An Apple product manager has revealed to Macworld that Macintosh users can expect sophisticated mobile-phone links with their portable Macs in the near future. Also in the pipeline are iBook-like design elements for the PowerBook, third-party Bluetooth add-ons, and a WAP-compatible FileMaker plug-in.
Phone friends Apple Europe's senior manager of mobile products, Willem Poterman revealed that Apple has been working with mobile phone giants Nokia and Ericsson for a year. Poterman said that this was essential as "PowerBook users want their phones to work with their portables via infrared, and, later, Bluetooth via third-party cards".
Wireless worry Bluetooth is a short-distance wireless networking technology that uses a many-directional radio signal to connect multiple devices up to 10 metres apart to replace cable connections. A Bluetooth Special Interest Group now includes hundreds of vendors interested in releasing products using the technology. Apple has, so far, not joined the Bluetooth bandwagon.
Defending accusations that Apple is ignoring Bluetooth in favour of its own AirPort wireless-networking technology, Poterman pointed out that AirPort's 11Mbps data rate and 150ft range are "ten-times greater" than Bluetooth. Third-party developers are likely to step in and fill the Bluetooth gap left by Apple, suggested Poterman.
Poterman expects the first fruits of Apple's development work with Nokia to bear fruit in April. "A lot of people will be able to benefit from that," he said.
WAP flap Poterman also alluded to the Viventus WAP (Wireless Application Protocol)-compatible plug-in for FileMaker. Users can now access, enter and update information to desktop-based FileMaker Pro databases directly from cellular phones supporting WAP using the $500 FileMaker Pro Tool-Kit.
Although Poterman was short on details, it's likely that the plug-in converts the back-end data into WML (wireless markup language) for delivery to mobile phones over a WAP gateway. It could also be used to convert data into HTML (hypertext markup language) format for Web access.
Mobile futures Poterman is on a worldwide 'Mobile Solutions for the Mac' tour with Apple worldwide product managers, Sandy Green (PowerBook) and Linda Frager (iBook).
DVD/FireWire iBook Showing off the new iBooks, Frager hinted that FireWire and DVD would eventually make it onto Apple's best-selling consumer portable. "Eventually you'll see all key technologies transfer across all Apple's product lines," she told Macworld.
The reason that the iBook stands alone – except for the entry-level iMac - without these two key technologies is the "cost of complexity", Frager said. Adding DVD and FireWire to the iBook at this point in time would have been "impossible" while maintaining the product's attractive price point. They will, however, be added "over time".
Fancy PowerBook During a Q&A, Green added that she'd like to see some of the iBook's design implementations transfer across product lines to the PowerBook.
Some people have criticized Apple for not iMac-izing the new PowerBook's case design. Green defended the black pro portable as belonging to a "different generation" than the acclaimed iBook. The new PowerBook has at least adopted one iBook element, the silvery yo-yo cable wrap.
With a nod to the idea of design elements "migrating across product lines", Green dropped the rather large hint that the PowerBook's case design would adopt more innovative styling in a future build: "I'm absolutely sure, because I'm working on them right now".
"The design group is full of some very cool ideas," she teased.
Apple refuses to comment on future products, so there's no time scale for the new-look PowerBook or feature-added iBooks.
Green also added that, when testing is completed, she expects the 500MHz PowerBook to outperform PC laptops running 650MHz Pentium III chips at a range of core Adobe Photoshop tasks. She also claimed that 75 per cent of all PowerBook owners use their pro portable as their main computer, proving the days of desktop hegemony are well and truly over.
DV In Apple's UK representatives, PR manager David Millar and product manager Stuart Harris joined in the Q&A. They revealed that Apple has been "making representations" to Sony and other digital-video developers to increase the number of digital camcorders that ship with DV In. At present, harsh European regulations and tariffs prevent many manufacturers from adding DV In to their camcorders. The lack of DV In-capable cameras is slowing the march of digital video - a key part of Apple's product strategy - in Europe.
Millar urged Macworld readers to write to their Euro MPs demanding the lifting of tariffs on DV In, which is found on many more cameras in the US and Japan where trade tariffs do not apply.
Third parties The 'Mobile Solutions for the Mac' tour was also attended by key mobile developers. Digicom showed off its USB GSM modem; Farallon, its range of wireless solutions, including the SkyLine PC Card; FreeCom, a portable CD RW drive; Horus, PhoneManager 2.0; IBM, ViaVoice for Mac; LaCie, storage solutions including the handy PocketDrive; and E-Pac, its iBook and PowerBook bags. Also present were VST, Option, Keyspan, Lucent, and Route 66.
Distributor AM Micro showed off Digicom's Palladio USB-GSM modem that connects a mobile phone to your USB Mac, without requiring a PC Card slot. The company also demonstrated iRez's Kritter SV video camera, which connects to a Mac's S-Video port for high-resolution moving pictures.