By Herbert Festoff – a regular columnist for our sister publication, Multimedia Futures. In years past, Comdex held little interest for Apple Computer Inc and the Mac was hardly mentioned. This year was different, with lots of interest in all things Apple, especially its cross-system multimedia technologies, and in the growing ranks of Mac operating […]
By Herbert Festoff – a regular columnist for our sister publication, Multimedia Futures.
In years past, Comdex held little interest for Apple Computer Inc and the Mac was hardly mentioned. This year was different, with lots of interest in all things Apple, especially its cross-system multimedia technologies, and in the growing ranks of Mac operating system cloners. Much of this has to do both with the maturity of the PowerPC system and the noticeable change in attitude the press has shown towards Apple after its recent move into profit under chief executive Gil Amelio. Most press attention, though, was obsessively focused on whatever deal Apple might make with Be Inc, and as yet, nothing is clear. Apple chief technology officer Ellen Hancock was adamant in her Comdex keynote that the new leadership team has worked out a flexible approach to the Mac OS8 operating system. She stressed Apple had abandoned its perennial not-invented-here syndrome and said it was talking to several different firms. If we can find the best answer outside the company, we will bring it in. We’ll probably have to wait until Macworld Expo in January to find out exactly how the new operating system map will look. Operating system confusion aside, over 50 companies took part in the PowerPC Pavilion at Comdex. The Apple-IBM Corp-Motorola Inc – AIM – coalition is now into its fourth year and more and more firms are adopting it. The next-generation chips are due in mid-1997 and although Mac and Mac-OS cloners still make up the overwhelming bulk of PowerPC machines, other companies are beginning to express interest in the Common Hardware Reference Platform – CHRP – designs which enables PowerPC boxes to run not only Mac OS, but Windows NT, Solaris and AIX. It was announced that AIM plans to release v1.1 of the CHRP specification in July, adding support for IEEE 1394 – the Apple-developed Firewire – and Intel’s Universal Serial Bus for input devices. Requirements for CHRP notebooks will be defined in the v2.0 specification, due by the end of 1997. Taiwan-based Tatung Co Ltd went beyond expressed interest by signing a deal with IBM at Comdex which enables it to manufacture Macs.
Apple top brass
Using IBM’s Long Trail motherboard design ,which also supports NT, Tatung hopes to have its first Mac clone by Spring, if Apple releases its Mac OS for CHRP by then. The big news for multimedia and interactive content developers concerned what Apple top brass like to call middleware, the emerging technologies it hopes to make into industry standards. The two most important announcements were about availability of Mac and Windows versions of QuickTime 2.5 and QuickDraw 3D 1.5. QD3D (quickdraw3d.apple.com) won the BYTE/Comdex Best Of Show award for multimedia software. QT and QD3D are part of the QTML Quick- Time Media Layer, along with QuickTime VR and QT Conferencing. Still a bit undefined, QTML is seen by Apple’s new Interactive Media Group as a platform-independent universal container for multimedia information. Carlos Montalvo, vice-president of the Interactive Media Group, says the aim is to streamline the creation of multimedia content, and the individual technologies making up the current QTML, with the possible addition of AppleScript and HyperCard, will be integrated over the next six months into a seamless layer. The TriMedia TM-1 chip from Philips Semiconductor Inc of Sunnyvale, California, will be included on add-in boards Apple will ship with selected Mac models before June. The Apple-branded hardware will be known as the QT Media Processor and developers will use QTML to access the TriMedia chip. QTML acceleration with specialized co-processors will be very important for multimedia authoring. It will encode Motion JPEG video and Dolby AC-3 audio, and according to Apple, it may also do real-time encoding of MPEG-2, necessary to author digital video disk titles. Apple wants to be at the forefront of that arena, so it will probably make sure this happens.