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No sight of the "New Cube"

In the year 2000 the MacWorld Expo, and in particular Steve Jobs' keynote speech, was an opportunity to unveil an entire new product range — with the G4 PowerCube as the highlight. This year, depite high expectations, it is software and not hardware that is the star of the show.

The MacWorld Expo is often the time used by Apple to parade new hardware in front of the world for the first time. Although, traditionally, the Mac-central exhibition is high on the “WOW factor” for hardware lovers it was software developments that took centre stage this year. All the signs were in place for Apple to, once again, take the world by storm with a new model computing device, its proprietary operating system Mac OS X 10.1 is being hailed as the star of the show.

Steve Jobs’ keynote speech yesterday was the hottest ticket in New York as industry analysts and Mac enthusiasts flocked to see the much anticipated new hardware. But it wasn’t to be. The keynote speech by Jobs has become one of the most talked about and eagerly anticipated technology orations in technology after the success of recent years. Last year’s effort, for example, left technology journalists around the world gasping for breath at the amount of new Apple products that had been unveiled. After already unveiling numerous new notebooks and iMac configurations Jobs had satisfied the audiences hunger for “the new”. And that was when the Cube was unveiled. The reaction of the audience has already gone down in Mac folklore as the day Steve Jobs silenced the critics.

As reported on itp.net in recent weeks the Cube has ceased production and never lived up to its billing as the most sensational computing device to hit the streets.

Following on from such a busy exhibition last year, industry commenters have been expecting a similar overhaul from Apple this year. With the Cube gone just weeks before MacWorld began, it looked very likely that the replacement would arrive at the end of Steve Jobs’ keynote. As ever, Steve Jobs and his Mac empire do the unexpected and keep the profile low. Minor upgrades to existing products, however, should still excite the must devout hardware followers. Speeded up versions of the iMac (now available at 700MHz) and the PowerMac G4 dual processor 800MHz are now the marquee products in their respective categories. Both will receive an August release in the US.

In terms of actual performance these are fantastic upgrades that, despite having lower clock speeds, more than compete with the Pentium 1.7GHz PC stressed Jon Rubinstein, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering.

Mac lovers should not be disappointed by the lack of new eye candy from Apple, having more than enough to brag about with the latest OS upgrade. Although the MacWorld is usually a chance for Steve Jobs to work on his one man show, he took the opportunity to step back and let developers show how successfully third party developers are implementing the OS. The most obvious upgrades appear to be increased support for disk burning, networking and DVD playback. However, it is not simply a case of adding an application here and there. The development team has improved speed and performance across the board. Whether users are closing a window, opening an application or switching between numerous applications they will see a quicker performance from the OS.

Strangely, despite this being a gathering of Macphiles, one of the biggest cheers of the day went to the Microsoft development team. Demonstrating a carbonised version of its Office suite, the assembled crowd had an advanced look at some of the benefits of OS X 10.1. Also sharing their wares to the delight of the assembled brotherhood of Mac were Adobe and Blizzard Entertainment.

And, the final mention of the day, the spot reserved for the Cube last year, was reserved for the first public sighting of iDVD 2.0. The expectant hush that filled the room as the product was prepared to take its fifteen minutes was palpable as the crowd prepared for Cube 2. Although it did not happen on the day of the keynote we will be surprised if Jobs can wait until next year to take the limelight again. Don’t be surprised to see the latest shiny new Apple before the end of the year.

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