May 1999 General Meeting Report
by Don Essick, Vice President Macintosh Programs
Wow, another meeting already? Yes, the meeting was early this month because of the Memorial Day holiday and other scheduling conflicts. Besides, it meant that we got the scoop from the Apple World-Wide Developer's Conference while it was still news. The WWDC closed just yesterday and the intrepid J.D. Mankovsky took the red-eye back from San Jose to be with us. We also welcomed Barrett Thompson, who joins J.D. to introduce QuickTime 4 and Final Cut Pro, a digital video editing package which takes advantage of the new FireWire capabilities built in to many of the new digital video cameras.
The meeting opened as usual with the question and answer session, hosted ably by Pi Secretary and Mac Guru Lawrence Charters. The questions, as usual, were varied and interesting. After a very short business meeting, mostly announcing the availability of the newest incarnation of Pi Fillings the CD. By the time you read this, in fact, by the end of next week, Pi Fillings the CD in Bondi Blue will be delivered. Included in this new version is MacOS 8.6 Update and all other Mac OS updaters. We don't sell the Mac OS, we're not licensed to do that, but we do have a license to distribute Apple updaters, and so we do. Still a bargain at $10. Call the Pi Office, be nice to Beth, thank her for all she does for us and place a order. It will cost you an additional fee for postage, but you don't have to drive to Rockville. Better still, you can go to http://store.wap.org and place an order online! There is a list of all of the goodies on this CD there too.
Now that the shameless plug is out of the way, on with the meeting. A while back I was contacted by Pi member Bob Manka about contacting Apple to do a presentation on its new digital video editing product. Since Bob was familiar with the product and Apple rep, and since Apple was already scheduled for May 15, he volunteered to coordinate getting Final Cut Pro to the meeting. He did a great job, and I'm always pleased to have new blood volunteer to help out.
Barrett Thompson was first up with his great new G3 computer and Desktop monitor. First off, we were treated to a demo of QuickTime 4. A slick new interface with buttons which show the influence of the DVD ROM controller. At the bottom of the frame is a "drawer handle" which pulls down a drawer into which you can place lots of QuickTime objects for later use. There is a full compliment of audio controls and an equalizer display and most importantly, support for streaming video and audio. If you have a fast enough Internet connection, you can now watch the BBC live on your desktop using QuickTime 4 streaming video. There are lots of other subtle improvements to QuickTime 4 including improved codecs and more import and export formats. For more information, go to http://www.apple.com/quicktime/specifications.html and read all about it.
Next, Barrett gave us an overview of emerging technologies leading up to the introduction to Final Cut Pro. At a suggested retail price of $995, Apple isn't exactly targeting the casual home user, but considering the power of this product, it has garnered some pretty impressive press since its introduction at the National Association of Broadcasters convention. One review I read compared Final Cut Pro favorably to a $100,000 professional video editing suite.
The most interesting thing to me was the ability to directly control the video camera via the FireWire interface. You can actually control the camera from a window on your Mac. This makes the process of capturing exactly the scene you want extremely easy.
It's hard to judge from the audience, but it seemed to be a very easy and intuitive package to use. Of course, I could write down everything I know about the field on one side of a 3 by 5 card with space left over.
J.D.. Mankovsky was next with the Apple Update, and, as expected there were some exciting announcements at the WWDC. Mac OS 8.6 was, indeed, announced and available on schedule. Included in this latest update are a new version of Sherlock with re-sizeable windows and lots of new plug-ins, improvements to lots of system software such as AppleScript, PlainTalk and lots more. Also included, of course, are bug fixes and other tweaks that should make Mac OS 8.6 even more stable than its predecessor.
We also got the updated Mac OS timeline. Things appear to be on schedule for a first quarter 2000 release of Mac OS X client. Since Mac OS X Server is already on the shelf, it looks like this is a done deal. Still not a great deal of detail on what else is coming between now and then, but there is a very good track record to look back on since Steve Jobs' return to Apple.
The other big news is what was not announced. The consumer portable piece of the four-platform strategy still says 1999. No product yet. I guess they had to save something to announce at MacWorld New York in July. They did, however, announce two new slim and sexy PowerBooks. Wicked fast and loaded with features and at comparable prices to most other comparably equipped Wintel laptops. One of the tweaks in Mac OS 8.6 is a microkernel upgrade which now offers true 4-5 hour battery life for each battery. That means if you have both bays filled with batteries, you could work an entire 8-hour day without plugging in!
Apple also has re-stated its commitment to game development on the Mac by endorsing OpenGL. Steve Jobs announced at the WWDC keynote that hundreds of game developers had re-committed to the Mac platform.
Those are the high points. Visit http://www.apple.com/hotnews/ for the latest hot news from Apple.
This was my final General Meeting as your Vice President for Macintosh Programs. Next fiscal year, there will be a new Vice President for Programs. It has been fun tracking down vendors and other presenters to do the meetings. During my tenure, I've had to beg vendors who were planning to abandon the Mac to come and see us and I've also had vendors calling me up asking how soon they could come. I definitely prefer the latter.
I want to thank all of the people who have helped over the years to make this job a little easier. First and foremost, Beth Medlin our office manager, cookie baker, surrogate mother and therapist. Beth is the face of the Pi to most people. She is just plain wonderful. I couldn't have done it without her. Secondly, thanks and kudos to Lawrence Charters and Tom Witte who regularly help with the Q & A while things are ramping up in the morning. Thanks also to the many volunteers who cart all of our stuff from the office to the meeting and back. There is no way I could have done that myself. It is just too far from Alexandria to Rockville. Last and by no means least, thanks to Ed and the rest of the people here at the Ernst Community and Cultural Center and NOVA. They consistently bend over backwards to make us feel at home.
The meeting closed, as usual, with the door prize giveaway. There were plenty of T-shirts, books, mouse pads and other goodies flung into the audience. Also the people who were doing the play in the auditorium, whose name I forgot to write down, (sorry) donated five pairs of tickets to tonight's production.
Next month is the Garage Sale on June 5. July brings Aladdin Systems and their entire product line. See you there!
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