MacWorld Expo predictions, wish list

It's MacWorld Expo time again. And once again, it's time for me to go public with my utterly unfounded speculation. Er, analysis. A quick side note: I've been carrying a BlackBerry 7230, a Treo 600 and a Nokia 3650 together for a few weeks, and this conference will give them all a good workout. I'll have plenty to say about that later. Back to MacWorld Expo. So, will Apple announce faster G5 desktops? Absolutel

It's MacWorld Expo time again. And once again, it's time for me to go public with my utterly unfounded speculation. Er, analysis.

A quick side note: I've been carrying a BlackBerry 7230, a Treo 600 and a Nokia 3650 together for a few weeks, and this conference will give them all a good workout. I'll have plenty to say about that later.

Back to MacWorld Expo. So, will Apple announce faster G5 desktops? Absolutely, but I don't expect much more than a speed bump for the first go-round. We'll see at least two more speed bumps in 2004, one of which will include a memory speed upgrade.

IBM will have its 90 nm Power 4-based PowerPC silicon out sometime in 2004. I projected Q3 or Q4 for full production, but IBM is on such a roll with its new East Fishkill fabrication facility; maybe 90 nm will ship early. The cooler-running 90 nm part is key to G5 notebooks. It will help a G5-based server. The current 130 nm part will work in a rack server, but the smaller, more efficient chip will require less cooling and therefore be quieter.

If Apple doesn't announce a G5 server at this conference, they may be waiting for the 90 nm CPU. Or the delay will be for strategic reasons. Apple may not be eager to cut the legs out from under the G4 Xserve, which is doing very well considering its low budget PC competition. The Power Mac G4 was already mature when Apple replaced it with the G5; Xserve is comparatively new. Also, IBM and Apple may have more haggling to do over who gets what part of the PowerPC business. Remember, Apple, IBM and Motorola are partners in the PowerPC project, so they must stay friendly. So far, Apple has the PowerPC desktop and IBM has the blade server. Apple is a lock for notebooks. But who gets to sell dual-processor 1-2U PowerPC rack mounts? Everyone assumes that Apple will do it, but it would be a great way for IBM to push AIX and Linux into the low end of the cluster market.

G5 notebooks? Maybe, but why?. I haven't heard any PowerBook users complaining about performance. Apple may want to G5 everything so that it can single-source all of its CPUs from IBM. It may also want a sexier flagship notebook to spur renewed interest in its whole portable product line.

What about Apple involvement in mobile devices? There is a solitary clue. The very recent release of QuickTime Pro 6.5 is being touted primarily for its ability to encode video as a 3GPP file. There are two special things about this: QuickTime Pro will transcode from any format to 3GPP, meaning that all Mac users can create streamable (or very small stored) video content with iMove or Final Cut Express/Pro. The other special thing is that it creates the potential for an easy bridge between iChat AV and smart phones.

Now for my wish list. The world needs a fresh release of AppleWorks; not everyone can afford Office, which is as slow as a three-legged dog on OS X, but AppleWorks is leagues behind Office. Microsoft must come to MacWorld Expo with a new release of Virtual PC that runs on the G5 and (dare I hope) uses some bit of Quartz Extreme to speed up its display. I'm watching for an Apple editor--AppleWorks' word processor will do--that lets you edit XHTML, PDF, RTF and (oh, what the hell) Keynote directly, and WYSIWYG. Of course it will translate among all of these file types without losing any formatting data. As far as I can tell, everything developers need for this work is already in place. Of course, editing PDF is the tricky part, but it's a funny thing: Panther blasts whole PDF pages onto the screen with no delays. It also allows searching and cut/paste on PDF. I have to wonder where Apple is going to take this. I already know what to make of Apple's kickass HTML renderer. If you think CSS only exists to replace attributes like "font" and "color" and to get rid of tables for layout, you need to see CSS as Safari 1.1.1 (the Panther release) does it.

Apple's release of advanced imaging and 3D support for Java is interesting. Adding Quartz access to Python is interesting. A renewed emphasis on C++ in XCode is interesting. I don't know what they say together, but it's certain that Apple will have no trouble staying ahead of Sun (Looking Glass) and Microsoft (Longhorn) where GUIs and graphics frameworks are concerned.

Now I'll go straight for the delusional wishes. Put packet writing for optical discs into OS X, so CD-RW and DVD+/-RW can be used more effectively. Give power users better control over tunable OS parameters. This is a point that's often used to put the Mach/BSD in a bad light compared to pure BSD. Give us efficient remote control. Remote Desktop and VNC work great on a LAN, but they're both blown away by Microsoft's Terminal Server when using WAN links. It seems to me that PDF, the foundation for the OS X GUI, should compress and travel nicely, with demanding content filtered out to save bandwidth. Then, allow a single user to log in multiple times and switch between sessions with Fast User Switching. If the user chooses to permit it, don't ask for a password when switching between users with admin privileges, at least not until the most recent authentication goes stale (which is already tunable).

Number one on my wish list? Virtual machines. OS X hosted by OS X. It would be a boon for developers and a bigger one for multi-purpose servers. Apple is so close with Fast User Switching, and all but there with the hosted Classic Mac OS.

As my wife said to me before Christmas, "I don't see anything unreasonable on this list." I'll never make my wife completely happy, and Apple can't make me completely happy. These things take time.

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Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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