Tuesday, January 11, 2005

MacWorld Expo SF 2005

I'm a Mac user. In fact, I'm a total Mac-head. I first encountered the Mac when my housemate in college bought the very first 128K Mac through the student discount program in 2004. Whenever I have had a choice, Macs have been the only kind of computer I used. They still are. I grudgingly keep an old Dell PC in my lab only because my real time PCR machine requires it to capture data. Consequently, I always look at the MacWorld Expo every January with a little bit of anticipation, particularly over the last few years, since Steve Jobs came back. The highlight is Jobs' Keynote Address, in which he makes all the new product announcements. Sometimes they're disappointing. Sometimes their spectacular. Last year, for instance, he announced the iPod Mini. I was skeptical that it was too expensive, but they've been selling like the proverbial hotcakes. I guess that shows what I know.

This year, Jobs announced a number of new things. First, there is Tiger (a.k.a. Mac OS X v.10.4), the latest iteration of OS X. It looks very promising. OS X just keeps getting better, faster, and more stable. Why can Apple get four major upgrades of OS X out in four years and Microsoft is struggling to get Longhorn done two years late? Next, there's the iPod Shuffle. I'm impressed, but it's not for me. I have way too much music to have any use for a flash MP3 player, no matter how slick. I would buy a 60 GB iPod, but I'm waiting for the price to come down a bit. At $599, they're too pricey, particularly since I still have a perfectly serviceable (albeit slightly old) 40 GB iPod.

The most intriguing announcement was the Mac mini. It's a $499 or $599 "headless" Mac, with no monitor or keyboard, that will plug into standard PC keyboards and monitors. It's smaller than some hard drives or CD burners I've seen. Clearly Apple is going after the low end PC user. Will it get such users to discover the joy that is Mac and switch? I don't know, but it's an interesting shot across the bow to Microsoft. It's not likely to be a major threat to the Microsoft monopoly, but it might gain Apple some market share. Given how low Apple's present market share is, even a percent or two would be huge.

The rest was rather ho-hum. iLife '05 updates iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, iTunes, and Garageband. Given that most of the same software will be part of Tiger, which is supposed to be released in the first half of 2005, I'm not sure if I'll buying or waiting. iWork is the replacement for AppleWorks, with the addition of a new version of Keynote, a presentation program. Because everything I've done is, data and presentation-wise, in PowerPoint, Excel, and Word and because I need to use EndNote to handle the references in my papers, I need a lot of the advanced features. It's unlikely that iWork will do much for me.

Now if I only get that NIH grant. That'll free up some of my startup funds for a lovely dual processor Power Mac G5 tower....

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