Burning For The Rest Of Us (1/11/01)

Timing can be a real bummer, you know that? For instance, take Apple's stunning new "killer apps" revealed on Tuesday. First there's iTunes, one remarkably slick suite of audio functions done up in a tightly integrated, nice-looking package. One feature that sets iTunes apart from its competition is the way in which it allows users to create custom audio CDs without ever leaving the application-- it's got built-in support for CD-RW drives. Well, sort of; at least right now, it's got built-in support for a CD-RW drive-- the one that comes with the new professional Power Mac G4 systems. Until Apple writes some plug-ins to support external drives and/or incorporates CD-RW devices into the iMac product line, iMac owners (i.e. those consumers for whom iTunes was obviously created) are out of luck on that particular burnalicious feature.

By the same token, iDVD looks like a marvelous thing: a method by which regular people can make their own DVDs that can be played in standard devices. Unfortunately, most "regular people" aren't likely to want to shell out the crazy ducats for the Power Mac that'll actually let them run iDVD and burn those discs. We arrived at the same inescapable conclusion as Ryan Faas over at About.com: iDVD (to master those discs) and the SuperDrive (to burn them) are technologies that "everyone should have." However, right now nobody can have them, since the 733 MHz Power Mac with which they're bundled won't ship until next month-- and even then, $3499 isn't exactly a Price Tag For The Rest Of Us.

Clearly Apple felt pressured to release these obviously consumer-oriented applications now, in an effort to restore some of Wall Street's lost confidence. (It may be working; AAPL was finally up over $18 when last we checked.) But unfortunately, the company simply can't back up those "killer apps" with consumer Macs capable of unlocking their full potential. In the case of iTunes, Apple's having enough inventory troubles without suddenly announcing new iMacs equipped with CD-RW drives standard. On the video front, iDVD probably wants a much faster processor than the 500 MHz G3 that currently ships in the iMac-- and the SuperDrive is unquestionably too expensive to be standard issue in the consumer line this early. Imagine the new iDVD-capable iMac: only $2699. See? Timing.

But there's hope yet! Think Secret has some juicy rumors from the show floor which, if true, ought to bring "Power To Burn" to the masses. Reportedly one Apple employee was actually surprised that Steve didn't announce new CD-RW-equipped iMacs during the keynote, because CD-RW will "spread to the entire product line soon." We're guessing that the omission was due to some last-minute numbers showing just how many current iMacs are still in the channel. So maybe those units will clear out by, say, next month, and CD-RW will come to the iMac in time for the Tokyo Expo.

Juicier still, the same source corroborates a rumor that originally surfaced at AppleInsider: apparently Apple is considering shipping external CD-RW drives, so that existing Mac owners will be able to join in the burnfest as well. But there's more-- if this source is correct, the company might even ship an external SuperDrive, thus extending iDVD's potential audience considerably beyond the lucky people who actually get their hands on 733 MHz Power Macs before all sixteen chips in Motorola's first processor run are spoken for. Power to the people!

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The above scene was taken from the 1/11/01 episode:

January 11, 2001: If you're wondering why Apple's new consumer applications require professional hardware, just wait a while. Meanwhile, Mac OS X is really starting to grow past that awkward "public beta" stage, and Steve is privy to the mysterious new invention called "Ginger" that promises to change the world as we know it...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 2791: Geez, It's Almost A Mac! (1/11/01)   Hey, in the heady rush of all that good stuff that came spilling off the stage during the keynote, we've yet to mention our reaction to the changes to Mac OS X that Steve demonstrated. Basically, if we have to pick a word, we're going to go with "yippee."...

  • 2792: Steve, Ginger, And Tyranny (1/11/01)   Oh, sure, the incurable skeptics among you scoffed when we expounded at length about Steve Jobs and his master plans for world domination, but who's laughing now? You all got completely taken in by his "oh, I'm just an enthusiastic tech guy with a stunning fashion sense" act, and utterly failed to account for the Steve lurking beneath that happy-go-lucky exterior-- the Steve that is suppressed when the cameras are rolling and the fans are watching...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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