Ultimate Re-cap: MacWorld Expo, San Francisco 2001

Well, another MacWorld has come and gone, and left in its wake a ton of product litter-ature, six months’ worth of t-shirts and enough tchotchkes to fund your retirement account through eBay sales.

As I have every year since 1995, I roamed the bright, carpeted halls of MacWorld Expo, the bi-annual gathering of Macintosh faithful, held every January in hilly (and chilly) San Francisco, seeking out products useful to my clients and friends.

In this brief recap, I’ve focused on a few “Ultimate” items from the expo. Top of the list, of course, is Apple’s gorgeous new PowerBook G4. So let’s jump right in!

Ultimate Sleekness

Without a doubt, the greatest buzz was generated by Apple’s stunning new PowerBook G4. This has to be the sexiest laptop I’ve seen since the Sony Vaio. Unless you’re in the market for a new portable, don’t get anywhere near this baby. Sure, the long list of technical specs, like a 500 MHz G4 processor, up to a gigabyte of RAM, a built-in slot-loading DVD, a five-hour battery and a 15.2″ screen are fantastic, but that’s not what had everyone who caressed this hotrod ooh-ing and ahh-ing.

No, the reason hordes of fawning fans were ready to sacrifice their credit cards for a machine that won’t even ship until the end of January was the silvery titanium case, which, when closed, measures a miniscule one inch thick.

Yes. Titanium.

Yes. One inch.

If you’ve lusted after one of Sony’s Vaio laptops (and, honestly, who hasn’t?), you’d better have a napkin to wipe off the drool after seeing this PowerBook. Sure the Vaio is a bit lighter, but it doesn’t have a built-in DVD player; its battery lasts only two hours; and you can’t hook it up to a presentation system on the road. Add all that stuff, and you’ve blown past the 5.3 pounds and $2,599 price tag of the everything-included PowerBook G4 (the loaded Vaio weighs in at 6.5 pounds and $3,350).

And don’t forget those technical specs! This is not some wimpy retread laptop in a pretty wrapping. Oh no. This is Apple’s fastest laptop ever, and it’s faster than most Windows portables on the market.

Every executive, designer, sales manager and sysadmin you know is going to want one. As Steve Jobs said during his keynote, “Power + Sex”. www.apple.com/powerbook

Ultimate Compatibility

Even non-Mac users might consider the PowerBook G4 thanks to Virtual PC 4, from Connectix. Thanks to this ingenious software, Macs are now the most compatible computer in the world. You can run Windows 98, ME, NT and 2000, along with Mac OS 8, 9, the forthcoming OS X and Linux–all on one machine.

This version takes full advantage of the G4 processor so you might be hard-pressed to tell you aren’t running Windows natively.

Web designers can now use a single machine to see their work in multiple browser and operating system combinations; sysadmins can use the best tools available to manage their networks; and support specialists can solve problems from a single workstation.

Think of the desk space you’ll save! www.connectix.com

Ultimate Undo

I have an itchy trigger finger. If the phone rings, I save. If I pause to think, I save. If I’ve deleted 15 paragraphs worth of brilliant prose, and I’ve saved… well, that’s what screaming into a pillow is for.

Or, more productively, I can jump over to Power On Software’s Rewind window, click the document name to see the last several versions I’ve saved, and revert to the one containing my pearls of wisdom.

Rewind tracks every change to your computer’s hard drive, including deleted preferences, corrupted System files, and, yes, bone-headed mistakes. Your computer worked fine this morning but suddenly won’t boot? Rewind has a startup feature that lets you jump back to that working System, so you can get back to work.

This is total CYA protection. www.poweronsoftware.com

Ultimate Integration

I hate having multiple lists of contacts—one in my email program, another in my regular contact manager. When I add someone to one list, I have to waste time adding them to the other. Well, no more. Microsoft’s Entourage is an integrated Email , contact manager and calendar application that works great and might make me upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft Office 2001 for Macintosh (since that’s the only way to get your hands on Entourage: it’s bundled with Office).

Now, when I receive Email from someone asking for a meeting, I can add them immediately to my contact list, enter the meeting date on my calendar, and sync it all to my Palm device. It takes laziness—sorry, I mean productivity—to a new high. www.microsoft.com/mac

Ultimate Apple News

Apple’s new PowerBook wasn’t the only news to come out of Cupertino (just the best-looking). Here are a few highlights.

  • You know the megahertz wars mean very little in the real world (a brand-new 1 GHz Pentium 4 is just barely faster than an older 1 GHz Pentium III, for example, and Apple’s G4 processors handily beats Pentiums at the same speeds). But the general public uses those numbers as an indicator of speed, so Apple’s release of new machines with speeds from 466 MHz to 733 MHz is fantastic, and long over-due. www.apple.com/powermac
  • Media professionals are rapidly running out of space on ordinary CDs, and are looking to the higher-capacity DVDs to store and share presentations, portfolios and marketing materials. Creating professional-quality DVDs which play on almost any consumer DVD recently required $5,000 devices, but Apple’s SuperDrive, which reads and writes DVDs, along with CDs, CD-Rs and CD-RWs, is bundled with their $3,499, top-of-the-line PowerMac G4. You also get the new iDVD software to easily assemble and burn your DVDs. www.apple.com/dvd

Ultimate Wrap-up

With three hundred or so booths and thousands of products, this brief recap can’t come close to doing justice to the spectacle that was MacWorld San Francisco 2001. Macintouch has an in-depth report, or contact me, and we can talk about which products might be useful to you.