Thu 06 Jan
The 2005 edition of Macworld San Francisco is next week, and the Mac-focused Web sites are all worked up, as is their wont, over various, rumored announcements that may or may not come during the keynote address. There’s talk of a “headless Mac” in the US$500 price range, and also murmurs (and circumstantial evidence) of a productivity suite called “iWork.” These completely unqualified murmurings have me a little worked up too.
From what I can tell, the headless Mac is ostensibly aimed at a new strata of consumer; perhaps at buyers who may already have a Windows machine and want to swap out just the box. The headless configuration would preserve their investment in a monitor, and enterprising consumers (oxymoron alert) might simply invest in a KVM switch like those sold by IOGEAR, among others, to share the monitor between a Mac and a Windows PC.
I probably have a complete misconception of what these rumors are suggesting, but I’d go crazy for a headless Mac that, with attached hard drives, could act as a small office/home office server, perhaps with a limited version of Mac OS X Server’s capabilities. It seems logical to me to assume that there are plenty of individual Macintosh users who have multiple Macs at home, and would like some way to manage passwords, system preferences, software installations/upgrades and file sharing centrally — without having to clear out the space and shell out the money for an Xserve.
A headless Mac that could be controlled from an iMac or a PowerBook via a VNC- or Timbuktu-style connection would be an excellent tool for that. There’s a market for such a machine, I’m sure of it. What I’m not sure of is whether the market is big enough for a niche player like Apple to invest in.
As for iWork, I’m a little nervous about this. Given my proclivity for gestures that can be easily perceived as anti-Microsoft, I’m certainly not one to talk. But still, I worry about pissing off Redmond if Apple, as rumored, goes ahead and releases a word processing program called “Pages.” Perhaps I’m too naüve a subscriber to the idea that it᾿s the Microsoft Office suite that sustains the Mac’s position as a viable office machine. But it seems true to me, even in our relatively small enterprise, that the ability to swap Word, Excel and PowerPoint files makes the Mac seem like a serious computing partner. I would hate for Microsoft to throw in the towel on Office in the face of an Apple competing product, the way they did when Safari was released to challenge Internet Explorer. That’s a bit paranoid, I know.
Actually, I originally felt the same way about Apple’s release of Keynote, worried that a PowerPoint challenger would provoke the ire of Microsoft, but that came to nothing. What’s more, I’ve come to really like Keynote too; I use it for every business presentation that I can, and I couldn’t be more excited about the rumors that a new version will be included in the iWork suite (especially after having practically given up hope for a new version based on Apple’s neglect of the product for so long).
I never expected to feel this way about presentation software, but in the Apple tradition, there’s something special about this program. Perhaps it’s because I have to spend so much time making presentations, or because creating an aesthetically orderly presentation in Keynote is vastly easier than PowerPoint. Either way, the application is such an exemplary of Mac OS X programming bells and whistles that I’m thoroughly enamored by it. So, I’m crossing my fingers for next week.