In a nearly two-hour keynote address at this week’s Macworld Expo New York, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled and previewed new Apple products and services, extolled the forthcoming Mac OS X 10.2, and unveiled new iPods and a high-end iMac with a larger, 17-inch LCD screen.
Mac OS X 10.2 — Codenamed "Jaguar" and initially announced last May at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (see "Jaguar: Mac OS X Prepares to Pounce" in TidBITS 629), Mac OS X 10.2 will be available 24-Aug-02 with a price tag of $129, although folks purchasing new Macs starting today will apparently be eligible for a $20 upgrade through Apple’s Up-To-Date program. Mac OS X 10.2 is to offer more than 150 new features, including:
<LI>An <A HREF="http://www.apple.com/macosx/jaguar/finder.html">enhanced Finder</A> with improved, multithreaded performance, an integrated search feature, and the return of spring-loaded folders.
Improved Universal Access, 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. Jobs also mentioned screen reading in his keynote address (the ability to have the computer meaningfully speak onscreen text for the visually impaired – an area where Macs have lacked woefully behind PCs for years) but there’s no mention of screen readers on Apple’s site.
A substantially improved Apple Mail, with the capability to search all mailboxes, better handling of multiple email accounts, rules for filtering mail, and a new junk mail-identifying technology based on "adaptive latent semantic analysis" which can be trained by the user to flag potential spam messages, or to automatically shunt them off to a junk mail folder. (Client-side filtering does not ameliorate most of the actual costs of spam in terms of processing, bandwidth, storage, etc., but can be useful for making individual lives a little less annoying.)
QuickTime 6 (also available this week), the latest version of Apple’s media playback technology which includes MPEG 4 and AAC audio support.
iChat, Apple’s own instant messaging application for Mac OS X which will be compatible with AOL instant messaging (Mac users can using their Mac.com identities) and integrate with Apple’s other i-applications.
Rendezvous, a potentially groundbreaking networking utility enabling the automatic discovery and configuration of network resources – like printers, file servers, peripheral devices, and even things like iTunes playlists – Rendezvous brings some of the “olden times” ease of configuring AppleTalk devices to modern-day IP networks, and can potentially be applied in a variety of new, innovative areas. HP, Lexmark, and Epson have announced they will support Rendezvous in future network printers.
Sherlock 3, which converts the idea of "Channels" to customized Internet services, like stock quote lookups, searches for movies, driving directions, phone number lookups, etc. There’s no information available yet on whether these specialized Web services can only be authored and distributed by Apple, or whether anyone can create Sherlock-savvy services.
.Mac — You know that free iTools account you can use just because you have a Mac? Email, Web page hosting, iDisk services, iPhoto integration… all for free? No more. As of 30-Sept-02, Apple is doing away with iTools and rechristening the services as ".mac", a $99 per year subscription service. (Existing iTools users will be able to sign on for $49 for the first year.) Apple’s .mac services will initially parallel iTools, albeit with 100 MB of storage, new password-protected folders, backup options, and McAfee anti-virus scanning, but Apple plans to add additional .mac services in the future while keeping the same $99/year price.
iCal, a new single-window calendar application which will be a free download for Mac OS X users this September. iCal supports the idea of multiple calendars (e.g., one for work, one for personal events, one for the dates important rock stars died, etc.) and a publish-and-subscribe feature for synchronizing and exporting calendars (through .mac services!) so they can be shared to multiple people and devices.
iSync, new synchronization software which will offer the capability to keep contacts and calendars synched between iPods, Palm devices, and a new generation of Bluetooth- and GPRS-capable cell phones.
iTunes 3, available today, offers the capability to normalize playback volumes (so some tracks aren’t shockingly louder or software than others), the capability to rate tracks from one to five stars, a playback counter (so you can know how many times you’ve listened to a song and still have no idea what the lyrics might be), and new rule-based "Smart Playlists" which enable users to create arbitrary playlists of tracks in their library meeting specific criteria. (Examples of Smart Playlists might include 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). iTunes 3 also supports audible.com, and is available for Mac OS X only.
New iPods will be available in early August: they’re 10 percent thinner, offer browsing support for iCal calendars, and will come in 5, 10, and 20 GB sizes priced at $300, $400, and $500 respectively. (The 10 GB and 20 GB models also feature a solid state scroll wheel, a FireWire port cover, and an accessory kit with a case, a wired remote, and new headphones – accessories will be available for $40 for existing iPod owners.) Most notably, however, Apple will also be shipping iPods for Windows: the units will come with a six-to-four FireWire cable (for connecting to the four-pin FireWire ports common on PCs) and integration with MusicMatch Jukebox Plus, a leading audio player for Windows.
17-inch iMac — Finally, Apple unveiled a new $2000 iMac flat-panel with a 17-inch landscape LCD screen, supporting resolutions up to 1440 by 900 pixels, and an Nvidia GeForce 4 graphics controller. Otherwise, the units will be identical to existing high-end iMacs, with 256 MB of memory, an 80 GB hard drive, SuperDrive, FireWire and USB ports – Apple says they’ll be available in two weeks’ time.