At his keynote address at Macworld Expo San Francisco, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the wraps off a host of free Macintosh-centric Internet services that turns Apple into a content provider and supplements Mac OS technologies on user’s desktops with Internet-based server technologies provided by Apple. Jobs also highlighted record Macintosh sales – 1.35 million systems during the last fiscal quarter – and research showing significant portions of iMac and iBook buyers are new Apple customers.
Apple also announced a multi-year partnership with (and $200 million investment in) EarthLink Networks to provide Internet access for Macintosh users. EarthLink will be the default ISP for all new Macs and Apple will reap a cut from every Macintosh user who signs up with EarthLink.
Probably the biggest surprise of the keynote was a development time line and preview of Mac OS X. According to Apple’s plan, Mac OS X will be released in January 2001, with a final beta sent to developers during spring 2000, and pre-order sales beginning summer 2000. The real treat was a demonstration of Mac OS X’s new interface, Aqua, which nearly had Jobs salivating over his keyboard. Sporting translucent buttons and a sparse overall look, the interface has already provoked debate about its merits in TidBITS Talk. (We’ll be publishing a more complete look at Aqua in a future TidBITS issue.)
Steve Jobs also dropped the word "Interim" from his title, finally cementing his long de-facto status as CEO of both Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios. Jobs is retaining the title of iCEO at Apple – claiming the I now stands for Internet – perhaps as a nod to the iMacs and iBooks that have rejuvenated the company.
Missing from the show was the heavily rumored replacement for the eight-month-old bronze keyboard PowerBook G3; it’s worth remembering Apple has a long history of adversarial relationships with rumor-mongers and has even been known to spread misinformation. Since rumors of forthcoming hardware tend to have the effect of dampening current sales, which no company wants, we doubt that Apple seeded the new PowerBook rumors intentionally and instead was merely the victim of misinformed speculation. A note in TidBITS Talk also commented that one reason for the lack of new hardware might have been to help resellers, since Apple has to stop producing older models and clear out inventory when they roll out new hardware. Introducing a new model at Macworld Expo in January means that resellers can be left with no inventory at the worst possible time – the holiday buying season.