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Apple’s new niche

While Apple has been in the news a lot lately, most of the attention has been on iPod and iTunes, which, though cool, can only really be classified as the side dish to the main course.

While Apple has been in the news a lot lately, most of the attention has been on iPod and iTunes, which, though cool, can only really be classified as the side dish to the main course.

Garnering less attention is all the innovation Apple has been putting into its line of computers and software, steadily increasing market share and elevating its reputation in the PC-heavy marketplace.

Kendra Mazzei of Burnt Stew Computer Solutions, Whistler’s source for all things Apple, got a front row at the last Apple Channel Camp in Cuppertino, California, and says big things are on the horizon.

“In the past people have associated Macs with the creative side of things and PC’s with business, but with the integration of Office into Macs — and the fact that the new Intel chips can run Windows as well as OSX — that doesn’t make sense,” she said, adding that the only areas where PCs currently have an advantage are gaming and accounting.

“Everything has been made a lot easier, in particular networking. The whole Apple networking system has been created so you don’t need an in-house IT networking person, once it’s set up it just runs seamlessly.”

Offices that previously used PCs because of their networking ability are now using Macs. Not only are they more intuitive than PCs, and easier to use, but they also offer businesses an added level of security when it comes to viruses.

“Basically the underlying theme is that if people have a question of why Mac verus Windows, you only have to say the word ‘virus’,” said Mazzei. “To date there are no public viruses for Macs. I can’t tell you the amount of service time I spend with Windows clients battling viruses.”

The camp was seven days, from 8 in the morning to 5 p.m. every night. The first few days were spent on Apple’s creativity software — namely the Aperture photo organizing and editing program, and on the Final Cut Pro video editing suite of programs — followed by courses on networking, problem solving, and other high level topics.

There was still a large amount of secrecy about Leopard, the next update to the OSX operating system being released in the New Year, but Mazzei was assured by developers that it isn’t a small update but a major overhaul of what is already considered to be the best operating systems out there by a long mile.

Some of the features have already been announced, including a component called Time Machine that provides a backup of files and allows users to browse backwards through time to see what the computer was used for and when.

Another new feature is Spaces, which allows people to customize several different desktops according to need.

“One can be called ‘work’, another can be called ‘play’, another can be called ‘creative’,” said Mazzei. “You can have up to four separate desktops that you can move between just by clicking on different areas of the screen. It makes it a lot easier to organize your life, depending on what you’re using the computer for at any given moment.”

Developers also hinted that Leopard will allow for easier remote access and easier networking, another sign that Apple is seriously looking to be a contender in the workplace.

Leopard will be released at roughly the same time as Windows Vista, the long-awaited follow-up to Windows XP. Several industry observers have already noted the fact that Vista is a lot like OSX in terms of look and feel, and duplicates many of the same features that make OSX so popular.

Now in its fourth generation, OSX still has a clear advantage with most of the bugs sorted out and in-house and third party programmers adding new software and functionality on a regular basis. The more people that switch to Mac, the more functionality will be available.

Despite all its moves to become more mainstream, Mazzei says Apple will also retain its leadership position in the creativity market. Aperture, Apple’s new photo software, provides photo editing, archiving and presentation capability that no other photo application can match, while Final Cut Pro is easily one of the most powerful post production video editing programs available to consumers.

While Aperture would appeal mainly to professional and budding pro photographers, and she wouldn’t recommend Final Cut Pro to anyone who doesn’t already have some experience in movie editing, she says the most stunning thing about both programs is how intuitively they are designed and how well they work with other programs.

“We actually got a chance to meet with the people who designed and programmed the software, and I was amazed how they thought of everything,” said Mazzei. “It gives you a lot of respect for Apple and what they’re trying to accomplish.”

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