OS X is Godot at Macworld Expo

Macworld Expo in New York has come and gone. The faithful remain waiting for OS X.

This summer's Macfest seemed to lack something. It's not that there weren't product announcements; Steve Jobs had plenty in the keynote. But while the new dual processor G4 box may excite that Photoshop freak down the hall, it won't yield an exponential increase in performance. Folks at the show were more blasé about the dual processors than they were about the performance jumps made by the G3 and the G4 when they were introduced. I didn't hear people at the Expo saying that they had to run out and get new dual-processor machines.

The G4 cube, on the other hand, was pure sex appeal. Take a G4 box, shrink it down to eight inches square, and make it look like a crystal vase. It struck a chord with the crowd, big time. People were lined up three deep at the Apple booth to watch a robot arm take a cube apart and show its guts. (It wasn't hard to do; a handle pops up to let you pull out the insides.) There was ooo-ing and ahh-ing every time the arm took it out of the case and put it back in. I heard one broadcaster order a cube on her cell phone in the press room between bites of her turkey sandwich. That's the kind of response that makes a marketeer salivate.

And, sure, there was some new software to be had. My favorite was CopyAgent from Connectix (of SpeedDoubler and RAMDoubler fame), a sort of Retrospect Lite for backing up and copying files. It's cheaper and has a simpler and more intuitive interface than Dantz's Retrospect, but won't work with anything that can't be directly mounted on the desktop, as some SCSI tape drives cannot. (Retrospect handles these kinds of devices just fine.) Instead of the hierarchical Windows-like Retrospect browser, CopyAgent lets you choose the files you want operated on through the standard Mac interface.

But the feature of CopyAgent that I think will get the most notice among IT shops is one Connectix underplays. You can truly erase deleted files by overwriting them. If you choose a three-pass overwrite, you meet the government's Tempest security specifications for deletions, which adds a new level of security to the Mac OS. To me, CopyAgent is worth a look just for this feature.

On the downside, Connectix admits that CopyAgent will blow up under OS X. It needs Mac OS 8.5 or better and a PowerPC to run, so its product lifetime may be limited.

Speaking of OS X, many developers were grumbling (although none would do so for attribution) about how Apple is behind schedule releasing code to them so that they can develop OS X applications. To me, this indicates that Apple still has a lot of work to do before it can send OS X out the door.

Still, I bet that Apple will ship OS X by the next Macworld Expo, which starts January 9 in San Francisco. Vendors and customers alike seem to be marking time until the new operating system is available.

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