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Mac Notes

By Jeffrey Allen

San Francisco, the city that knows how, once again played host to the largest Macintosh conference in the world. For the last several years, the MacWorld fest has drawn people from all over the world to San Francisco to see the newest and the best Macintosh offerings from Apple and from software and hardware vendors with products complementary to the Mac.

Apple has used MacWorld as a stage for the announcement of new products for some time. As always around MacWorld, the Macintosh pundits hypothesized (and some just guessed) at what “new” or upgraded product(s) Apple would offer its customers. Speculation ran rampant. Some suggested fulfillment of the hopes of the Macintosh Road Warriors that Apple would release a PowerBook built around its powerful G-5 processor. Others thought Apple would come out with software. At least a few contended that Apple had plans to release its own office suite to compete with Microsoft’s Office package. One columnist discovered that a program called “iWork” suddenly got a name change and suggested that Apple would release its office package under the name iWork. As the first day of MacWorld approached the speculation grew.

Courtesy of Apple

Finally, the day arrived. Steve Jobs took the podium for his keynote address and announced several upgrades and new products. Apple’s incredibly popular iLife program got a makeover (and wonder of wonders, iLife ´04 is reborn as iLife ´05). iLife ´05 costs $79, and you can get it at Apple’s online store or its retail distribution centers. It includes significant upgrades to four of the included applications: iPhoto (now iPhoto 5), iMovie (now iMovie HD because it offers support for high-definition video), iDvd (now iDVD 5), and GarageBand (now GarageBand 2). Although it did not get a significant upgrade in connection with the release of iLife, iTunes (now at version 4.7.1) has received several upgrades in the last year and now supports all versions of the iPod, including the new Shuffle (see below). For more information about the upgraded software, go to the online Apple store and select the software.

Apple did offer something along the lines of an office productivity suite; and labeled it “iWork.” iWork includes an upgraded Keynote (Apple’s exceptional presentation software) and a new word processor called “Pages.” Both applications included in iWork claim import and export compatibility with their Microsoft counterparts (Keynote with PowerPoint and Pages with Word). Unlike other office suites, iWork has no spreadsheet component. Although iWork has a number of things going for it, the likelihood that it will replace Office as the office suite of choice in the professional environment has not likely spoiled Bill Gates’s day. On the other hand, for $79, it appears to be one heck of a buy, but still not as much of a value as the iLife ´05 package that also sells for $79 if you buy it separately, but still comes as included software with every new Macintosh computer (hard to beat that deal). For more information about the new iWork software package, go to the online Apple store.

Courtesy of Apple

But Jobs had more up his sleeve than a software makeover and a new program. He announced a continuation of Apple’s minimalist direction by showing off the smallest iPod and the smallest computer Apple has yet released. Apple calls the iPod the “Shuffle” and the computer the Mac “Mini” (no, as cute as it would have been, it is not the “MiniMac”). The Shuffle breaks new ground for Apple in the MP3 world. It has no display, works on flash memory, has a battery that holds a 12-hour charge, does its own mixing, and costs $99 for a 512MB unit that weighs in at just over three-quarters of an ounce and takes up less space than a pack of Trident gum. For $149, you can get the 1 GB version, which holds 240 songs (the smaller one holds 120).

Courtesy of Apple

While the Shuffle lacks the capacity and the flexibility of its larger siblings, it also lacks their (what by comparison seems significant) size. Like its larger siblings, the Shuffle works with both Mac and Windows computers, but the Shuffle only connects to a USB port. You can create a special playlist for your Shuffle in iTunes and transfer it to the Shuffle when you have it connected to your computer. The Shuffle also charges the internal battery when connected to the computer. If you get tired of the order of the songs in the play list, you can flip a switch on the back and “shuffle” the mix (hence the name). Like its siblings, you can accessorize the Shuffle to your heart’s content. Available accessories already include an armband, a sports case, a dock, a battery pack to allow you to run the Shuffle on AAA batteries, and a power adapter to allow you to charge the Shuffle without plugging it into a computer. Like the other iPods, the Shuffle can act as an external disk drive (albeit with a much smaller capacity), and you can use it to transfer files between computers as you can any other USB flash drive.

Apple refers to the Mini as the “headless Mac.” Jobs called it BYOKMD (Bring Your Own Keyboard, Mouse, and Display). Although the Mini comes in a diminutive size (6.6” x 6.5” x 2”), the computer packs a lot of power. It comes in two basic versions: (1) the $499 version, which includes a 1.25 GHz Power PC G4 processor and a 40 GB hard disk (upgradeable to 80 GB); and (2) a $599 version that comes with a 1.42 GHz Power PC G4 processor and an 80 GB hard disk. Both come with: 256 MB of RAM (too little), upgradeable to 1GB; Apple’s combo drive (CDRW/DVD) upgradeable to a SuperDrive (CDRW/DVDRW); and Ethernet, USB 2.0, and FireWire ports. Both can be customized with Bluetooth and Apple’s Airport Extreme (802.11g wireless).

Courtesy of Apple

Apple has positioned the Mini as a transition machine, targeted at Windows users thinking of switching. By offering a computer that can use almost any USB or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse combination and display that they have lying around the house or the office, the acquisition cost of the computer stays very small. As is the case with all Mac computers, the Mini comes with iLife ‘05, Quicken 2005, and the current iteration of Apple’s now rock solid Unix-based OS X Operating System (version 10.3 (Jaguar)).

While positioned as a transition machine to lure the disgruntled Windows user into the Mac family, many members of the Mac family will recognize the Mini as a great and inexpensive way to add a computer to their house or their office.

For those interested in taking a leaf from Apple’s book on minimalism, the Mini and Apple’s server software potentially offer a very inexpensive way for a small office to set up a very usable server. Granted, it lacks the power of Apple’s G-5 based Xserve, but at $599 (increased to $924 for 1 GB of RAM) for the computer and $499 for the server software (10 unit license), it costs a lot less than the least expensive of the G-5 Xserve units (which also comes with 1 GB of RAM and an 80 GB hard disk, but has an unlimited user license for the software and a $2,999 price tag). Taking the Mini route for a server does deprive you of the opportunity of further expansion of the server’s capacity (at appropriately increased cost); but the simple truth of the matter is that while the Xserve drives offer power necessary for larger installations, for most small offices, the Xserve brings far more power than you will need at a cost considerably larger than you will probably want to pay.

A number of vendors at MacWorld introduced new accessories for a variety of iPods as well as the Macintosh computers. Software vendors announced newly released or about-to-be-released upgrades for Mac software. Among the most significant from the perspective of the law office is the increasing number of Mac OS X compatible scanners with automatic document feed capabilities. You might also want to look into a software product announced by Mindwrap, Inc., called “ScanTango,” which claims to afford Mac OS X compatible high-speed scanner support. We have not yet had the chance to look at this software, but intend to do so as soon as possible ( www.scantango.com).

In addition to its MacWorld news, Apple made another announcement recently that will prove of great interest to attorneys. Apple has decided to push use of the Macintosh computes in small business and professional environments. Apple has established a special unit to deal with small business growth and has targeted the legal profession as an area of particular interest. Although this does not mark the first time that Apple has come after the legal market, it does represent Apple’s most significant effort to date. Apple has met with leaders of the GPSSF Section of the American Bar Association regarding the possibility of establishing a working relationship with that section and has established a presence at New York’s Legal Tech by both having a vendor booth and sponsoring a track of the educational seminars. Apple’s website now includes a special section for attorneys. You can find it under “Legal” in the Small Business segment of the Business section of the Apple website. The URL for Apple’s legal page is http://www.apple.com/business/solutions/legal.html. The Apple website legal page discusses Apple products in the law office environment, identifies new products (hardware and software), includes a calendar of events related to legal practice and the Mac, and publishes articles that may prove interesting to attorneys relating to the use of the Mac in a law office environment.

Jeffrey Allen (jallenlawtek@aol.com) has a general practice in Oakland, California. His firm, Graves & Allen, emphasizes real estate and business transactions and litigation. He is a frequent speaker and author on technology topics and the Editor-in-Chief of the GPSolo Technology & Practice Guide and the Technology eReport.

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