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Macworld Expo Boston

You were warned! This week's issue is devoted to the Macworld Expo, which occupied the lives of an alarming number of Mac industry people and enthusiasts last week, who made the annual pilgrimage to Boston's Bayside Expo Center and World Trade Center. The clam chowder was exceptional, of course, but the Expo itself had little of the charm or pizzazz of some past shows. As one TidBITS reporter, Ilene Hoffman, put it, regular readers of MacWEEK or TidBITS are less likely to be stunned by the Expo and its offerings, and "the thrill and anticipation of going to Macworld gets diluted."

There were a number of high points, and certainly quite a few things worth seeing. Just as important, this trip provided an opportunity to meet a number of fellow TidBITS readers, and a wide assortment of other fellow Mac fans. I look forward to meeting more of you in the future. In the meantime, I'm going to let Ilene and Earl Christie give you a feel for what you missed if you didn't make it to the show, or a recap if you did.

One of the things Ilene did at the show was to interview a number of attendees. It may be a bit backwards to place these end-of-show impressions at the beginning of our Expo coverage, but I think they will give you a good idea of what the show was like. The details will follow. For the record, each of these people were asked what they thought the highlights of the show were.

Of a room full of avid bulletin board users, about eight people said "Nothing," while others offered more optimistic comments, naming More After Dark (Berkeley), Aladdin's SpaceMaker, Double Helix 3.5 (Odesta), and Spectre from Velocity, as highlights.

A noted MacUser writer said that the highlights for him included all of the integrated software products (BeagleWorks, Claris Works, and Symantec GreatWorks), SpaceMaker, Spaceship Warlock (Educorp), Mutant's Beach (Insight), HAND-Off II (Connectix), and a MacHack CD which was available at one of the conferences. This CD contained all of MacHack from 1987-1991. A MacUser editor said his highlights included the new Outbound notebook computers, More After Dark, Spectre, SpaceMaker, Magic (Paracomp), the Video Toaster (Newtek), HAM (Microseeds), HAND-Off II, and Novell's Netware. He also added that a dozen or more products would have been drooled over a year ago, but now that the state of the art is moving so quickly, we've become jaded.

A group of international users from Germany, Australia, and England voted for the integrated packages, Hewlett Packard's products, and More After Dark. They also commented that there were no major products showing, just "lots of little stuff." Other random users pinpointed Living Books (Broderbund), TypeStyler (Broderbund), Resolve (Claris), the Video Toaster, Canvas 3.0 (Deneba), MAD (again!), and Silhouette (the trackball from EMAC). The best bargain reported by multiple users was BMUG's $40.00 membership, which included a canvas tote bag and a T-shirt.

Lots of people agreed on a very few items as highlights, it seems. In the following articles, we'll take a closer look at some of those highlights and what they'll mean for us down the road.

Information from:
Mark H. Anbinder --
Ilene Hoffman --
Fidonet: Ilene Hoffman on 1:101/485
AOL, AppleLink, & Delphi: IleneH

The Highlights

Adam Engst, our faithful Editor, said last year's Macworld Boston show made 1990 the "year of the upgrades." With the introduction of System 7, this years' Expo could best be called Upgrade II... or is that Pro or 7.x? New products are no longer the height of the show; they have been replaced with bigger, better, more-feature-laden versions of the products you already know and love. That's to be expected as the industry matures and there are fewer frontiers to explore, but it still takes some of the fun out of it.

One of the few areas with plenty of new activity is the integrated software market, which we've talked about the last few weeks. Claris and Beagle Bros showed their soon-to-be-released integrated products, which like already-shipping products from Microsoft and Symantec, are particularly good for new users, small businesses, and educational users, who typically need a little bit of a lot of things. The key differences are that the Claris and Beagle Bros offerings give users the ability to use different tools (i.e. word processing, drawing, and database tools) within the same document, rather than having to use separate documents with each segment of the program. According to Beagle Bros, this reflects "the true meaning of integration," and we would have to agree. Otherwise, an "integrated package" is just a bundle of separate applications with one icon. Microsoft plans to upgrade their Works package, but there was no information as to when an upgrade would be available or what it would include. Rumours have it that Microsoft discarded an in-progress MS Works 3.0 and started from scratch when they saw the new crop of integrated packages they were up against.

On the hardware front, Outbound Systems introduced their new lightweight notebook computers. There are three basic models running at 20 MHz and all weighing in at 6.25 pounds, with internal 1.4Mb floppy drives, upgradeable microprocessors, a choice of hard drive options, and expandable system memory. The 68000 and the 68EC030 versions are available now, and a 68030 unit will be available after October (the 68EC030 microprocessor is functionally the same as a 68030 except that it lacks an MMU, needed for virtual memory). Each Outbound Notebook System is sold with a used Mac, whose ROM is installed into the Outbound notebook before the unit is shipped. In fact, Outbound repurchases the ROM-less used Mac shell before the user ever sees it. The result of this paper shuffle is that the customer simply receives an Outbound with ROM already installed, ready to go. The new Outbounds' external connections include an ADB port, sound in/out, a 25 pin SCSI connector, and printer and modem ports. The built-in keyboard is a standard size, and the pointing device, now called a TrackBar, is an optical version of the IsoPoint with only minor functional differences. Apple's notebook systems will have to work hard to compete with these impressive products, whose retail prices range from $2,529 to $4,299. DynaMac, whose portables we featured in January's Macworld Expo issue, was also on hand with their computers, but are still not quite shipping the most impressive products. At least at this show they had working prototypes, rather than empty mock-ups.

The biggest news scoop of the show was from Lotus. All of us left-out-in-the-cold registered Jazz users (those of us who believed in the concept of integrated software from the start) will be able to upgrade to Lotus 1-2-3 for $49.00. Specific details aren't available yet, but they'll let us know how to upgrade when the product starts shipping. If you've moved since you registered your copy of Jazz, be sure to send Lotus a change-of-address notice!

Anther notable product being shown is Claris's Resolve spreadsheet, one of the few Expo highlights currently shipping. Resolve fully supports System 7 features, such as publish and subscribe, Apple events, Balloon Help, TrueType and virtual memory. Owners of Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, WingZ, Full Impact and MacCalc can upgrade for $99, and should contact Claris for details.

The best bargain and the real honey of the show was Berkeley Systems' More After Dark. MAD includes 26 add-on display modules for Berkeley Systems' After Dark screen saver (which you must purchase separately, though some resellers are bundling the two at an attractive price). An AD updater is included to turn your 2.0-or-later copy of After Dark into the present version, 2.0v, which is compatible with System 7 and with the new 68040 accelerator boards and computers. These modules are really something else. One of the modules you get for a mere $39.95 is Lunatic Fringe, an addicting game by Ben Haller of Solarian II fame. It's as good as any space ship game on the market. Candidates for Best Modules included Boris, a cute little purring cat; Globe, a spinning globe, which can be customized with the picture of your choice; Meadow, which creates a flowered meadow as it changes through the four seasons; and Mountains, which builds 3D ranges to your specifications on different planets. Mowin' Man was cute, but remember to turn the sound down if you work in a busy office. Another key feature of MAD is Virex-D, a detect-only version of Virex, the antivirus utility from Microcom. Virex will check your drives while your computer is idle, and put 3-D versions of your icons on the screen as it works. The best of the best is that fourteen of the fifteen new modules tested fine on a Mac Plus running System 6.0.5, including Lunatic Fringe! (Meadow required 16 colors or gray-scale.)

StuffIt SpaceMaker from Aladdin Systems was another show stealer. This compression program can be configured to automatically compress any file on your hard disk. The program will compress files which have not been modified in a specified amount of time or are flagged with a keyword, in the background. SpaceMaker has many features, and like Disk Doubler will compress and decompress files on-the-fly. Although it was announced at the show, no shipping date was available. It will retail for $59.95. In the meantime, I'm pretty pleased with System7-savvy Salient Software's Disk Doubler 3.7, available since June, slightly higher-priced at $79.95. One Salient bigwig was skeptical of the likelihood of Aladdin having an effect on their market, but a more forward-thinking marketing rep at Salient felt that the competition between Disk Doubler and SpaceMaker could only make the market bigger and more exciting to be part of.

One other item of note is Abaton's InterShare, a $179 software product which allows modems and other direct-connect serial devices to be shared on a LocalTalk, EtherTalk, or TokenTalk network. It also allows Abaton's and EMAC's fax modems to be shared, with full fax functionality available to network users. This presents real hardware cost savings to companies who do not want to buy multiple modems for their networks. It contains a server application and Chooser client software, and works with software that supports the Comm Toolbox. The serial server Mac needs to be at least a Mac Plus with at least 1Mb of memory, but it need not be a dedicated server; any workstation can serve as a device server.

The downturn of the economy was evident in the lack of giveaways. Fewer companies than usual handed out buttons, bags, visors, hats, or sunglasses (items available in large numbers at previous shows). Most giveaways were reserved for the patient few who sat through whole demonstrations. The presents for those folks included hats, T-shirts, carry bags, and demonstration disks. Lotteries at some presentations yielded copies of software, Apple System 7 kits, and Apple video tapes. The best giveaway was a Lotus 1-2-3 watch. Show-goers liked the stick-on moose which Baseline gave to unsuspecting passerbys, and the Talking Moose himself was wandering around to liven up the show. Microtech gave out an audio CD to anyone who answered a set of questions about their products. Rumours that one of the companies gave out dehydrated ice cream were true, but which company remains a mystery to us! In addition, Digital Vision was taking photos using a still video camera and their Computer Eyes video capture board and returning a disk based TIFF or PICT image to the show participant.

Information from:
Ilene Hoffman --
Fidonet: Ilene Hoffman on 1:101/485
AOL, AppleLink, & Delphi: IleneH
Mark H. Anbinder --

A MultiMedia Bonanza

Those attending the show to see the latest in video and multimedia were not disappointed.

The hit of the show for integrated media professionals came from Alias Research Inc., who demonstrated "the world's first freeform 3D illustration and design package," Alias Sketch[tm]. Most 3D packages require lathing and extruding shapes in multiple windows, showing the object's top, bottom and side views. In Sketch, everything is created in a single 3D perspective with freeform drawing tools. Very cool! Sketch should ship in October according to their marketing people, a month or so later if you talk with others in the company.

For 2D drawing & illustration, Deneba Software's Canvas 3.0 stood out as the winner. The addition of gradient fills, object blending, the ability to convert TrueType and Type 1 fonts to editable outlines, CMYK and Pantone support and full System 7 support makes this upgrade a powerhouse. Registered users of any version of MacDraw, MacDraft, Illustrator and FreeHand can upgrade to Canvas 3.0 for $149. Do it! Upgrades for Canvas owners are $99, or $129, depending on the version of Canvas you own.

MacroMind showed its upcoming System 7 savvy upgrade of Director. Version 3.0 supports Apple events, the ability to play sounds while a movie is loading, better memory management and anti-aliasing.

A number of vendors demonstrated QuickTime-compatible versions of their software in an Apple suite off the show floor. Acius showed a QuickTime 4D database and Gold Disk, Inc. incorporated QuickTime movies into its Animation Works program. The hardest hit by QuickTime may be those developers who forged ahead of Apple and developed their own proprietary compression utilities. Storm Technology may survive QuickTime's introduction because its Picture Press hardware and software combination offers enormous control over how an image is compressed.

The major players in the video display arena treated the crowds to much of the same as in previous expos, but bigger, faster, and with more colors. RasterOps announced its MediaTime board which combines CD quality audio with 24-bit real-time video and graphics display. RasterOps also introduced the Expresso, a personal slide scanner. Imagine a microscope designed by Krupps that scans 35mm slides and puts out an NTSC video image that can be captured with any video frame grabbing device. You've just imagined the Expresso.

Radius introduced the Ergo:Shield, a custom-fitted glare shield that reduces ELF and VLF emissions from their monitors to be in compliance with Swedish emission standards.

The longest line at the show wrapped around SuperMac's booth where show goers were posing in front of a blue screen waiting to have their image overlaid onto one of Faneuil Hall Marketplace to create a four second video postcard on disk. SuperMac accomplished this with the aid of its VideoSpigot card, which digitizes incoming video and stores it in a compressed movie form. These movies can be edited together into longer pieces using SuperMac's ReelTime software.

MASS Microsystems showed the JPEG & System 7 savvy version of their QuickImage 24 video capture card, and a video card that outputs flicker-free 8-bit NTSC video

The most impressive video output device at the show, the NewTek Video Toaster, does not run on a Macintosh. This amazing device is based on a Commodore Amiga and can take multiple live NTSC video sources and create broadcast quality transitions between them or overlay graphics onto them. It can also read Macintosh PICT and EPS files and convert them into broadcast quality video. The Toaster comes standard with a 24-bit paint program and a 24-bit 3D animation program. All this for $3995. The folks at NewTek are working on a version of the software which will control all of the features of the Toaster from a Mac. If you need to create high quality desktop video but are on a budget, check out the Toaster.

Digital F/X announced upgrades to the Video F/X system that include support for A/B roll, non-linear editing, and PICS animation. A/B roll is the process where one full motion video source transitions in to another using a wipe or a dissolve. This ability is one of the most fundamental parts of professional video production, yet is not addressed by most Macintosh video solutions. In non-linear editing, editors work with digitized pieces of video and sound to avoid the time spent waiting for video tape machines to shuttle back and forth. It may not sound like much to a Mac user, but very few professional video houses can offer the sophistication of non-linear editing.

CalComp Inc. has announced a challenge to Wacom's (pronounced Wack-com) dominance of the graphics tablet market with the introduction of pressure sensitive pens to CalComp's Drawing Board II series of graphics tablets. The CalComp pens offer 256 levels of pressure compared to Wacom's 64 pressure levels, but Wacom has succeeded in getting the developers of all of the major 24-bit software to support its product in the past year. If CalComp can match Wacom's compatibility, they could have a winner.

The multimedia dud of the show was Intelligent Resources' Video Explorer Card. The arrival of this $8000 card has been anxiously awaited since its slick demo tape was shown at last year's Boston Expo. Now shipping, the card requires RGB video input and output rather than the more common composite or S-Video connections. Unfortunately, this means that to interface with most pieces of video equipment, the card requires an expensive RGB encoder and decoder. To offset this deficiency, Intelligent Resources is bundling the card with the ElectricImage[tm] Animation System, Time Art's Oasis[tm], MacroMind Media Maker[tm], and Letraset's LetraStudio and ColorStudio for $8800. Hopefully, Intelligent Resources will offer inexpensive, composite NTSC and S-Video input and output modules for the Video Explorer in the near future.

Information from:
Earl Christie --
Fidonet: Earl Christie on 1:101/485
AOL: EarlChr

In Conclusion...

Don't get us wrong, there was lots to see and do at the Macworld Expo this time around. A number of nifty new products and a whole host of updates to old acquaintances. One of the expected bonanzas, though, was in the area of updates that fully supported System 7. Too many of the updates are not yet shipping, and of those that are, most take advantage of only some of the key features: Balloon Help, publish and subscribe, TrueType, Apple events, virtual memory, and 32-bit addressing. No doubt next January's Macworld Expo in San Francisco will be full of companies touting their products' System 7 Savviness, but by then it will be old news.

For now, we'll be satisfied with talking about what did make it to this Expo. We have lots of products to review in future issues, and lots more products that deserve brief mentions, so you can count on seeing more information gleaned at the Expo over the next few weeks.

Information from:
Mark H. Anbinder --
Ilene Hoffman --
Fidonet: Ilene Hoffman on 1:101/485
AOL, AppleLink, & Delphi: IleneH



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