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Apple Notes

Kendall Wrightson clues you in on some almost unmissable Apple bargains, and brings news of Mac-targeted music hardware from Roland and Yamaha

News is usually thin on the ground in the summertime. Even the computer community quietens down as traditional handwriting skills are rediscovered in an orgy of postcard writing (unless you packed the new Sharp portable PC with its built-in bubblejet printer). However, this year the bronzed consumers are returning from holiday to find their offices and studios buzzing with speculation about Apple Computer.

Why, they ask, has Michael Spindler replaced John Sculley as CEO at Apple's Cupertino HQ? Why has Apple issued a profits warning despite a 35% rise in sales? Why are US analysts predicting Apple will shed 2000 jobs later this year? And how come your new Mac and LaserWriter are selling for 50% less than they cost just before you set out for the Med?

All these facts and many yet to emerge are related to the uncertainty surrounding the launch of the new generation of PowerPC based Macs scheduled for release in January '94. The speculation will continue ramping up to fever pitch until the forthcoming PC war produces its first winners and losers.

Information has started to emerge in dribs and drabs, but many key questions have yet to be answered and I suspect, other more pertinent questions have yet to be asked. Apple has indicated that major applications developers (Aldus, Adobe, Claris, etc.) will deliver PowerPC native versions of popular applications from day one. However, neither Sculley or Spindler has yet indicated whether Apple will be as punctual in offering a native System 7-like PowerPC operating system. The question of the preferred PowerPC operating system is a very important issue, since the whole purpose of the IBM/Apple agreement was to loosen Microsoft's Windows operating system stranglehold.

Apple has promised that PowerPC Macs will run System 7, OS/2, DOS and Windows applications (under emulation) straight from the box. This means that potential customers are likely to base their hardware purchasing decisions on the applications software they already own. For example, if you own Mac software you're likely to opt for an Apple, rather than IBM or Compaq PowerPC. For this reason, Apple is determined to sell as many Macs as possible to increase both its hardware market profile and its applications software user base for System 7.0.

The key to stopping Microsoft's Windows domination is persuading owners of Windows applications to upgrade to new versions (or equivalent programmes) running under Apple's PowerPC OS (which, being native, will run applications software significantly faster).

If this ploy fails, Microsoft Windows (or a PowerPC version of Windows) could become the operating system of choice for all PowerPCs, leaving Apple in the invidious position of having Microsoft control Apple Macintosh system software.


The latest move to fan the fires of speculation is yet another sudden announcement of price cuts, this time on the lowliest Macs and selected LaserWriters. The Colour Classic 4/80 — 80 megabytes is now the minimum desktop CPU hard disk capacity — is down dramatically from £999 to £480 and the LC II 4/80 (including 14" Apple Colour Display and keyboard) is down from £850 to £699. As the Colour Classic supports the Audio Media LC card (£795), the move means that the entry price for Mac tapeless recording (stereo recording, stereo output, no Digital I/O) is now £1375, though discounting should pull this down to as low as £1000.

At £480, the new Colour Classic 4/80 is now cheaper than the Classic II (Performa 200) 4/40, which indicates that the latter may follow this month's latest Mac casualties — the Quadra 950 and the Duo 210 — into obscurity. However, it would be far smarter to offer the monochrome Classic for £299 or less. There's still a massive market for low cost Macs, including the student population, for whom £480 plus VAT is too much.


A handy entry level partner for the Colour Classic is Roland's new SC7, a General MIDI tone module that offers a serial port for direct connection to a Mac. However, the £232.34 SC7 offers no MIDI Out, so its applications are limited if you own other MIDI modules (unless you chain them to the Mac's other serial port). For an extra £52.77, Roland will supply the the snappily titled DTM-7-APL, which is an SC7 plus Turbo Trax (Passport's basic MIDI sequencer) and the improvisation package Band In A Box.

Yamaha and Roland target Mac users with serial port equipped tone modules; Yamaha's CBX-T3 and Roland's SC7.

Yamaha's direct competitor to the new Roland Mac bundle has the equally fabulous name of Hello Music! (£303.53). HM consists of a TG100 tone module in an upright box, and the far more agreeable combination of Steinberg's Cubase Lite (an entry level MIDI sequencer that includes rudimentary transcription facilities) and Music Box (Steinberg's MIDI file playback programme).

If you need regularly to print notation or full scores, Apple's printer price cuts will be of great interest. The LaserWriter Select 300 has been reduced from £795 to £495, and even more surprising — and far better value — the LaserWriter NTR, previously £1795, has been cut by a massive £1196 to £599. The NTR is a RISC based laser printer with support for Mac and Windows PCs. Finally, the Apple Colour (inkjet) Printer has also been reduced from £1795 to £999. If only software prices would fall as drastically.


Apple's massive price cuts and the Performa deluge have inspired the launch of a couple of new Mac magazines, including Mac User sibling The Mac. Unlike Mac User and Mac World, the new journals are aimed at home and novice users. Unfortunately, though Apple's hardware prices have plummeted, Mac software houses (and peripheral manufacturers) have yet to follow suit, with the result that the reviews of £500 business applications nestle somewhat uncomfortably amongst reviews of £50 games and shareware.


It's only three months since Notator Logic (version 1.2) was reviewed in these very pages, but E-Magic are already up to version 1.6. Highlights include a realtime groove design feature (a la Notator and Cubase), Step Time input and a Notator SL-like Transform window to convert MIDI data from one type to another (with or without mathematical operands such as multiply, divide, and so on). A pair of Cycle Record options called Auto Create Tracks and Auto Mute create new tracks with each pass (when selected), the latter muting the previous pass automatically, so that a phrase can be played in a variety of ways and the best selected later.

Notator Logic's Environment window has been upgraded to support Multi Instruments, which, when double clicked, allow MIDI programme names to be entered. This means that a target instrument's patches can be switched by name. The Score window has also seen improvements, including new Text Styles, Lyric Mode and a Diatonic Insert mode.

Mark of the Unicorn's flagship MIDI sequencer Performer has also seen some tinkering. Version 4.1 offers a feature called QuickScribe — the ability to print any region and any combination of tracks without leaving Performer (in full Postscript glory). Markers, Tracks and Event Lists can be printed too. Other features include activity meters, savable View, Edit and Input filter settings and UNISYN support.

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Sound On Sound - Copyright: SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.


Sound On Sound - Aug 1993



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