For many user group members, the highlight of any presentation is the Question and Answer portion, where the crowd gets to pepper the vendor representatives with unrehearsed questions. This is always an interesting time: the representatives must waltz along a thin line between candor and job preservation. When an audience member suggests that Apple's advertising is misguided and fails to tell why Macs are "insanely great," does the company representative agree (not a good idea, if the advertising is under the control of Powerful Interim Forces), disagree (not a good idea, especially if the observation is true), or change the subject (not a good idea since this is Washington, DC, and everyone is well versed in the intricacies of equivocation).
Fortunately for everyone, the May General Meeting featured two superb presenters: J.D. Mankovsky, a system engineer at Apple's regional office in Reston, Virginia, and Mike Shebanek, a product manager on the iMac team. J.D. fielded a dizzying variety of technical questions on the new PowerBook G3 machines, the evolution of Mac OS from today's version 8.1 to next year's Mac OS 8.6 and (on a slightly different, parallel track) Mac OS X [Mac OS Ten]. J.D., a veteran of previous Pi meetings, proved once again to be equally adept at talking about video games (such as Nanosaur, an astounding, and free, 3D extravaganza) and the proper use of APIs (Application Programming Interface) for Mac OS X.
Mike, naturally, concentrated on the forthcoming iMac, covering everything from the official names of the colors used in the case to why it doesn't have a floppy disk drive. A former user group president from Riverside, California, Mike was ruthlessly nontechnical: the iMac is aimed at the "consumer market," and he cheerfully brushed aside all attempts to make it something else. It doesn't have serial ports, SCSI ports, dual-monitor support, etc., because Apple "already has this covered" with the existing G3 machines. The iMac is aimed at consumers heading into the next century, not graphics professionals, not people trying to hook up 10-year-old printers.
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J.D. Mankovsky (left, in red) selects an eager questioner
from the audience while Mike Shebanek (right, in white)
searches for the power switch on his wireless