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?