Within minutes of Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote announcements, the Macworld Expo showfloor was abuzz with reaction from show goers - from schoolboys slavering over the new 20GB iPod to senior company execs drooling over the opportunities presented by Apple’s ever-expanding digital-hub philosophy.

Apple’s colossal stand at the mouth of the exhibition was swamped within seconds of the show opening – with attendees flocking around banks of the new 17-inch iMac and 20GB iPods. Crowds also mobbed the Apple theatre, which was running jumbo-screen demos of keynote-announced software, including Jaguar – Mac OS X 10.2 – iTunes 3, iSync and iCal.

Switchers Some Expo attendees, though, are Switcher ads waiting to happen. "I walked into the keynote as a PC user and came out a Mac convert," said Alias|Wavefront vice president of worldwide sales and marketing Dave Wharry (pictured).

"I guess I’m a switcher," Wharry admitted, eyeing a 17-inch iMac on the Apple stand as he spoke. "I’m about to buy one of those babies. I can imagine having so much more fun with a Mac than with my Windows machine. Being able to make the Mac so much part of your digital life is something that’s enormously appealing to me.

"One thing that impressed me about Steve Jobs’ keynote is that it was 95 per cent software announcements. It was almost like at the end he was saying ‘Oh, by the way there’s a new iMac, too.’"

But reaction to the keynote was mixed. Apple’s keynote target-audience – mainly existing home Mac-users and Wintel users looking to switch – were largely delighted by the raft of improvements and additions to both Mac OS X and Apple’s line-up of digital-hub applications. But higher-end Mac owners – such as graphics professionals – were left to bemoan the distinct shortage of hardware improvements.

G5? One such attendee, graphics designer Alfred Maiorano, said: "I was disappointed with what is out there on the floor from Apple. I thought they would say something about the G5, even if it was only something about it being in the pipeline. We have a real need to know.

"Graphics professionals need as much power as we can get. iCal and iSync are cool but for us they are just fluff. It’s all very well Apple claiming that the so-called megahertz myth means its G4 is more powerful than the best Pentium, but this can hold true only for so long. The 2.5GHz Pentium 4 is a serious chip whichever way you look at it."

Alfred, 20, works for Connecticut-based video post-production house Elements. He added: "The new 17-inch iMac may bring it closer to Apple’s desktop G4 solutions but most graphics pros will tell you they prefer to work on a CRT monitor rather than a flat panel, because of colour integrity issues.

"And I think Apple could also suffer financially from its lack of hardware announcements. People traditionally hold off buying new Macs for a good while
leading into a keynote. Now, most of those who did will be wondering why on earth they bothered."

Pod-tastic Among younger Mac fans there was little doubt about what was Apple’s wow announcement – the new 10GB iPod.

"I love it and I want one badly," said 14-year-old Guthrie Andres, one of a knot of youngsters crowding around Apple’s super-high capacity MP3 player. "The thought of having 4,000 songs in my pocket seems to good to be true. I guess I’ll have to save up hard. I can’t see my parents parting with that kind of cash."

.Mac disappointment But Andres’ enthusiasm for iPod was tempered by Apple’s announcement that it will soon begin charging $99 for iTools, its popular and free suite of online services. It is rebranding the product .Mac.

"Me and my friends used iTools a lot, to post up pictures from school events and parties and stuff like that," said Andres, who attends Shepaug High School in Washington DC. "Being able to quickly share stuff like that with each other for free was great. I don’t reckon many of us will be spending $99 dollars to do it. I think it’s a real shame. iTools was great."

Elementary Meanwhile, Jaguar – Apple’s 10.2 update to Mac OS X – was well received on the show floor. "Of all the new features I especially liked Sherlock 3," enthused Barbara Bellucci, director of student teaching at Pennsylvania-based Wilkes University. "I think the way it takes over the role of the browser in such a smart, unfussy way is a massive step forward.

"At work, I’m known as the online queen because I spend so much time online and this will make my life so much quicker and easier. Time is money online, in every sense of the phrase, especially for schools."