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At Macworld Expo in New York, Steve Jobs excited Mac users with things they can't yet have and services for which they now need to pay. Adam has the scoop on the new 17-inch flat-screen iMac, iTunes 3, new iPods, plus a preview of iCal, iSync, and the rest of Mac OS X 10.2 - but the biggest buzz is .Mac's $100 annual fee. We also note Entourage X's disappearing Palm conduit, Apple's financials, Adam's Mac influence ranking, and last week's spam poll results.
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Apple Posts $32 Million Q3 Profit -- Apple last week announced a $32 million profit for its third fiscal quarter of the year. Revenues for the quarter were $1.43 billion (down 3 percent from the same quarter last year) and gross margins were a still-healthy 27.4 percent (although that too is down from 29.4 percent a year ago). Apple says it shipped just over 800,000 Macs in the quarter, and international sales accounted for 42 percent of revenue. Despite the current economic conditions, Apple remains in good shape compared to most other computer makers, with some $4.3 billion in cash on hand. The company expects a small profit for its next quarter, barring any large non-recurring expenditures. [GD]
TidBITS Publisher Adam Engst #3 in MDJ Power 25 -- As much as we generally avoid blowing our own horn here at TidBITS, we should note that TidBITS publisher Adam C. Engst was once again rated #3 in the MDJ Power 25, an annual survey which attempts to assess who wields power and influence in the Macintosh community. This year, Adam is the only person in the top five of the MDJ Power 25 who is not an Apple employee: first place again went to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, with Apple's Senior VP of Software Engineering Avie Tevanian taking second place. Jonathan Ive (Apple's VP of Design) took fourth place, and Tim Holmes, Apple's Mac OS Technology Manager, took fifth. Congratulations to Adam and all the worthy folks in the MDJ Power 25! [GD]
Collateral Spammage 2002 Poll Results - Last week, we asked readers how many spam email messages they receive per week at all their email addresses. Although we never claim TidBITS polls are scientific, the results are unfortunately not surprising. Approximately 31 percent of respondents said they received more than 100 spam messages per week, and about 27 percent reported receiving 20 or fewer spam messages per week - that means about 42 percent of respondents reported getting between 21 and 100 spam messages per week.
Needless to say, the results indicate people are getting more spam than ever. When we conducted a similar poll in May of 2000, only seven percent reported receiving more than 71 spam messages per week, while a whopping 40 percent reported receiving 10 or fewer spam messages a week. Claims that the spam problem on the Internet has increased tenfold in the last couple of years may not be far off base. [GD]
Palm Conduit for Entourage X Released, Yanked -- The wait appeared to be over last week for people who wanting to synchronize the personal information on their Palm handhelds with Entourage X. Microsoft released a Palm conduit that synchronizes addresses, tasks, memos, and calendar items (but not email, unfortunately) to any handheld running Palm OS 3 or later. Shortly after the release, however, Microsoft pulled the software to address problems raised by users who installed it. As of 22-Jul-02, Microsoft has not detailed the problems encountered or offered an estimated date of arrival for a corrected version, so we recommend not installing the conduit if you happened to grab it last week. [JLC]
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
Despite rampant rumors that Apple would release new desktop Macs (a move possibly held up due to new systems requiring Mac OS X 10.2), the only new Mac that appeared at last week's Macworld Expo was a 17-inch (43.2 cm) iMac selling for $2,000. Other than the new wide-screen display, the addition of an Nvidia GeForce4 MX graphics controller, and an 80 GB hard disk, the 17-inch iMacs will be identical to the existing high-end iMacs. That means they'll have 800 MHz PowerPC G4 processors, 256 MB of RAM, SuperDrives, 10/100Base-T Ethernet, a 56K internal modem, Apple Pro speakers, and the usual complement of FireWire and USB ports.
The screen is the most unusual aspect of the iMac - its native resolution is 1440 by 900 pixels, a 16:10 aspect ratio. It can also run at three other resolutions in the 16:10 aspect ratio, plus three resolutions in a standard 4:3 aspect ratio. Perhaps because of its location, cantilevered out on the iMac's chrome arm, the display looks more awkward than the screen on the Titanium PowerBook G4 or the two large Apple Cinema Displays, all of which have roughly similar aspect ratios. In contrast, the 17-inch Apple Studio Display provides a resolution of 1280 by 1024, offering a few more total pixels and more vertical height than the wide-screen iMac display.
The 17-inch iMac should be available in a week or two - the fact that it's nearly identical to the existing iMacs probably helped Apple push it out quickly. Although there will no doubt be those for whom the higher cost of the 17-inch iMac is difficult to justify, Apple's data show that cost isn't the deciding factor with iMac buyers. During the keynote, Steve Jobs said that half of all the new iMacs sold were the high-end models with the SuperDrive; this new model adds a mere $200 to the price of the previous high end model for the larger display, better graphics controller, and larger hard disk. Given the known (and viscerally obvious) benefits of a larger screen, I expect the 17-inch iMac to be a hit - I know I'd pay the premium for it if I were in the market for an iMac.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Steve Jobs devoted a large portion of his Macworld Expo keynote last week to building excitement for the next major release of Mac OS X. Codenamed "Jaguar" and known officially as Mac OS X 10.2, the release will reportedly offer significantly improved performance and 150 new features when it appears for sale for $130 on 24-Aug-02. For people buying Macs between 17-Jul-02 and 24-Aug-02, the Mac OS Up to Date program will provide a copy of Jaguar for $20, but unfortunately, there is currently no other upgrade discount for current Mac OS X users.
Many people have complained about Jaguar's cost, and as much as Apple needs to find sources of revenue in this harsh economy, the company will have to be careful. It's clear that Apple wants to keep people upgrading versions of Mac OS X, and if the price is too high, that could slow further adoption just when Mac OS X is gaining ground. Apple estimates that there are 2.5 million copies of Mac OS X in active use, and they believe that number will double to 5 million by the end of 2002, thanks to 77 percent of Mac buyers keeping Mac OS X as the primary operating system. (For reference, Jobs implied that 5 million Mac OS X users would account for 20 percent of the installed base of Macs, many of which can't even run Mac OS X.)
Our take: Apple should offer a discount for existing users. Times are tough all over, and as much as Apple needs to bring in revenue, Mac users don't have unlimited funds either. Apple is already pushing the limits with the $100 annual .Mac subscription fee (see "iTools Morphs into .Mac; Users Squawk," later in this issue), but that's more optional than a major upgrade to an operating system that still has significant problems and gaps. Plus, losing too many people in the upgrade process could complicate Apple's work in pushing out security fixes going forward and providing a single target for future application development. Until this point, it was safe to assume that everyone was running the latest version of Mac OS X; a too-high upgrade price could further divide the Mac community by operating system version. I strongly encourage people to send Apple feedback on this issue - it's unreasonable to ask Apple to give Jaguar away for free, but the cost could be lowered for existing users.
A Few More Jaguar Details -- We covered the main features of Jaguar when Steve Jobs first announced it at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) several months ago, so we won't recap that coverage - see "Jaguar: Mac OS X Prepares to Pounce" in TidBITS-629 for information about iChat, Mail, Sherlock 3, QuickTime 6 (now shipping via Software Update, along with a minor Mac OS X security update), Rendezvous, and more.
In fact, the Macworld Expo demo of Jaguar appears to have been extremely similar to the WWDC demo - the only new feature I hadn't seen mentioned before was a Desktop Pictures preference pane that can automatically switch between different pictures every so often, a feature previously found in the realm of shareware utilities. That's not to say there weren't new details, and I'd highly recommend browsing through Jaguar's extensive list of features, including such things as AirPort Software Base Station, AppleScript folder actions, mounting of FTP servers in the Finder, and a clean install option. Especially fascinating was the keynote demonstration of Rendezvous, which lets Macs running Jaguar discover network services over TCP/IP. Jobs first showed iTunes automatically discovering and sharing music between a pair of Macs connected only via AirPort; a subsequent demo showed a Mac automatically finding and configuring a network printer, something that's currently a tedious manual process.
An important improvement barely mentioned in the keynote for lack of time is Jaguar's improved accessibility, which includes a Zoom feature for magnifying anything on the Mac OS X screen, a black-and-white option for improving contrast for reading text, mouse support using the numeric keypad, and system-wide keyboard access.
One interesting note: the Macworld Expo keynote was the first large-scale webcast to use the new MPEG-4 open standard. About 50,000 people watched, half of them with QuickTime 6, which had garnered more than one million downloads in the 36 hours from its initial release to the keynote.
iCal -- Although Apple is building an ever-increasing level of functionality into Mac OS X itself - witness the system-wide Address Book and Sherlock 3 - Apple also announced two new applications: iCal and iSync. iCal is a simple single-window calendar that should fill the needs of many consumers. It supports multiple calendars (such as one for each member of a family), and can publish calendars and subscribe to them via .Mac or any other WebDAV server. iCal will be a free download from Apple when it ships in September, and it will require Mac OS X 10.2.
The product most likely to suffer from iCal's release is Microsoft's Entourage. Although my impression is that Entourage is a more capable calendar, it lacks extensive sharing capabilities and is aimed at the individual user, leaving it vulnerable to iCal. Sharing is key - as Jobs noted in the keynote, we all have calendars, and there's almost no point in having a calendar if you can't share it with the other people affected by your schedule. For many years, Tonya and I have relied on Now Up-to-Date (once again sold by Now Software, just revived as a division of Power On Software) for its sharing capabilities, and we've been flabbergasted that more busy families didn't use something similar. It's unlikely iCal will hurt Now Up-to-Date much, since Now Up-to-Date is more appropriate for businesses. Plus, Now Software announced a Windows version of Now Up-to-Date at Macworld Expo that should make the program significantly more attractive to offices with Macs and PCs.
Our take is that iCal will be as much of a hit as the rest of Apple's iApps. It's hard to beat a free program that offers much-needed functionality, especially when it comes from Apple.
iSync -- iCal is cute and will be useful for many people, but iSync is far more important. Based on the SyncML open standard, iSync is a general-purpose application for synchronizing data between multiple devices. Jobs described it synchronizing calendar events from iCal and contacts from the Mac OS X Address Book to an iPod via FireWire, to a Palm handheld (it still requires the Palm conduits) via USB, and to a Sony Ericsson cell phone via Bluetooth (a wireless communication technology that is to USB what AirPort is to Ethernet). As with iCal, iSync will be a free download for Mac OS X 10.2 users when it ships in September.
The utility of such a program is obvious - Macs are getting smaller all the time, but they can't hope to compete with the tiny consumer electronics that continue to gain in popularity. For people who are often away from their Macs, iSync will make it possible to carry a minimum number of these devices and choose between them based on the primary feature you want - an MP3 player, a PDA, or a cell phone.
In the future, Jobs said that iSync will be able to synchronize files between multiple Macs via .Mac (presumably via local networks as well, with some help from Rendezvous). My impression is that iSync is meant to be open, so other applications can take advantage of it as well to synchronize data instead of entire files. The first one I'd like to see is iPhoto, which currently has no good way to synchronize photos between a laptop you would take on vacation and a desktop Mac that you'd use for most of your photo work.
Jobs called iSync a landmark, groundbreaking application, and I think he's right. When coupled with the next generation of small digital devices, it brings significantly more power to Apple's concept of the Mac as a digital hub.
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
Among the bevy of announcements during Steve Jobs's Macworld Expo keynote last week was the release of iTunes 3, a new version of Apple's free MP3-playing software that's available now, though only for Mac OS X.
New in iTunes 3 is Sound Check, a feature that normalizes playback volumes to avoid the situation where some tracks are shockingly louder or significantly softer than others. Although I hadn't noticed that much when I first started getting into MP3s, it's become increasingly annoying as my music collection grows. iTunes 3 also offers new categorization options that track the number of times each track has been played and let you rate each song from one to five stars. iTunes also records the last time each song was played.
The main new feature, though, is Smart Playlists, best thought of as filters for your music. For instance, you can create a rule that matches all songs in the Rock genre that were released during the 1960s, and iTunes automatically gathers together the appropriate songs. Even better, Smart Playlists update automatically, so if you add a new CD of early Beatles music, for instance, it will instantly appear in your 1960s Rock playlist. Smart Playlists become even more useful when combined with the play count and rating information, so you can, for instance, create a playlist that gives you 50 randomly selected electronic dance tracks you've rated more than four stars, 600 MB of blues songs recorded before 1970, or the 10 tracks you listen to most often. If you delete a song from a Smart Playlist that's limited to a specific number of songs or a specific size, iTunes automatically picks another appropriate song to fill the space.
iTunes 3 also now supports Audible.com, an Internet service from which you can purchase spoken word content for over 18,000 books, a variety of newspapers, and archived radio shows. With iTunes 3, you can set bookmarks to save your place in long audio books.
Finally, iTunes 3 tries to help you regularize your MP3 collection by renaming the individual MP3 files in a regular fashion, a one-time action that wasn't entirely successful for me. Plus, a Consolidate Library command in the Advanced menu offers to move all the MP3 files that iTunes knows about into your Music folder.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Among the announcements at Steve Jobs's Macworld Expo keynote in New York was the release of new versions of Apple's popular iPod MP3 player. The existing 5 GB iPod remains available, though its price drops $100 to $300. Although Jobs said nothing of this, I anticipate that the 5 GB model may not last too much longer, given that it doesn't share the slightly redesigned case now used by the $400 10 GB model and a newly introduced $500 20 GB model. The new case is about 10 percent thinner, sports a solid-state scroll wheel (much like a trackpad surface), and adds a FireWire port cover. Plus, the iPods now come with an accessory kit that includes a case with a belt clip (though there are numerous other iPod cases that might suit you better), a wired remote, and new headphones. Existing owners can purchase the accessories separately: the case alone sells for rather steep $40, and the remote/headphones bundle also costs $40.
The iPod's internal software has changed as well, so you can now browse by genre and composer (a feature for classical music fans for whom the artist and the composer are different), support for smart playlists and play counts that synchronize with the equivalent features in iTunes 3, support for the iTunes 3 Sound Check feature for regularizing volume, and support for Audible.com with round-trip bookmarking for spoken word content. (For existing iPod owners, these features require iPod 1.2 software, which Apple says will be available in August.) iTunes 2 is still supported for Mac OS 9 users, though presumably without support for the new features appearing in iTunes 3, which works only in Mac OS X.
Additional changes that start to move the iPod beyond being an MP3 player include an Extras menu that lets you browse through calendar events and contacts synchronized via iSync from iCal and Address Book under the forthcoming Mac OS X 10.2. The Breakout game is also available from the Extras menu, instead of as an Easter egg, as is an option that displays a clock.
Perhaps most notable is that, starting in late August, Apple will sell the same iPod models to Windows users for the same prices. The iPod hardware requires no changes, but the package sold to Windows users includes a six-to-four FireWire cable (for connecting to the four-pin FireWire ports common on PCs) and can synchronize songs with Musicmatch Jukebox Plus, a leading PC MP3 player. I suspect that the PC user experience won't be quite as good as on the Mac, since four-pin FireWire cables don't carry power, so PC user will have to use an AC adapter instead of charging the iPod while it's plugged into the FireWire port. Plus, I'd be surprised if Musicmatch Jukebox Plus offered all the features of iTunes in terms of play counts and smart playlists. And finally, Apple said nothing about there being any synchronization of calendars and contacts for PC users.
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
By far the most controversial announcement during Steve Jobs's Macworld Expo keynote was Apple's move to turn its free iTools service into the fee-based .Mac (pronounced "dot-Mac"). Although iTools has amassed 2.2 million users since its launch at the start of 2000 (see "iSay, Apple's iStrategy Is iMpressive" in TidBITS-512), Apple has struggled slightly to find the right mix of features, dropping the iReview Web site reviews and the KidSafe service that selected sites appropriate for children, and most recently, surreptitiously implementing bandwidth limits on HomePage-based Web sites (see "iTools HomePage Bandwidth Limitations" in TidBITS-634). Nonetheless, the free Mac.com email addresses, 20 MB of iDisk space, and HomePage Web page hosting have proven extremely popular.
If you visit Apple's Web site now, though, you'll see no trace of iTools. It has been replaced with .Mac, a new service from Apple that offers some of the same features as iTools for a $100 annual fee; a one-year discount of $50 is available for current users who sign up before 30-Sep-02. (Apple also offers a 60-day free .Mac trial, which includes the same features of iTools plus Apple's Backup software, mentioned below.) The name change was undoubtedly done partly to help Apple distinguish the fee-based .Mac from the free iTools; it's also a play on Microsoft's .Net Web services initiative because .Mac is delivering a set of consumer-oriented Web services today.
If you do nothing, your iTools account will be deactivated on 30-Sep-02, and any data you have stored in your iDisk or on your Mac.com email account will be deleted (so make sure to download anything you don't want to lose to your hard disk).
What's New in .Mac -- Apple realized that just charging for the features available in iTools wouldn't be popular, so they attempted to sweeten the deal by extending what .Mac can do. Changes include the following; make sure to read the .Mac FAQ as well.
Mac.com email now offers 15 MB of storage space (up from 5 MB) and provides access via the Web as well as POP and IMAP. It also includes photo signatures. You can purchase additional storage, and if you want more than one email address you can buy up to 10 more Mac.com addresses for $10 per year each (though these addresses can't use photo signatures).
iDisks now come with 100 MB of disk space (up from 20 MB), and you can purchase additional storage. Apple also has a new iDisk Utility application (Mac OS X only) that helps you access and manage multiple iDisks and Public Folders.
HomePage now lets you send iCards with your own pictures to announce new Web pages, adds a "Send me a message" button that lets visitors send you iCards with feedback, offers more layouts for photos, runs slide shows full screen, makes instant site menus, and offers improved performance.
iCards remains available to everyone, but only .Mac members can send iCards using their own photos now.
.Mac members can download a new Backup program that works only with Mac OS X. It's a simple backup application that can save files to CD-R/CD-RW, DVD-R, and to your iDisk (though if you have a slow Internet connection you won't be able to back up much data to your iDisk). I strongly recommend that you adhere to a solid backup strategy as much as is possible with Backup - see "Have You Backed Up Today? Part 1" in TidBITS-432 for full details.
Along with Backup, .Mac members can download a copy of McAfee's Virex for either Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X, and your .Mac membership includes free virus definition updates. On the plus side, Virex can identify and eliminate Windows and Unix viruses as well as Mac viruses; on the downside, you must download and install new virus definitions manually, which runs counter to the entire .Mac concept.
You can now sign up for and use the iDisk and Mac.com email aspects of .Mac from a Windows machine, though Backup and Virex don't work on Windows, nor does the HomePage Web application.
Apple claims that .Mac members will receive technical support, saying, "Members have access to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), instant system/network status, the AppleCare Knowledge Base, and private discussion boards moderated by Apple technical support representatives to ensure that questions are answered within one business day." Frankly, it sounds lame - how are you going to use these tools if, for instance, your problem is that .Mac won't let you log in? Worse, support for Backup and Virex is limited to installation, launch, and removal of the software - too bad if you need help using the programs.
What's Coming in .Mac -- Although some people will likely find the selection of features in .Mac compelling right now, Apple has also announced additional features that should make the deal even better once Mac OS X 10.2 comes out on 24-Aug-02. With the new iCal, you'll be able to publish your calendars to .Mac and subscribe to other people's calendars, which will be helpful; you'll also be able to publish calendars to any WebDAV server.
More interesting will be shared screen saver slide shows - publish your photos to your iDisk and your friends and family can subscribe to your photos within their Mac OS X Screen Saver. This feature will go a long way toward providing the basic functionality of the Ceiva stand-alone picture frame - a neat device that requires a regular subscription fee and has one of the least usable Web interfaces I've ever had the misfortune to use.
Consternation and Controversy -- Many Mac users are furious about the switch from the free iTools to the fee-based .Mac. Many people simply didn't use iTools heavily enough to justify the added expense - the Mac.com email address was nice, but not worth $100 per year. Others are bothered by the fact that much of the value of .Mac seems to be in Backup and Virex, but people who are at all serious about backup and anti-virus software probably already own equivalent software that may be significantly more capable, as certainly is the case with Dantz's Retrospect backup applications. Plus, .Mac doesn't come with any Internet access, whereas most Internet connections from standard ISPs like EarthLink already include multiple email addresses and Web space, making the decision to pay yet again for these features more difficult. And finally, people feel let down because Apple initially made a big deal about how iTools was free and was intended to be a part of the overall Macintosh experience. Discussions on this topic have been raging on TidBITS Talk.
As with Apple's recent bandwidth limitations on HomePage-based Web sites, most people appear to agree that it's reasonable for Apple to want to recoup the costs of running the iTools service and even turn a profit. Steve Jobs even did well at introducing the unpopular news - he basically just pointed out that many of the other free Internet services are now either charging or have gone out of business because they didn't have viable business models. But Apple may have picked the wrong inducements to the 2.2 million existing customers. A 60-day grace period and a half-price discount for the first year are better than nothing, but a better move would have been to keep the Mac.com forwarding addresses available for free for current users. That would ensure that Mac.com email addresses would continue to help promote the advantages of the Macintosh out on the Internet at large while significantly reducing the bandwidth and disk space requirements of the service.
Another concern is that .Mac features are built into Mac OS X itself and into applications like iPhoto. It doesn't look good if high-profile functionality like having the iDisk be available from a Finder menu or HomePage publishing of Web photo albums simply doesn't work if you're not a .Mac member. It's poor user interface, and a poor user experience.
But what's your opinion? We're running a poll on our home page that asks about your plans regarding .Mac usage - let us know what you think. Also, since Apple has 60 days to reconsider these policies, I strongly encourage everyone who has an opinion on this topic to send Apple feedback. Keep it reasonable and acknowledge that Apple must run a viable business in your feedback (whining about how everything should always be free won't do any good at all). If we're lucky, Apple will moderate their position and at least keep free email forwarding for existing users.
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
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