Macworld is always the highlight of the Mac year, and today was no exception. Apple’s keynote focused on the broad consumer market, but there was still plenty of good news for Mac musicians and audio pros. (Plus a few question marks, as usual.) Here’s CDM’s quick take:

Intel is on track. The potentially-scary jump from PowerPC to Intel CPUs looks like it won’t be so bad after all, with new iMacs and laptops shipping in a hurry, much-faster performance, and what appears to be a healthy software transition. Developers I’ve talked to haven’t been worried, either — a good sign.

Logic Pro will rock the Intel chips. While it’s not a surprise, Apple’s pro apps (including Soundtrack and Logic) will make the leap to Intel. Happily, it’s happening fast (March) and won’t cost a zillion dollars ($49 crossgrade, though free would have been even better). This bodes well for other music apps to be ported soon, too. After all, Logic has plenty of legacy code in it, and Apple has gotten it working. And if Logic is running on Core Audio on Intel, so will other apps. (Now what about plug-ins?)

Apple’s laptops will be awesome. Sure, the name is odd (MacBook Pro?), perhaps an attempt by Apple to make sure you know this is an Intel computer that doesn’t do Windows. But Apple gave us what we wanted: a machine with the body of a Mac, and the MacOS, but the performance of a high-end PC. The Core Duo (another weird name) chip from Intel promises a 4x performance boost over the PowerBook G4. The only people weeping today? The ones who got a new PowerBook in the last six mo– hey, wait! That’s me! (Stay tuned for a new tutorial from me on how to use the built-in iSight camera as a musical instrument. (I’ll be showing this off at NAMM, too, if you’re there.)

Apple will make podcasting easier. GarageBand could double as a nice podcast production app, especially now that Apple has made publication easier via .Mac. It’s the first genuine 1-step solution for podcasting we’ve seen yet. Sure, it’ll mean some awful podcasts hit the Web, but hopefully some good ones, too.

All the news that isn’t: So, what’s missing? Apple hasn’t made any announcement about its flagship desktop, the Power Mac, other than the “other Macs” will make the leap to Intel later this year. Nor have we heard anything about audio software, like updates for Logic Pro or Soundtrack Pro, though it would be highly unlikely for those apps to make a Macworld Expo appearance. That said, Apple does appear to be on track with the Intel transition, which is what’s important. (And a little podcasting icing on the cake can’t hurt.) I think you’ll see more news over the coming months, but Apple’s off to a good start in 2006.

The big question mark is, how will plug-ins fare in the transition to Intel? And how well will non-universal code run on the new machines? In the meantime, let’s get those MacBook Pros in a hurry so we can (1) hack them to run Windows and (2) benchmark them against PCs running audio apps. Who’s with me?

  • rolandreinke

    Where did you find out that Logic will be ported as soon as March? Would like to know…
    Congrats on your book. Did you get to use my loops at all?


  • reflex

    Peter, did you notice that the new iMac is limited to FireWire 400? FireWire 800 doesn't seem to be available on the MacBook, either. That could have reprocussions for those of us who use external drives.

    Transition: Apple has stated that their "Pro" apps will be ported by March. That will include Logic Pro (and hopefully Express).

  • admin

    Well, I've been proven completely wrong. When speculation arose months ago that Apple was dropping FireWire from their laptops, I (and others) suggested Apple would probably go FW800, which allows FW400 backwards-compatibility via an adapter. But you're right: the PowerB— uh, MacBook Pro (worst Apple product name since Mac Classic, but I digress) has NO FireWire800 support.

    If you have old FW800 drives you want to use, you do have one option: the PC Card slot. But this is an odd choice, since a FW800 port could have easily supported 400 peripherals via the adapter. I'm guessing it was a cost-cutting move, a decision to support the majority of products (FW400) over the minority (FW800, used primarily by . . .uh . . . Pros, actually, but still not that many people), and an admission that USB2 has become dominant.

    Anyway, I'd get the PC card, get Logic Pro, etc., and enjoy the speed gains. Or, at least once we find out how fast code not optimized for Intel runs.

    Thanks for the tip.

  • kokorozashi

    Don't get your hopes up about running Windows. Discussions I'm seeing elsewhere indicate the machine's lack of BIOS screws that pooch. Maybe there'll be a hack of some sort, but all Apple ever promised was that they would not go out of their way to prevent Windows from running.

    As for FW800, I thought it was supposed to automagically scale back its performance when connected to a FW400 bus. I am not a FW geek, so confirm this elsewhere.

  • admin

    The word is, because of new drivers that don't require BIOS in Vista, you *will* be able to run Vista — just not XP. But I was joking. I think a serious audio user will want a dedicated PC. And I honestly don't get why very many people would want to do this anyway. It would make sense if the Apple hardware were phenomenally better than the PC. It's not.

    Yes, FW800 hardware does work via an adapter in a FW400 port; I think we're just unhappy about losing the additional speed. (and the opposite direction, to a single FW800 port, would have maintained that performance)

    Also, I'm personally disappointed to learn that there's no S-Video port. (Sorry, VJs!) Looks like it's DVI only; I don't see one of those universal video out thingies for use with a dongle.

    Apple has consistently done this since the PowerBook G3 days; it's like — look, more performance! And then suddenly a port is missing. None of them are deal breakers; it's just a reality of dealing with a single vendor for hardware as opposed to the PC. I'm sure we'll get over the griping. In the meantime, those of us who can't afford the new machine can use them as rationalizations! 🙂