"The transition is officially over", announced Apple CEO Steve Jobs during his opening keynote speech at Macworld Expo San Francisco. "We made it!", he added, referring to the company's mammoth operating-system switch to Mac OS X.
The charismatic company Apple CEO had taken a break from his mainly consumer-focused presentation – introducing the new iPod mini digital-music player; a spanking new iLife suite, featuring every wannabe musician’s friend, GarageBand; stirring statistics for iTunes-lovers; and a brand-new family of G5-based Xserves.
Microsoft also took to the stage to announce the latest version of its market-dominating Office suite of business applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage).
Apple also announced that iPhoto's picture-book and print-ordering services would begin in Europe from March – some years after its commencement in the US. "Sorry it took so long," came the unusual apology from the Apple boss.
Jobs played a video that included gushing praise for the new products from a bunch of Mac-loving celebrities such as Lord Of The Rings' Frodo Baggins (aka actor Elijah Wood, who beamed "Thank you, Apple, because you care!"), skateboarder and iMovie freak Tony Hawk, and musician Sheryl Crow.
Panther triumph Jobs revealed that over 9.3 million active Mac OS X users exist today, predicting the company would cross the 10 million barrier within 13 weeks. Over 10,000 Mac OS X native applications also now exist, he smiled.
"Panther is the fourth major release of Mac OS X in three years and we plan to reach 10 million active Mac OS X users this quarter, which is 40 per cent of our entire installed base," said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing. "This is a major milestone in the successful adoption of the world's most advanced operating system."
"This is the fastest OS transition on record," claimed a beaming Jobs.
1984 replay It was all a far cry from his launch of the Macintosh back in 1984. And to show how far the company and the PC industry has come since then, Jobs showed the Mac's original sales materials – which explained what a mouse was, and how to use a graphical user interface.
He also showed the company's ground-breaking '1984' TV commercial. The audience broke into laughter when they noticed that Apple has cheekily added an iPod to the hammer-thrower's belt. Posters of the updated image were quickly collected by show goers from Apple's giant booth.
Office 2004 Microsoft took stage-time to hint at the forthcoming new version of Microsoft Office – Office 2004 – which offers a swathe of Mac-only features.
"We look forward to continuing our 20 year tradition of developing innovative products for the Mac with the upcoming release of Office 2004 and more in years to come", said Roz Ho, Microsoft's general manager of the Macintosh Business Unit.
The company demoed several of the suite's new features, including a page-layout preview function in Excel, audio-capture facility in Word and a Project Center in Entourage. Anyone buying Office v.X from today can upgrade to Office 2004 for free, announced Ho.
Quiet kick-off "We've kicked off our 20th anniversary year with some great new products," Jobs summed up after the two-hour speech.
"And there's a lot more coming in 2004," he promised.
Many keynote attendees were disappointed at the lack of new or upgraded Mac systems at the Expo, with Computer Warehouse managing director Jonathan Cole describing the announcements as "rather lame".
However, 2003's product upgrades were largely announced at special events or other shows such as Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in May. The company appears to be announcing new Macs only when it is prepared to confirm availability. Customers can probably expect to see Mac upgrades before or at least around the time that Apple starts shipping its iPod mini worldwide in April.