January 19, 2001 @644
Creative Mac - Past Columns
The Mac Lives!
Faster, cheaper Macs; OpenDoc; and OS 8 highlight Macworld Boston
By John Rizzo
September 10, 1996
If you think buying a Mac clone is taking a plunge, try jumping off a platform 200 feet above Boston Harbor. That's what dozens of Macworld Expo attendees did last month when Power Computing offered free bungee jumps next to Boston's World Trade Center. While I kept my feet firmly on the ground, I did see enough upcoming Mac products to make this Expo one of the most exciting in years.
The show started with an upbeat keynote address by Apple's new CEO, Dr. Gil Amelio, who also showed off some futuristic software and hardware and gave away the 25 millionth Macintosh produced so far-a Performa 6400-to a Boston school teacher. Amelio's plans for a solvent Apple were so convincing, the audience gave him a standing ovation.
However, more excitement lay on the crowded show floor. Apple had plenty to offer: demonstrations of next year's Mac OS 8, new Mac models, and dozens of third-party applications based on OpenDoc. Outside of Apple's booths, originality and innovation were everywhere. New hardware, new software applications, major upgrades of old software, and PC programs are coming to the Mac for the first time. If the Mac is a dead platform, nobody told these vendors or the hordes of attendees laying down their hard-earned cash.
The most obvious difference between this show and shows past was that Mac clones were everywhere. This Expo introduced nearly two dozen brand new Mac models from Power Computing, UMAX, DayStar Digital, and Apple. In addition, Motorola previewed a Mac clone of its own, which it may announce later this year.
Power Computing showed off the fastest personal computer in the world, the PowerTower Pro with a 225MHz PowerPC 604e processor. In case $4,995 is a bit out of your price range, Power Computing also introduced the $1,495 PowerBase 180, which features a 180MHz PowerPC 603e, 16MB of RAM, a 1.2GB hard disk, and an 8x CD-ROM drive. UMAX introduced a number of Mac clones, including the $1,500 SuperMac C500/140 with a 140MHz 603e chip, 16MB of RAM, a 1.2GB hard disk, an 8x CD-ROM drive, and a 28.8Kbps modem.
Apple showed a deluxe home machine, the $2,399 Performa 6400/180. It features a 180MHz PowerPC 603e processor, 16MB of RAM, a 1.6GB hard disk, an 8x CD-ROM drive, a built-in subwoofer, external surround-sound speakers, and a 28.8Kbps modem with Internet software. The stylish 6400 is the first tower system in the Performa line. It's also the first Performa that doesn't include a monitor.
Good values were available in peripherals as well. For instance, for $297, the Epson Stylus Color 500 inkjet printer gives you bright colors and sharp images at 360dpi or 720dpi on plain paper or transparencies. My favorite storage device of the show was the Olympus SYS.230, a new magneto-optical drive that takes the wind out of Iomega's Zip drive. At $349 ($299 for the internal model), the SYS.230 costs more than the Zip, but it's faster and holds twice as much data more securely on $10, 230MB cartridges.
APPLE'S CRYSTAL BALL
Apple finally rolled out its component software technology OpenDoc, which has existed only as virtualware for the past several years. OpenDoc 1.1 is a system add-on that lets you run programs (called "containers") that use plug-in modules (formerly called "parts," but now officially called "Live Objects") to perform different tasks. For example, Apple's Cyberdog 1.1 is an OpenDoc container that uses different modules for Web browsing, sending and receiving e-mail, storing Internet addresses, performing FTP file transfers, and so on. (For more on OpenDoc and Cyberdog, see my August 27, 1996, column, "Dogging the Internet.")
The Apple booth had demonstrations of dozens of OpenDoc containers and modules that will be shipping soon. One of the most impressive was Digital Harbor's Wav, an elegant word processing container that can be dropped inside of other OpenDoc containers, such as the next versions of ClarisWorks and Corel WordPerfect. Wav's features include on-the-fly text wrap around irregular graphics, and the ability to enter text anywhere on an empty page without typing in tabs or hitting the Return key. Wav will ship in October for only $49. You'll be able to add features by dropping in modules (which should cost $5 to $20) from any vendor.
The biggest software news was Apple's announcement that it will release Mac OS 8 in three parts every six months. The first release, code-named "Harmony," is scheduled for January and should include Java, OpenDoc, and some of the new interface changes, such as the ability to customize the look of the Finder.
In July, the second release of Mac OS 8 should add a faster, PowerPC-native Finder with mulithreading for better handling of simultaneous tasks. For example, you'll be able to start copying a second file before the first is finished. The final System 8 release will come out at the end of next year and should include major improvements such as protected memory, so an application crash won't affect other programs or require you to restart the Mac.
GRAPHICS AND INTERNET SOFTWARE
It wouldn't be Macworld Expo without graphics software, and there was plenty around. One of the most interesting was Denaba's Canvas 5.0 ($599.95). This upgrade to the illustration package adds photo editing and page layout tools such as kerning, leading, and style sheets.
The hot Net spots at the show were the adjacent Claris and Adobe booths, where Claris HomePage 1.0 and a preview version of Adobe PageMill 2.0 battled for attention. Both are easy-to-use programs for creating Web pages-including tables and frames-without HTML coding. Other hot Net software included Macromedia's ShockWave with Streaming Audio, which uses up to 176:1 compression to deliver crisp, 16-bit audio over the Internet. You can download ShockWave for Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer free from Macromedia's Web site.
Macworld Expo had a few low points as well. The most embarrassing moment had to be when a representative from America Online tried to demonstrate version 3.0 of its Mac software in front of a packed room. Unfortunately, the entire AOL network went down for the first time in its history. No one in the country could log on for 19 hours. Oh well, time for a bungee jump.
©1996 John Rizzo. All rights reserved.
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