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|Apple Macintosh News
Apple Posts $14 Million Profit for Second Quarter On April 16th, Apple reported that it had posted a net profit of $14 million, or $.04 per diluted share, for the second quarter of 2003, which ended on March 29th, compared to a net profit of $40 million, or $.11 per diluted share, for the quarter a year ago. Analysts expected a profit of $.02 per share. Quarterly revenues were $1.475 billion, down 1 percent from a year ago, with gross margins at 28.3 percent, up from 27.4 percent a year ago. Apple said it shipped 711,000 Macintosh units during the second quarter. 47 percent of the quarter's revenues were due to international sales.
Apple has said that revenues will likely be relatively flat, with a slight profit expected in the third quarter of 2003.
I remember a time when "Apple" and "profit" were not in the same sentence. As long as they continue to turn one, I'm a happy Mac camper.
iTunes 4, new iPods, Apple Online Music service a hit
Launching during a media event that took place April 29th in San Francisco, Apple released a new version of iTunes, which integrates with its new online music service. iTunes now has the ability to encode music files as AAC files. AAC files are smaller than regular MP3 files and, reportedly, sound just as good, if not better.
Apple also announced a redesigned iPod line, with 10, 15, and 30 GB models sporting a new revision of software which includes an "on-the-go" play list, a notes application, an alarm clock, two new games (parachute and solitaire) and the ability to play new AAC-encoded music files. The new iPods are lighter and smaller than the earlier generation, and feature a new button layout, putting the four control buttons across the top, directly underneath the screen. These devices are now compatible with both PC s and Macs, although software to take advantage of AAC encoding and Apple's music service is not yet available for the PC. With the addition of a separate cable, the new iPods now support USB 2.0 connections as well as FireWire connections. Also new to the iPod is a dock that allows the device to recharge, sync music, and "go faster". The 10GB model retails for $300, while the 15GB and 30GB models, including the dock, remote, and case, retail for $399 and $499 respectively.
The core of Apple's April 29th announcement was, of course, its online music service. Accessed exclusively through iTunes version 4, the new service gives Macintosh users access to over 200,000 tracks, with more being added every day. Apple has reached licensing and distribution agreements with five major record labels to offer AAC-encoded tracks, and full AAC-encoded albums, to online customers at 99 cents per track, with discounts for full album purchases.
By May 5th, Apple reported selling over 1 million songs to eager Mac listeners, with over half of the songs being purchased as full albums instead of single tracks. Over 1 million copies of iTunes 4 have been downloaded, and Apple has reported receiving orders for over 110,000 third-generation iPods, with more than 20,000 sold in stores that first weekend.
Shortly after the media event, Apple posted a curious job opening on Monster.com: "Apple Computer is looking for a Senior Software Engineer to design and build one of our newest Consumer Applications, iTunes for Windows." Apple has said that it will provide a Windows-compatible version of its Music Service by the end of the year.
It's an understatement to say that Apple's new music venture is a hit. With over a million song purchases in the first week, it is important to keep in mind that this service is still only available to Macintosh users. Once the other 96% of the market gets their hands on iTunes for Windows, it will surely be a boon for Apple, and the digital industry in general. With those kinds of figures it will be hard for the record industry to continue to ignore the possibilities of digital audio delivery, when done correctly.
Final Cut Pro 4, DVD Studio Pro 2, Shake 3 Debut
On April 6th, Apple introduced major upgrades to its high-end video compositing and authoring suite.
Final Cut Pro 4 has more than 300 new features, including RT Extreme, for real-time compositing and effects, high-quality 8- and 10-bit uncompressed video formats, new customization controls for the user interface, and full 32-but floating point per channel video processing. Also included in the new version of FCP4 are three integrated applications, including LiveType for titling, Soundtrack for music soundtrack creation, and Compressor for advanced batch transcoding. Final Cut Pro 4 is priced at $400 for previous owners, and $1000 for new owners.
More than a simple upgrade to version 1.5, DVD Studio Pro version 2 is being touted as a completely new product, "rebuilt from the ground up with a breakthrough user interface and packed with innovative features that redefine professional DVD authoring." Included are fully customizable, professionally designed templates, a new menu editor, timeline-based track editing, and a software-based MPEG-2 encoder. Apple will be making DVDSP2 available in August, and buyers of DVDSP1.5 after April 6th will be eligible to update to the new version through Apple's Up-To-Date program.
Lastly, Apple introduced the next generation of its recently purchased compositing and visual effects tool, Shake 3. Included in the update are Mac OS X-only features like unlimited network rendering licenses, allowing VFX artists and houses to distribute time-consuming rendering processes over clusters of Xserves or desktop G4 machines efficiently. New features available to OS X, Linux and IRIX users include motion-tracking and real-time broadcast previews. Shake 3 will be available for Mac OS X from a "Professional Film Reseller" for $5,000, and for Linux and IRIX boxes for $10,000 with an annual maintenance agreement of $1,500.
With the initial release of Final Cut Pro, Apple began to make serious inroads into the world of professional video. Their continued dedication to the field is evident in the work that has gone into these updates. Seeing the Macintosh as a serious platform of choice for Hollywood means only good things for the Mac devoted.
Apple Releases OS X 10.2.5 Update, 10.2.6 Follows Shortly
Apple released another update to their Jaguar operating system in the form of version 10.2.5 on April 10th. According to Apple, "The 10.2.5 Update delivers enhanced functionality and improved reliability for the following applications, utilities, services, and technologies: Address Book, AirPort, AppleScript, Bluetooth, Classic compatibility, Disk Copy, Disk Utility, Finder, Help Viewer, iChat, Image Capture, IP Firewall, Kerberos, Mail, OpenGL, Print Center, Rendezvous, and Sherlock.
"The update includes improvements to AFP, Web services, dial up connections over PPP, and Windows file services, as well as audio, disc recording, graphics, and printing improvements and USB, FireWire and SCSI device compatibility enhancements. [╔] The update also provides updated security services and includes the latest Security Updates."
Shortly after 10.2.5 was released, as with most OS updates, reports poured into the trouble-shooting sites on the Web about problems with the new OS. One of the most common problems reported was a kernel panic caused by certain USB devices and hubs. On April 18th, Apple confirmed the bug, but still had no fix other than to revert one of the system files to an older version. But, nearly three weeks later, in what is probably one of the shortest spans of time between OS updates, Apple delivered OS X 10.2.6, which, among other things, fixed the USB kernel panic. Also of note was an improvement for users of nVidia's GeForce 2MX and 4MX graphics cards when used with MacPlay's new game Unreal Tournament 2003.
Constant OS updates may say something about the initial state of the OS when it was released to the public, but I, for one, welcome them. Software and hardware are in a constant state of flux, and its nice to see that Apple is dedicated to keeping their new OS on the level. And there still aren't near as many updates as Bill and company seem to have to release for Windows XP. One Mac User Group in Colorado reported that the 10.2.5 update fixed a nasty bug with many of its members' 12 inch PowerBook G4s. Apparently, the 12 in PowerBook G4 had a very sensitive sensor for detecting when the lid was closed and when it wasn't. This lead to problems putting the brand new PowerBook to sleep. It would go to sleep as expected when the lid was closed, but then picking up the PowerBook, bumping it, and sometimes even just touching the lid, cause the powerbook to wake up when it should not have. Although not documented in the 10.2.5 release notes, the MUG confirms that the issue is resolved with its members PowerBooks.
Apple Releases Safari Beta 2 to Public
Over three months after its initial Public Beta release, Apple released Beta 2 of its new fast, sleek, sexy web browser, Safari, to the public. The new version contains many features requested by users, including tabbed browsing and auto-fill forms. It also has the ability to auto-enter logins and passwords stored securely in the user's Keychain. Another important feature introduced is the "Reset Safari" feature, which, when selected, empties the cache, clears the download window, removes cookies, clears the search history, and removes saved names, passwords, and other auto-fill text.
Apple reports that, since its release in January of 2003, Safari has been downloaded more than 2 million times. The unique experience is made possible by the KHTML rendering engine, from KDE's Konqueror open source project. The final version will be available later in 2003.
With over 2 million Mac users at least giving Safari a try, Apple has a unique opportunity that hasn't existed since the early days of Internet Explorer on the Macintosh: they could very well upset the throne held by Bill and company when it comes to browsing on the Macintosh. It may not seem like much, but the further Apple moves away from dependence on Microsoft, the more likely Apple is to succeed in the long run.
Apple Sneaks In New Version of AppleWorks, Smart Card Support for OS X
With little fanfare for its once-venerable application suite, Apple released and update for AppleWorks on the 22nd of April, bringing the package up to version 6.2.7. It includes improvements to its presentation and spreadsheet modules, as well as support for several international dictionaries. It also provides better support for handling Office 97 and 2000 file formats.
It was also discovered that Apple had quietly added support for Federal Smart Cards, a system that allows military personnel to utilize their Department of Defense Common Access Card to enable login authentication, encrypting and signing of email, and logging into protected web sites. In addition, Apple's SmartPay Store is designed for federal customers to be able to purchase Apple products using their SmartPay credit cards, issued by the Federal Government. Its clear why these announcements were not the part of massive media events or even front page banners on the Apple web site. AppleWorks, which is in dire need of a blood transfusion from Apple's developers, is a niche package, even for Apple. And the addition of the Smart Card support pertains to mainly military personnel. But it is nice to know that Apple is trying to keep on top of the little things, as well.
Xserve Provides Excellent Return-On-investment for Hockey Team
The Minnesota Wild NHL team use Apple's Xserve servers and PowerBooks to provide fans watching the game from 74 luxury suites at the Xcel Energy Center high-definition game footage, team stats, and internet information at their finger-tips. They use Apple's Xserve systems to provide the data over their PC networks to the PowerBook users because of the Xserve's ability to handle media-rich images. They also claim that it saves money because they do not have to buy client-access licenses for Mac OS X server or for the QuickTime Streaming Server.
I'm a Minnesota boy, so I've already got a soft spot for the Wild, and hockey in general. But now that I know they use my favorite computer platform╔ Go Wild!!!
,br> Apple Consolidates .Mac and Apple ID
As of April 10th, all customers with Apple IDs and .Mac accounts will have a unified account login. .Mac information will override the Apple ID login and password information for these users. For users with matching .Mac and Apple ID accounts, the .Mac password will override the Apple ID one. In addition, 1-Click accounts not already populated with billing information will now include all .Mac billing information. If the users prefer, this can be modified at anytime.
Apple continues to make the user's online experience easier and easier. For those of us with a thousand and two passwords to remember already, it's nice to be able to get access to Apple's entire site with one login.
Quark Announces Further QuarkXPress 6 Features
The new version will include a feature called "layout spaces". This feature allows a document to exist in multiple formats, while sharing attributes and information. It will be possible to have a document formatted for print, Web, electronic distribution, etc. without having to make constant updates to multiple files. By using synchronized text, any edits made to one layout will automatically be made to the corresponding layouts.
PDF creation technology is being built into Version 6, allowing for closer integration of the PDF creation process with XPress's internal workings. Also being added is DeviceN color space, which will allow for colorized TIFFs, blends, and other items as composite color while retaining information suitable for in-RIP separations.
Quark has also included tools for creating web layouts directly in XPress, allowing designers to easily re-use content from existing XPress documents for hypertext utilities. Included are a variety of enhancements from rollovers to menus, form controls, and preview and export controls. It also includes a method for tagging XML content. It contains the industry-standard Xerces engine for parsing the XML content.
The new version also includes an expanded list of undo-able actions, as well as multiple levels of undo/redo capabilities. It will also include full-resolution previews of on-screen images, allowing for more accurate positioning by pagers.
Quark has yet to announce pricing for the new version, or an anticipated ship date.
This application is one of the last major applications that are keeping a large segment of the Mac community from moving to the new OS X. With Apple's move to computers that no longer boot into OS 9 natively, many prepress houses have been forced to consider Adobe's alternative, InDesign. If Quark doesn't move quickly, they could well lose their market to Adobe's juggernaut.
Adobe Brings Full Acrobat Suite to Mac OS X
Although Acrobat 5 has been available in carbon-form for sometime, the all-important Distiller application has remained a Classic-only app. With the release of Acrobat 6, Adobe finally changes that, bringing the entire suite of PDF creation and management tools to OS X.
The new Acrobat family includes Acrobat 6.0 Professional, Acrobat 6.0 Standard, and Acrobat Elements, as well as the free Acrobat Reader 6.0. Each of the application suites addresses a different level of functionality for different environments.
Acrobat Professional improves document exchange, review, and archiving for businesses. Acrobat Standard includes a new task-based interface that simplifies document review within workgroups. Acrobat Elements is a volume-license only product that allows companies to inexpensively place PDF creation tools on every desktop.
Adobe Reader has become the definitive application for reading and interacting with PDF files, and 6.0 will be no exception. It will allow viewing of content ranging from Photoshop Album slideshows, eBooks, business document forms, and imbedded multimedia. Reader will continue to be offered free of charge.
Version 6.0 should be available by the end of May 2003. Pricing for Acrobat 6.0 Professional will be $450, with upgrades from version 4 or 5 priced at $150. Standard will be available for $300, with an upgrade price of $100. Elements will be available for Windows systems only starting at $28 per seat. Finally, the pieces are all coming together. Soon, I will have no reason to boot into OS 9, and very few reasons to even run the Classic environment. I love it when a plan comes together.
FWB Dusts off Real PC In Light of Connectix Buyout
Registered owners of FWB Software's Real PC emulation product received word that the company would be resuming development of the product, following the sale of Connectix's Virtual PC to Microsoft.
"When Microsoft purchased Virtual PC, we decided it was time to re-release an updated version of Real PC & SoftWindows 98 (and shortly XP etc). We had to discontinue the product as the agreement was with Connectix, not Microsoft. If you would like to update your Real PC to a faster, better and more powerful version, give us 30 days to finish the software and you'll be glad you waited." I, for one, never fully understood what was behind FWB and Connectix's agreement. At the time, in my opinion, FWB had the superior product with SoftWindows. And, anyone willing to give Bill and company a little competition is OK in my book.
Thursby To Deliver ADmitMac for Microsoft Networks
On April 10th, Thursby officially announced ADmitMac, a Mac OS X application that allows Macs to be easily incorporated into Active Directory networks prevalent in many PC-based environments. The new software will allow users to share home directories and security permissions with the PC brethren without having to setup special shares or use third-party software on the Windows server. Users will be able to log into a PC or Mac and have access to the same files and permissions on either machine.
ADmitMac is currently in beta testing and is set for release sometime in May. The single biggest complaint that I hear from IT managers about Macs is that they do not play nicely on PC networks. With the introduction of OS X 10.2, and products like ADmitMac, it is getting increasingly difficult for IT managers to force Mac users out of their networks.
Microsoft's MacBU Survey on Electronic Habits and Style
On April 29th, the MacBU released the results of a survey that it commissioned regarding the habits and styles that people have about what goes in and out of their email inbox. Among the interesting findings: Almost half of the survey respondents said that forgetting to include attachments was their most common email mistake. Other frequent faux pas included misspellings, and replying to all instead of the sender. These garnered almost a third of the votes. Younger respondents were almost three times as likely to forget attachments as their older counterparts.
With still no OS X solution for connecting to an Exchange server in sight, I certainly hope that this survey served an important purpose in the grand scheme of things.
Also of Interest╔
Terra Soft Ships Yellow Dog Linux 3.0>
On the heels of Mandrakes release of Mandrake PPC Linux version 9, Terra Soft has shipped Yellow Dog Linux 3.0, a new generation of Linux for PPCs. The new version includes a graphical installer based on Red Hat's "Anaconda". It also comes with integrated KDE 3.1 and Gnome 2.2 desktop environments, and gcc 3.2.2 compiler, improved support for ATI and nVidia graphics cards, 3 install CDs and 3 source CDs.
The box set includes the 6 CDs, a printed Companion to Installation, a revised "Getting Started with Yellow Dog Linux" book, 60 days of installation support, and a t-shirt, for $85. The "Geek Edition" goes for $25 and offers all 6 CDs without printed guide, book or support.
Though it hasn't become the juggernaut that we once that it would be, Linux has definitely made an impact on the computer landscape, and it is here to stay. As companies such as Mandrake and Terra Soft continue to make it easier for the common user to access it, it becomes more likely that it will someday be accepted as more than just an open source toy for Unix geeks.
Canadian Mac Users Second-Class Citizens?
Microsoft Creates Windows Media Digital Delivery System for Theatres
On April 3rd, Landmark theatres and Microsoft announced that they would be equipping 177 screens in all 53 of their theatres across the country with digital playback systems based on Microsoft's Windows Media 9 Series. This will make it the largest digital cinema theater circuit installation to date in the US. The new circuit will allow theatres to screen digital films encoded in Windows Media 9 Series, enabling high-resolution pictures with up to 7.1 channel surround sound. The network rollout should be completed by the end of the year.
If it weren't' for the fact that I am so darned impressed with the quality of the Windows Media 9 system on my Windows PC at home, I'd insert another jab at Bill and company here.
More news and comment next week, with a complete wrap-up of all Mac-related announcements at the big E3 gaming expo being held in May!