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  1-17-03 | This column originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.


Macworld Expo Starts 2003 Right


By Bob LeVitus

I’m back from Macworld Expo San Francisco and I have to tell you folks, it was a good one this time. I give this year's keynote a 93—it had a great beat and you could dance to it.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs kicked things off by telling us he had enough new products to fill two keynotes. And he did. Bigger PowerBooks, smaller PowerBooks, better wireless reception, faster wireless protocols (much faster), faster FireWire connections, a faster Web browser and a powerful presentation graphics program (think PowerPoint, but easy to use and pretty), chapters in the DVDs you burn (YEA!), an inexpensive version of Final Cut Pro (no, it’s not called “Final Cut Semi Pro”), and X11 for OS X.

Oh, there was one other thing… the world’s first and only wearable electronic jacket with integrated iPod controls, created by Apple and Burton Snowboards.

But I digress. The jacket is way cool but face it—there just aren’t many good places to snowboard here in Texas. So let’s take a closer look at some of the just-announced products you’re more likely to lust for.

At the top of my personal lust list, you’ll find the new 17-inch PowerBook. It’s gorgeous in its sleek aluminum alloy enclosure, it’s got the same killer 17-inch display as the iMac, and best of all, it’s got all the hot new technologies power users lust for: 802.11g Wireless Networking (a.k.a. AirPort Extreme; more on that in a moment), new twice-as-fast FireWire 800, built-in Bluetooth, and ambient lighting sensors that automatically adjust your display and innovative backlit keyboard as lighting conditions change.

It’s not particularly dainty at 6.8 pounds; it’s not at all cheap, with prices starting at $3,299. But it’s a heck of a Mac and I want one so badly I can almost taste it.

At the other end of the spectrum, Apple also introduced the smallest and most affordable PowerBook yet, a 4.6 pounder with a 12-inch display and all of the expected PowerBook accoutrements, encased in a new lightweight aluminum alloy-enclosure and priced from just $1,799.
And yes, they finally fixed the AirPort reception issue in these new PowerBooks—Apple claims that both models have the exact same AirPort reception as the iBook, which is the standard by which AirPort reception is judged.

Speaking of AirPort, it’s also new and improved for 2003. Dubbed AirPort Extreme, it runs the new ultra-fast 802.11g standard offering speeds up to 54Mbps, five times the data rate of last-generation 802.11b-based products including AirPort. But it is backward compatible, so old and new can co-exist peacefully.

But that’s not all—in addition to being much faster, the new AirPort Extreme base stations include wireless bridging and USB printer sharing. This is huge. To expand your wireless network, just add more base stations (up to 4) and extend the reach of your wireless network without running additional cables or adding more Macs. That’s so sweet. And USB printer sharing means you can plug one printer into your base station and have it available to up to 50 users! Yowza! Plus, the new base station has a software placement utility to help you find an optimal location for the unit, a software power control to limit the station’s range, and an antenna port for adding optional omni-directional or directional antennas.

I can’t remember a Macworld Expo where Apple introduced more new products, but I’m running out of space. So I’ll have to tell you about Apple’s new software offerings—Keynote, Safari, iLife, and Final Cut Express—next week. Meanwhile, check out the specs and prices on all the new hardware devices at

Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on Mac OS and the author of 41 books, including Dr. Mac: The OS X Files, (or, “How to Become a Mac OS X Power User”) and Mac OS X for Dummies, 2nd Edition. E-mail comments to [email protected].

Copyright © 2004 Bob LeVitus



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