Macworld Expo: Final Words
Continued from 'Macworld Expo: Even More Words'….
What about the systems themselves? Well, Apple's made odd choices for its first Intel-based Macs, at least in my opinion, unless you factor in the possibility that the company's not getting as many chips from supplier Intel as it'd prefer in the near term. Looking first at the iMac (which, by the way, now supports Extended Desktop mode, not just mirroring, over DVI), Apple just announced a revision to the PowerPC G5-based iMac three months ago (if I'd just bought one for self or other for Christmas, I'd be a little unhappy right about now). And, since the G5's presence indicates that Apple's figured out how to fit a 'hot' chip in the iMac, I would have expected them to implement a design based on a 65 nm Pentium 4 (and here are some benchmarks under the more OS X-like Linux), not a Core Duo….unless Apple's simply laying the groundwork for future iMacs built on the Core Duo descendent, Conroe.
The choice of the PowerBook as the foundation of Apple's first Intel-based notebook is even more puzzling….unless you again factor in possible supply problems. Apple's been acutely hurt by the inability to force-fit a G5 into a laptop, of course, so on the one hand the news isn't surprising. But the PowerBook is the premium, low volume alternative to the mainstream, high-volume iBook (which I predict will be known as the MacBook in its Intel-based incarnation, and will contain Core Solo CPUs). And even though MacBook Pros will start shipping next month, it'll be a month more until you can get $49 crossgrade (for existing users) Universal Binary (Intel-plus-PowerPC compiled, in one package) versions of the company's professional audio, still imaging and video applications. Tiger-enhanced versions of Entourage and Messenger are due in March, but there's no clear schedule yet on a Universal Binary version of Microsoft Office; for the moment, you'll need to rely on Rosetta.
The new MacBook Pros include several new features versus their PowerBook predecessors; a built-in iSight camera, for example, and the combination of Front Row software and infrared remote control receiver. They also likely employ Intel'sWi-Fi transceiver, because they support not only 802.11b and g, but also 802.11a (the Intel-based iMacs have added this feature, too). However, Apple's also made several notable feature set back-steps with this iteration of the 15" PowerBook concept, versus its most recent PowerPC-based variant (again, unveiled less than three months ago). This memo goes into the changes in detail; here's the quick summary:
- Lower-resolution screen
- No IEEE 1394b (aka FireWire 800) support
- No PC Card support, instead you'll have to buy all new, generally nonexistent (at the moment) ExpressCard/34 peripherals
- No S-Video output
- No analog modem (you now need to buy a $49 USB modem)
- A slower SuperDrive, with no dual-layer burning support
One of the most common questions I've seen in response to Tuesday's post is 'how's the battery life?', alternatively stated 'will they still burn my lap?' The short answer is 'I don't know' because Apple hasn't yet released battery life estimates. Some ominous signs; the MacBook Pro contains a larger-capacity battery than its PowerBook predecessor, along with a higher wattage AC-to-DC converter. And at least one MacWorld Expo attendee indicated that it felt pretty warm. Then again, Apple's still got time to tweak the power management code prior to going into production.
The other most common question I've gotten is 'will these new Intel-based systems run Windows'? Again, right now nobody knows, although with iMacs reportedly shipping as of yesterday (it's now Saturday morning as I write these words), we'll begin to hear soon. These systems don't employ a traditional BIOS; they instead use the next-generation Extensible Firmware Interface. EFI is natively supported on the 64-bit version of Windows XP, and on the Itanium version of the operating system, neither of which the 32-bit Core Duo processor can run. However, some existing Intel motherboards also employ the EFI, in combination with a Compatibility Module that mimics a BIOS, and that hardware clearly runs Windows XP and other 32-bit Windows operating systems just fine. So, if Apple included a Compatibility Module, we might be good to go, although the TPM (if it exists, as it did on the Intel-based PowerMac development systems that Apple began shipping out last summer) might still be a roadblock. If not, we'll have to wait for Windows Vista.
p.s….Apple stock closed at $80.86 on Tuesday, the day of the keynote. 8-0-8-6….get it? Yes, I'm serious!
p.p.s….Mac fans are going to have to make a tough decision next year, when CES and Macworld Expo schedule-overlap. I for one will probably be watching the after-the-fact stream of Jobs' keynote from my hotel room in Las Vegas….