Image: Macworld Conference and Expo
Daryl Lopez examines the new 17-inch iMac at the MacWorld Expo in New York Wednesday.
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msnbc.com

Steve Jobs came to the Big Apple bearing gifts Wednesday: a new and improved version of the Mac OS X operating system, a bunch of new cool applications, bigger and cheaper iPods for Mac and Windows — plus, a new iMac with an incredible 17-inch screen.

InsertArt(1560904)THE MACWORLD EXPO and Conference, also known as the annual gathering of the East Coast chapter of the Church of Mac aficionados, began Wednesday at the Javits Convention Center in New York. Reverend Jobs conducted the morning service at this, the largest computer show on the East Coast.

Jobs didn’t have a chance to breathe during his sermon. There was so much to talk about that some terrific new features were barely mentioned during the speech. Even the crowd was polite with their applause and held their usual over-the-top enthusiasm until the end.

First off were some of the new ‘Switch’ commercials. Two young students and Will Farrell will be the next people you see hawking their switch from Windows to Macintosh. I’m not a big fan of the commercials (they don’t really say enough about how good OS X is) but these three are quite entertaining. The ads have been very successful — more than 1.7 million people have reportedly visited the Apple Website to learn about switching to Macs since the commercials have hit the air.

WHAT’S NEW IN MAC OS X V10.2

There are 2.5 million active OS X users today, Jobs said. Rebuffing critics citing a slow adoption rate, he said he expects that number will double by the end of 2002. Jobs also boasted that OS X is now the largest selling Unix-based OS on the planet, beating some big names like Sun.

The latest and greatest version of the Mac operating system is codenamed Jaguar - although Jobs kept calling it Jag-wire during his demonstration. Whatever you call it, it comes with some very cool new features.

Spring-loaded folders: I didn’t understand what these were about until I saw it demonstrated. You put your cursor over a folder and it springs open — and it does that for every layer of folder. No longer do you have to click/double-click to find where something is located. This is amazingly cool.

QuickTime 6: Even though Jobs and Real Networks announced a Real One Player Beta for OS X, OS X 10.2 will come with the newest revision of QuickTime, now featuring MPEG-4 video and AAC audio codecs. In simple terms, they’re the new standards — and looked great in the demonstrations.

One big plus is the instant streaming feature. No waiting for buffering at any point during playback, even if you skip around within the file. Since QuickTime 6’s release online Monday, more than a million people have downloaded it.

Universal Access:Better applications for those who have trouble using a regular computer, plus new apps such as Zoom and Screen Reader to make life a whole lot easier for everyone.

Integrated Search: You can now search for anything in the Finder, which is integrated into all applications that run through the finder. Add to that the latest version of Sherlock and you have a very big deal.

Sherlock 3: The Mac’s search engine has been completely rewritten to combine access to Internet channels. That sounds like just a bunch of words, but when Jobs showed what it can do all I could say is, “Wow.”

image: Sherlock 3
Sherlock 3 actually integrates Web features into a regular search engine.
Sherlock allows you to do pointed Internet searches, using channels such as Movies, Stocks, News, eBay, Pictures, Flights and Yellow Pages. In Stocks, for example, you can receive updated quotes and get charts and the latest news stories on those firms. Enter your zip code in Movies and Sherlock will tell you what’s playing in your neighborhood and when, let you buy tickets and even stream a preview of the flick. Yellow Pages? Put in your zip and a type of food and you’ll get nearby restaurants. I could go on. It’s really neat.

Inkwell: Based on some of the software developed for the old Newton PDA, Inkwell promises to integrate handwriting recognition into the operating system. Announced probably to reduce some of the hoopla from Microsoft’s upcoming Windows XP for Tablet PCs, this was one feature left for later explanation.

Rendezvous: Jobs called it networking technology that automatically discovers other devices over any network (wired or wireless) and automatically configures them.

The software is not Apple’s alone; it’s actually an open standard. We were shown a demonstration of how, for instance, a Rendezvous-enabled printer can automatically be detected and configured, much simpler than instead of what needs to be done today to install and print. Epson, H-P and Lexmark have already signed on. Rendezvous is part of Apple’s attempt at making OS X computers network seamlessly in all types of networks.

To further ease that, there are some newly added applications for Macs that need to exist on a Windows network. SMB browsing and built-in PPTP VPN security should make it easier to share files and connect to a Windows network. These are some of the features I can’t wait to try.

Mail: The built-in mail application is dramatically improved, with an all-new mailbox, new rules for threading, multiple accounts and a Junk Mail feature that actually learns what you want and don’t want to see.

Address Book: This is now a systemwide database that works with all applications. It looks very interesting, and with the newly announced Bluetooth support in 10.2, it will allow you to send SMS message replies to cellular calls (and vice versa).

iChat: The new Mac instant messaging application is really AOL instant messaging in disguise. You can use your AOL, AIM or Mac.com e-mail address to use it. With Rendezvous you can see who else is available on your network and create instant buddy lists for iChat. And you can drop files and URLs in your message just by dragging and dropping.

Jaguar is also supposed to be a lot faster than previous version of the OS. Thanks to Quartz Extreme - graphics performance will be accelerated when using a GeForce 2-4 or AGHP Radeon video card.

The cost for all this? OS X 10.2 will be available for $129 on August 24. People who purchase a new Mac between now and then will be able to upgrade for $19.95.

OTHER NEW SOFTWAREiTools: Apple’s online venture is no more. Starting Sept. 30 it will be called .MAC (dot-Mac) and will give you IMAP, POP and Mac.COM mail service, iDisk storage, iCal hosting, iPhoto hosting, back-up and anti-virus software, all for $99 an annual membership.

iCal: This very cool calendar program allows you to manipulate multiple calendars and publish them on .MAC so others can use them. It will be available as a download this September.

iTunes 3: The latest re-write of Apple’s wonderful music program adds a number of terrific new features to the mix. You will now be able to rate songs, keep track of play counts and even play all your songs at the same loudness level. You can even make ‘Smart Playlists’ to play only the songs you wish by year, artist, ratings, etc. iTunes is available today for downloading on the Apple Web site.

iSync: This super-synchronization program lets you keep everything up to date, from your iPod to your Palm organizer to your Bluetooth-enabled cellular phone — part of Apple’s “Mac to Mobile” solution. Expect iSync to be a free download available in September.

NEW HARDWARE

iPod: The big news is that the Mac’s MP3 player will now be available for Windows. Instead of using iTunes, Windows iPods will synch to a new version of Music Match software. The iPod line, Mac or Windows, now includes 3 sizes: 5GB, 10GB and 20GB. ($299, $399 and $499 respectively).

The new iPods come with a remote control and a carrying case.
There are also many new features including new categories — and the ability to synch your iCal and Address Book information to your MP3 player, turning the iPod into a read-only Newton of sorts. These last two features are only available on the Mac iPods. Expect the new Mac iPods in August and the Windows versions in September.

iMac 17-inch Flat Screen: It’s a new top-of-the-line iMac with a 17-inch widescreen LCD. Aspect ratio of 16:10. If and when Apple lets me see one I promise to write it up for you. (I don’t promise to return it quickly to Apple, however.) 800 MHz G4, 256 MB of RAM, 80 GB HD, SuperDrive (DVD-burner) and NVIDIA GeForce4 MS with 32 MB of video memory — all for $1,999. Wow. Apple also lowered the price of their 15-inch iMac with a SuperDrive $100 to $1,799.

All that and I still haven’t mentioned OS X 10.2 for Servers, which looks very interesting as well, or Apple’s latest computer store opening in SoHo Thursday —- but that’s for another column.

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