MWNY: Keynote Report
9:41 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story
Most Macworld keynote speeches are slim pickings for Mac gamers. The real mind-blowing introductions that floor us, such as the introduction of the Radeon or Doom 3 demonstrated on a GeForce 3, are fleeting at best. Yet while nothing is ever going to top that heart-stopping moment when Halo was demonstrated for the first time, today's keynote did have a few "key" moments which should at least make a Mac gamer's heart do a little jig, if not come to a complete halt.
As was to be expected much of the news dealt with Mac OS X. Jobs claimed that there were over 1,000 shipping Mac OS X-native products right now, and 55% of Mac publishers plan to release OS X products or updates within 6 months. A few of those products will certainly be games.
While not exactly a gamer's paradise, many of you might use Virtual PC as a tool for retrogaming with old PC titles. Connectix demonstrated an OS X-savvy version of Virtual PC, which is available as a tech demo for registered users. Not much was discussed about the apparent advantages of using OS X over OS 9, but it was mentioned that this version could run multiple OS simultaneously -- theoretically you could have every OS from Windows 95 to Win2k running on your Mac at the same time, given sufficient RAM. Sounds like a tech support worker's dream.
The first gaming-related event of the keynote was a demo of WarCraft III, which was of course running on OS X -- you might remember IMG brought you screen shots of the game running on that OS some time ago. Blizzard co-founder Frank Peirce demoed the game for the crowd, to much applause; still no confirmation of a ship date.
This demo was followed by a second treat for gamers, a demo of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 by Aspyr CEO Mike Rogers. This game has been available for some time, but to see Apple give games this much time under the spotlight was a morale boost at the least.
While the demo of the $7,500 3D program Maya isn't exactly a gamer's dream, it may bode well for original game development on our platform. This powerful modeling, rendering and animation tool was used in several extremely impressive demonstrations, and will be a powerful asset to any design team with the resources to afford it.
Jobs also announced and demonstrated Mac OS X 10.1, the first major update to this next-generation OS. As with previous "point one" updates this one will be free, and the focus this time out is speed, speed speed. Jobs seems to have listened well to the outpouring of user feedback, and focused much of his presentation on the improved quickness of Aqua and the OS itself. Many applications that launched in 5 to 10 "bounces" in the Dock before should now launch in a single bounce. DVD playback will be included as well; Jobs showed off the new Mac OS X native DVD player with an improved controller. The significance of this update for gamers will not likely be known until after this release, but all will agree faster launch times and a more tweakable GUI are beneficial for all Mac users. Most importantly for gamers with ultra-high-end systems, this version of Mac OS X will include true GeForce 3 drivers; the card currently uses the GeForce 2 MX drivers under OS X.
On to the hardware. Jobs announced that they had shipped 182,000 of the new Dual USB iBooks between May and July, and so far have been unable to meet retail demand. He rattled off one positive review of the iBook after another, many printed in PC magazines.
The iMac line also received a refresh, though without the radical change in form factor that many Mac OS "news" sites predicted. They now come in 500, 600 and 700 MHz flavors, still sporting G3 processors. All come with CD-RW drives, and the wild color pallette has been reduced to simply Indigo, Snow and Graphite. The prices also remained the same, which many seemed to feel was unfortunate. There was no change in the graphics hardware or its capabilities.
Then Jobs introduced a little something for the hardcore gamers -- a revision of the long-neglected desktop line. While we won't break 867 MHz, which has been clear for some time, the fact that the 733 Mhz model is now the "entry level" PowerMac G4 is enough to make you take notice. The case didn't get the radical overhaul that some sites predicted, but it does have an updated look with a shiny, silver faceplate. The actual specs of the systems remained much the same; perhaps the only item that was a surprise was the introduction of a GeForce 2 MX-based card which supports dual displays. The dual-processor machine was bumped to 800 MHz, definitely a screamer. The SuperDrive now ships standard on both the midrange and high-end models. The new price range is $1699, $2499, $3499; however by fooling around with the options in the Apple store you can get an 867 MHz system down to $1999, which isn't shabby. The GeForce 3 remained an upgrade rather than a standard component.
IMG MWNY 2001 Coverage
So, no Doom 3 shockers at this year's keynote, but overall a strong indication that Apple is focused on speed, speed and more speed. We'll bring you more details from the show floor as the day goes on, so stay tuned!
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