Looking in the right direction

How much we miss that happens right under our noses

When the entire earth shifts several degrees as it has done, it tends to mess with one’s navigation. The significance of some recent sightings escaped my notice at the time, but as I recalibrate, I’m going back to view them in greater detail.

In November, Sun Microsystems dispatched an elite team of executives to InfoWorld. Their mission was to drive home Sun’s new message. What’s the message? Until further notice, the press is to treat the old message as the new message, and all pending products will continue to pend under the banner, “Watch this space.” I can think of better ways to use the time of the

VP-level staff that Sun sends out for these redundant “We just wanna be understood” tours. Sun’s services arm gets it, and its partners do, and therefore major customers do. That’s all that matters. There are worse things than being misunderstood, and besides, some of us appreciate what Sun’s doing.

In technology, I’d say that Sun is mostly doing what it should. If you’re a major account, you’re not asking Sun when the Java Enterprise System software will ship; you’re already running it — and probably in production. No manufacturer would dare build a mobile device that doesn’t run Java. Solaris remains one of Sun’s best assets, and I rank it as the most advanced commercial Unix on the market. The company’s new deal with AMD will turn out to be a smart move. Yes, Sun should have taken that step sooner, but now its customers have a powerful alternative if they don’t want to invest in Sparc. I don’t feel sorry for Sun. It ought to stop feeling sorry for itself.

Meanwhile, the pot boileth over on Infinite Loop. Apple’s Power Mac G5 is the launch that keeps on launching. It was a fast, well-made desktop when it debuted in August. It didn’t push a lot of buttons with the press at the time, but that’s OK. Apple is another misunderstood company, a role it wears with pride. In October, Apple lit a fresh fire under the G5 platform with the delivery of G5 optimizing compilers in the Xcode development suite. Then in late November, Apple sent the Power Mac G5 into a fresh orbit with G5-tuned editions of its own suite of digital media tools, namely Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, and Shake.

I’ve been driving the 64-bit-tuned version of Final Cut Pro on my lab’s Power Mac G5 and marveling at what this platform can do in real time. Those observers whining about the lack of a 64-bit version of Mac OS X should get a before-and-after demo of Final Cut Pro. With its own software, Apple is proving that G5-tuned applications can really take off. OS X developers, start optimizing.

As if all of this weren’t enough, Apple introduced a dual 1.8GHz Power Mac G5 at $2,499. It knocked $200 off the least expensive model, the uniprocessor 1.6GHz system, to bring the starting price for the line down to $1,799. Traditionally, Apple lowers prices to make room for new products, so we should watch the G5 horizon. And the horizon is not that off; MacWorld Conference & Expo kicks off Jan. 5. I think that IBM and Apple are getting along so well that we’ll see another sweet little bundle from that pairing. It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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