The annual Macworld Expo kicks off in San Francisco next week, so we figured it was time to look at all things Apple.
The company has actually pulled out of the event, but the Expo remains the biggest annual gathering of the Macintosh, iPhone and iPod software and accessory industry. It's a meeting of minds, and we'll see a huge number of Apple fanboys (and girls) in San Francisco next week.
In the interest of balance, we'll be looking at Apple's failures next week (suggestions in the comment section please) but now sit back and enjoy the best things to come out of Cupertino.
mention: The Newton
Iain Thomson: Shaun nearly choked on his burger when I suggested the Newton at our traditional Thursday planning session at Morty's. But I can't help feeling that the Newton is a little hard done by. At the time it was an honest attempt to make a device that's nowadays in widespread use. It was just too far ahead of its time.
The Newton was one of the few good ideas thought up by former Apple chief executive John Scully, and I'm willing to bet he was a Star Trek fan too. The device looked as though it should have been on the bridge of The Enterprise when it was launched in 1993.
Scully coined the term personal digital assistant (PDA) for the Newton, and it was designed to replace diaries. Key to this was the handwriting recognition software which, while initially buggy, actually turned out to be quite good by the time the device was cancelled. However, failures in the software were so common, and mocked everywhere from The Simpsons to Doonesbury, that the device got a very poor reputation.
I too was one of the mockers, but then I started going out with someone who collected them and actually got to use the things hands-on. They were quite remarkable little devices and can be seen as a valid starting point for the whole PDA and smartphone market. When Apple rehired one of the Newton team leaders last year, it boded well for the new iPad.
Shaun Nichols: Iain, you can't really make the case for something being a good product after you've conceded that the single most important feature, the feature which pulls everything else together, is next to useless.
It's a bit like the engineers of the Ford Pinto saying: "Yes, but it has a really nice interior, and the seatbelt design is fantastic."
I'll give the Newton credit for some pretty innovative features and that it helped to shape the design of the PDA in the 1990s, both in terms of what to do and what not to do. Still, I had a hard time putting this one on the list, and it was only after Iain reminded me of my pending pay review that I relented.
On the other hand, the Newton did inspire one of the better Simpsons jokes of all time.
mention: Mac OS 7.6
Shaun Nichols: Most Mac fans look back fondly on Mac OS 7 as the best of the 'Classic' builds. The best of the OS 7.x line was also the last, the MacOS 7.6 build.
With stability fixes as well as improved management of extensions and optimisation for the PowerPC chip, OS 7.6 was a long-time favourite of Mac users even after the transition to OS X.
The high regard for Mac OS 7 wasn't entirely due to its balance of features and performance, however. By the late 1990s, the MacOS was becoming antiquated, to say the least.
The central components of the operating system were in sore need of repair, and Apple was already committed to switching entirely to a new format with OS X. The knowledge of this was very apparent after the release of Mac OS 7.6, and that cloud hung over the OS 8 and OS 9 builds.
Iain Thomson: OS 7.6 was the last of the Apple operating systems that was anywhere near good enough, until OS X came along that is.
With the move to Intel processors this operating system is dead in the water, but it's certainly the most popular before OS X, according to the Mac fans I talk to. It's kind of like aficionados of DOS: everyone has their favourite flavours.
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