe InDesign.

    Wholl come out ahead in the next battle of the DTP wars? Ill be surveying the terrain at CreativePro in search of some answers.

    Discuss this in the eWeek forum.

    Mac veteran Matthew Rothenberg is managing editor of Ziff Davis Internet.

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