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Wednesday, July 19, 2000

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MW: Keynote, Mac Halo Confirmed
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Ah, the keynote speech. Steve usually does such a good job, the rest of the expo is anticlimactic. Last year's Halo and iBook introductions floored us - it will take a lot to thrill us this year. Here is a summary of what the man in blue jeans had to say...

Steve made it a point right away to introduce the new mouse - a buttonless, optical mouse with the highest optical resolution on the market. The entire mouse is the button, supposedly, which means we are still stuck with one button. A new keyboard as well has joined the lineup, as expected, with some extra kicks such as volume up/down keys and an eject disk key. Surprisingly, this will ship with iMacs as well as pro models. Both will be available for purchase for $60 apiece from the Apple store, shipping in September. Not critical news for Mac gamers, but interesting - at least Apple is paying attention to the interface between gamer and Mac.

Dual Processor G4s - this isn't much news for Mac gamers, yet. Games are single-thread applications; they try to do one thing very fast (play the game!) rather than do several things at once, which is where multiprocessing excels. John Carmack created an MP-aware version of Quake NT which only gained 10% to 20% in speed. Dual processor does NOT mean twice as fast for many, many things - especially Mac OS 9, which is barely MP-aware. The real bonus is that the second processor is actually free, as prices are not changing, but until Mac OS X ships, that second processor may be bored. As for Mac OS X, it will be public beta in September, and is due to ship in January. There was NO mention of the ATI cards in these G4 Macs, much less a mention of the Radeon, which is a huge disappointment.

And then the good stuff started. Ed Fries made a surprise appearance on stage with an announcement that Microsoft will create a new company that will bring Microsoft games to the Mac OS, led by Peter Tampte, who they recently acquired with their purchase of Bungie. Supposedly they will port the entire line of Microsoft titles, which may even include the often-requested Age of Empires II. This was very brief, and we're not sure what the final implications will be, but Microsoft does have some really great games on the horizon, and it is very nice to know we will be getting Mac versions of them.

And then the news we were waiting for - Alex Seropian of Bungie Studios showed up to announce that there will indeed be a Mac version of Halo, and to show the new full-length Halo trailer as well, from DVD. He also said future Bungie titles will come to the Mac as well. However, no dates of any kind were mentioned, and no mention of whether the Mac version would ship before or after the X-box version is complete.

Now, we know gamers do not get very excited about the iMac. However, a $799 iMac is an aggressive lunge at the low-end PC market, and it is quite a package. The DV iMac is now $999, and it has Firewire; The DV+ is faster and more powerful, and sports a DVD-ROM drive, but scrapes the low-end with a $1299 price tag. The DV Special Edition, for $1499, includes a 500 MHz G3 processor, which makes it a serious gaming machine - however, Steve again neglected to mention what graphics chip is at the core of these models, so it seems as if the predictions of new ATI chips in the iMacs was also false. All the colors have changed, so all of your colored peripherals are now obsolete. We won't bore you with the iMovie 2 demo.

As for the Cube? We can't figure this one out. There is nothing about this Cube that will make it a sale to gamers, especially the lack of expandability. It still requires you to buy a monitor, so it violates the iMac all-in-one-box ethic. And the price tag, $1799, gives you no reason to not go ahead and get a full G4 450, with an AGP slot, 3 PCI slots and 2 free drive bays. Again, no mention of what graphics hardware the Cue will use. Overall, a total zero for gamers, and a head-scratcher for everyone else. We're seriously concerned about Apple's product strategy in this direction. And we can already hear the PC bigots crowing about Apple's new Toaster Mac.

Aside from the three minutes about Microsoft and Bungie, this keynote was a big yawner for Mac gamers. The news that Halo is indeed coming to the Mac OS is of course excellent, and the idea that future Microsoft games may be coming to the Mac OS takes some of the sting out of losing Bungie to the Borg Collective. However, no hardware was introduced that is likely to make a serious impact on Mac gaming, and no mention of new ATI hardware at all (or 3dfx, for that matter) seems to give evidence that Apple still holds Mac gaming at arm's length. We will have to head to the show floor and do some digging, and see what third-party solutions have stepped into the gap Apple has left for gamers.

Macworld Keynote Webcast
Bungie Studios
Halo: Combat Evolved

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Archives  News  MW: Keynote, Mac Halo Confirmed