Macworld 2003 brings new products and questions


Published: Monday, January 20, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 11:08 p.m.

January was a big month for Apple fans with the annual Macworld expo (www.macworld.com) in San Francisco. The cyber airwaves have been buzzing since the event's conclusion, and here's a summary of what I've heard.

On the products front, Apple (www.apple.com) introduced two new notebooks. The newest PowerBook G4 sports an industry-largest 17-inch notebook display, surpassing the 16.1-inch screens on several current PC notebooks and the 15.2-inch display on the previous PowerBook G4s.

The displays continue to feature a wider aspect ratio than conventional screens, the idea being to display two standard "portrait" documents side-by-side. Resolution of the new display is advertised at 1440x900 pixels.

The new PowerBook G4 also features a backlit keyboard, DVD-R/CD-RW SuperDrive, a new FireWire 800 port, 802.11g wireless rated at up to 54Mbps, Bluetooth wireless, 64 megabyte Nvidia graphics, and a 1gigahertz processor. Surprisingly for such a large notebook, the case is only 1-inch thick. As you might expect, these units aren't exactly cheap, with prices beginning around $3,300.

A second new PowerBook G4 is a much smaller unit with a 12-inch display starting at $1,800. The 12-inch model features a more conventional 1024x768 display and lower specs in several areas than its bigger brother. Mac fans looking for a smaller package (under 5 pounds) with longer battery life and a lower price will likely find this unit to be very attractive. One item missing from Macworld was a new tablet-style Mac to compete with Microsoft's Tablet PC initiative.

Apple is also firing another salvo in the Web browser wars with the announcement of Safari. The new browser requires Apple's latest OS X version 10.2 operating system or above to run. Currently in Beta testing, Apple claims Safari runs up to three times faster than Internet Explorer on the Mac platform, and more than 500,000 downloads have already been made. Features include an integrated Google search engine, advanced bookmark editing features and a pop-up window remover. You can download it at www.apple.com/safari. Apple also displayed several new and upgraded applications, with an emphasis on multi-media production. Look for those programs to be demonstrated at February's MacPeople meeting (www.macpeoplemug.org).

If you want to see the latest Macs in person, the closest Apple Store (www.apple.com/retail/millenia) is now open in Orlando. The direct outlet is located in the new Millenia mall at 4200 Conroy Road, within a few minutes of the Florida Turnpike/Interstate 4 interchange. The store's telephone number is (407) 352-5551.

Another story on the Apple front is a report of plans to halt production of the 17-inch flat panel iMac in June. Although Apple has yet to confirm this story, local Taiwan computer manufacturers have told a news organization there of the demise of the 17-inch iMac. The 15-inch model has already been discontinued, and future iMac production plans are uncertain at this writing.

There is also considerable concern about whether Apple and Macworld organizer IDG World Expo (www.macworldexpo.com) will be able to settle their ongoing disputes. IDG has already announced the cancellation of this year's Macworld Tokyo show due to a lack of interest and apparent unwillingness of Apple to exhibit. An East Coast Macworld scheduled for July in New York City is also tenuous, and various members of the trade press have speculated that January's show may turn out to be the last Macworld ever. Let's hope not, but stay tuned.

Tom Meek is a computer and media consultant whose column appears each Monday. He can be reached at webgator@bellsouth.net or via www.tvccs.com. His columns also are available at www.gainesvillesun.com.

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