2001 Revisited: Macworld Expo Tokyo

In my series 2001 Revisited, I’m covering Apple’s major announcements from 20 years ago.

On February 22 of that year, Steve Jobs put on a suit and tie and hosted Macworld Expo Tokyo. Video of the event can be seen here, and a lot of it is a rehashing of the San Francisco event that took place just six weeks earlier.1

Recapping Previous News

Jobs recapped the value of Mac OS X, including the new features, the Classic, Carbon and Cocoa environments and more. He then gave a demo of the Aqua user interface and some region-specific features including support for the world’s first high-quality Japanese fonts shipping for free on a personal computer.

Following a Maya demo on OS X, Jobs went over the Titanium PowerBook, reusing his “Power+Sex” line from the month before, and then played the product video:

Next, Jobs spoke about the new Power Mac G4s that were announced in the previous keynote, harping once again on the SuperDrive that shipped in the 733 MHz model.2 And, of course, Phil Schiller came out to race a 733 MHz G4 against a 1.5 GHz Pentium 4.

Apple’s spherical Pro Speakers were shown off, as were Apple’s 22-inch and 15-inch displays. The larger of the two saw its price cut to $2,999.

Apple's Displays in 2001

Apple & Nvidia

Jobs then announced a new Nvidia video card, the GeForce 3. As Nvidia’s David Kirk stood on stage, the GPU rendered Pixar’s famous Luxo Jr. scene in real-time. When it was first rendered in 1986, Jobs said it took a Cray supercomputer 75 hours to computer a single second of the film.

When comparing almost anything to its counterpart from 15 years ago, it’s a fun demo. It was followed by John Carmack showing off a game engine running atop Mac OS X.

The GeForce 3 would be an Apple exclusive GPU at launch, and was made available as a $600 build-to-order option in the Power Mac G4, starting in April.

The Digital Hub

After the Nvidia but, Jobs revisited Apple’s Digital Hub strategy, talking about the overall vision, as well as iMovie 2 and iTunes, which was still brand new and had already clocked 750,000 downloads.

Version 1.1 of the product was announced, with support for third-party CD burners, in addition to the CD burners found in Apple’s own products. Here’s a bit from Apple PR at the time:

Apple today announced iTunes 1.1, an update to its popular iTunes music software, which includes support for more than 25 third-party CD burners from popular vendors such as Iomega, La Cie, QPS and Sony. Since its debut at Macworld San Francisco last month, iTunes has been downloaded more than 750,000 times.

“With almost one million Mac users managing their digital music with iTunes, we are witnessing a revolution in digital music on the Mac,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iTunes 1.1 now supports over 25 third-party CD burners, so even more Mac users can create and burn their own custom music CDs.”

The list of supported drives could be found on Apple’s website.

After that bit of iTunes news, Jobs gave a demo of iDVD, which had been announced in San Francisco as well.

Power Mac G4 Cube

This event also included the one single update the Cube ever received, with the small computer gaining a CD-RW drive and a standard 128 MB of RAM, up from 64 GB. With these changes, the entry price dropped $200 to $1,299.

G4 Cube

iTools

iTools is iCloud’s great-grandfather, and at Macworld Expo Tokyo in 2001, the service went from being English-only to supporting Japanese as well. iCard, HomePage, email and more were live the day of the event

iMac (Early 2001)

The closing news of this event was a new set of iMacs. I’ve written about these machines at length, but the short version is that now all iMacs came with FireWire and the higher-end models came equipped with a CD-RW to burn CDs.

Speeds ranged from 400 MHz to 600 MHz, with prices starting at just $899 for the entry-level Indigo model. Like before, a Graphite model was available at the top end of the line.3

The other two cases were a bit more … interesting:

Blue Dalmation

Flower Power

According to Jobs, the new cases took 18 months to develop. They weren’t “colors,” but rather patterns molded “right into the plastic.” While some companies may have just used a decal, Apple wanted something special with these machines.

Wrapping Up

Like many other Macworld Expos, this one is on the light side when it came to new announcements from Apple, but it did get Apple’s products in front of a different media market. Maybe this iMac ad shown at the end is all you really need to remember about the event:


  1. If you were around in 2001, you may have seen this video via satellite. 
  2. These models shipped just a couple of days before this event. 
  3. Full specs can still be seen on Apple’s PR website. 

2001 Revisited: Macworld San Francisco

In my series 2001 Revisited, I’m covering Apple’s major announcements from 20 years ago. This month, we’re looking at Macworld San Francisco.

To kick off what would be a very busy year, Steve Jobs took to the Macworld stage in San Francisco, boasting that in addition to the 5,000 people in attendance, tens of thousands of people were watching via livestream around the world via QuickTime.

Mac OS X

Jobs started by talking about Mac OS X, recapping the new operating system’s architecture, from the kernel on up all the way to the new UI, dubbed Aqua.

Mac OS X Architecture

I ripped this graphic out of my book about the iMac G3 and the roots of Mac OS X. You should check it out.

He praised the Mac OS X Public Beta, which had on sale since September 2000. Some 100,000 people had purchased it, providing 75,000 feedback submissions.1

After thanking the community for their feedback and involvement, he outlined some common themes in the reports. The first was positive feedback, naturally:

  • “Far more stable”
  • “Aqua is incredible”
  • “Super easy to install”
  • “Classic really works”
  • “Mac + Unix is nirvana”

Then he tackled a list of features missing from the public beta:

  • AirPort support
  • Printing
  • Location manager
  • Dynamic network settings
  • PPP over Ethernet

After revealing that those features were all in the current build of the OS, Jobs shared some concerns they had been hearing from users:

  • The Apple menu was terrible
  • The lack of a clock in the Menu Bar
  • Disks and Trash on Desktop
  • No Control Strip
  • Toolbars were too big

The placement of the Apple logo in the Public Beta was centered in the menu bar, which was ridiculous:

Mac OS X Public Beta

To make matters worse, it was just a logo without any menu items, forgoing one of Mac OS’ more useful UI features.

Thankfully, Apple put it back in the correct place on the left and made it an actual menu again for system-level controls such as Sleep, Restart and Shutdown.

(In the classic Mac OS, these were under the Special menu, and were only available when in the Finder, which was a bit odd.)

To this, Apple added a list of recent items and a way to switch network locations without taking a trip to System Preferences. It wasn’t as flexible as the old Apple menu, but it was a big improvement over the beta.

Toolbars in Finder and other apps were made smaller and customizable, so users could put their own favorite commands and shortcuts where they wanted them. Finder also picked up the ability to spawn a new window for every folder and sub-folder moved through on a user’s way to their desired destination. While this may have looked like the classic Mac OS’ way of doing things, it missed the mark, according to John Siracusa:

The Mac OS X Finder needs a lot of work before it can fill the shoes of its predecessor. The addition of many useful and powerful features to the Mac OS experience (column view, browser mode, the toolbar, bundle manipulation, file mapping, and built-in network integration) does not outweigh the significant problems. Missing features, mis-features, and bugs render the new Finder unable to reproduce the spatial file manipulation environment that has been the defining characteristic of the Macintosh experience since 1984.

Speaking of features from Mac OS, the Control Strip wasn’t reintroduced, but its easy access to settings was shoved into “Docklets,” or icons in the Dock that managed these settings but didn’t launch applications.2 They were weird.

In the early days of Mac OS X, there were a handful of these, including:

  • Monitors: Manage screen resolution and color depth
  • Battery Monitor: Shows remaining battery levels on notebooks
  • Signal Strength: Displays the connection strength for a Wi-FI network
  • iTunes Dockling: Controls iTunes
  • Folders: Any folder put in the Dock by a user would show a pop-up of its content when clicked, just like today.

Mercifully, Docklets were killed off with Mac OS X 10.1 Puma, but that’s an operating system update for a different time.

Applications

After discussing Mac OS X itself, Jobs walked through the Carbon and Cocoa application environments. As a recap, early versions of Mac OS X could run classic apps inside a virtual OS 9 machine and apps that had been “carbonized” to run natively on OS X, accessing new features like protected memory and the updated user interface.

Lastly, there was Cocoa, which had its roots in NeXTSTEP, not Mac OS. This was to be a new generation of Mac applications, written in Objective-C.

Jobs boasted that some 400 developers had committed to Mac OS X, accounting for more than 1,200 software titles. While they would not all be out on day one, Jobs pitched a bright future, full of software for Apple’s new operating system.

After a demonstration of Maya on the new OS, the keynote turned to the schedule. Jobs announced that Mac OS X would go one sale on March 24, 2001 for $129. Starting in July, Mac OS X would be the bundled, default OS on new Apple hardware, Jobs said. He closed out this section saying:

We know that Mac OS X is really laying the foundation for the next decade to decade and a half of our software efforts. We think we’ve got something really, really good here. I hope you love it as much as we do.

Power Mac G4 Update

After thirty minutes of software talk, the keynote turned to hardware, starting with a new generation of Power Mac G4 towers. The last machines to use the original industrial design, these are known as the “Digital Audio” G4s.

Power Mac G4

The name came from the included built-in amplifier, which could be used with Apple’s USB Pro Speakers, also announced at Macworld 2001.

Jobs said the theme for this new generation of G4 was “Power to Burn,” before acknowledging that the Power Mac had topped out at 500 MHz a year and a half before this. These new machines could be ordered with up to a 733 MHz G4, delivering 5.5 gigaflops of computing power.

The new line was broken down into four models, as detailed in this archived tech spec sheet on Apple’s website.

The processors in the four machines were clocked at 466 MHz, 533 MHz, 667 MHz and 773 MHz.3 The 533 could be custom ordered as a dual-processor system. The slower two machines used the PowerPC 7410 CPU, but the two faster models were built around the PPC 7450, complete with an on-chip 256 KB L2 Cache.

All four had that new digital amp, Gigabit Ethernet, five expansion slots, CD-RW drives, a faster 133 MHz system bus and AGP graphics with NVIDIA cards in the top three models.

Prices ranges from $1699 to $3499. That most expensive model came with a SuperDrive, which Jobs said was an industry first. It could read and write both CDs and DVDs. Those DVDs could be then played on a consumer DVD player. It was a big deal, as Jobs joked: The new G4 could burn CDs, DVDs and Pentiums.

This launched into one of many races Apple would hold between their slower-clocked PowerPC Macs and Windows machines running faster-on-paper Intel CPUs. This time, Phil Schiller came out to show that a 733 MHz Power Mac G4 could run circles around the new 1.5 GHz Pentium 4, at least in Photoshop 6.

The 466 and 533 MHz models were on sale immediately, with the faster SKUs coming the next month.

To make burning CDs on Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X easier, Jobs showed that Finder had been updated to treat blank optical media as a folder. A user could drag files and folders to it, then tell the system to burn the disc when they were ready.

Power Mac Accessories

I’ve already mentioned the Pro Speakers that Apple announced with these machines. Designed in conjunction with Harman/Kardon, they were clear spherical speakers, each roughly the size of the HomePod mini. They sold for $59 a set.

Then, Jobs showed the company’s 15-inch Studio Display, a smaller, less-expensive sibling to the 22-inch variant pictured above with the Power Mac. It used Apple Display Connector (ADC) for power, video and USB all over one cable. It had been for sale at $999, but got a price cut here to $799.

15-inch Studio Display

The Digital Hub.

Jobs opened the next section, referencing the downturn in the PC industry. While some were closing up shop on the personal computer, Jobs said Apple saw things differently. The PC wasn’t dying; it was evolving. He laid out his interpretation of the personal computer industry’s history:

  • 1980-1994: The first Golden Age, thanks to productivity tools like word processors, spreadsheets and digital publishing applications.
  • 1995-2000: The second Golden Age, thanks to the rise of the Internet. It added to the productivity tools, making the personal computer more valuable than ever.

Jobs then said the PC industry was about to enter its third great era — the age of the Digital Lifestyle.

Here’s how he laid out this vision:

We are living in a new digital lifestyle with an explosion of digital devices. It’s huge. And we believe the PC, or more importantly the Mac, can become the digital hub of our new emerging digital lifestyle, with the ability to add tremendous value to these other digital devices.

I wrote about the advent and evolution of the Digital Hub over on iMore if you want to read more. Needless to say, Jobs’ words were prophetic and over the subsequent years, Apple would flesh out this vision with products like the iPod for mobile music listening and iPhoto for managing digital photos.

The news at Macworld 2001 was all about digital music. He explained how MP3s worked, and how this was a revolution already underway. In fact, in 2000 alone, 320 million blank CD-Rs had been sold in the United States, and portable MP3 players were becoming popular.4

Jobs walked the crowd through the current music applications and showed how they were just too complex to use, and often came with restrictions on encoding and burning unless the user paid up.

Enter iTunes.

iTunes

While it’s hard to believe given what would happen to iTunes over the next two decades, but this version of the product was clean and simple.5 Users could import CDs, organize their music into playlists and then burn those playlists onto CD-Rs to take with them. It even had a visualizer and a hip design.

iDVD

After talking about iTunes, Jobs changed gears to talk about the explosion of DVD usage in households and businesses around the world. The dream, he said, was to make your own DVDs, with your own movies on them — and play them on consumer-grade DVD players.

iMovie, which had been around since 1999 let uses edit home video, but that’s as far as it went. By 2001, Apple was ready, thanks to the SuperDrive to burn the discs, and the power of the Power Mac G4’s Velocity Engine to encode the data in software at just 2x real time, a huge increase from the 25x real time that was required before this breakthrough.

This was all building to iDVD, a new application for laying out DVDs with menus.

iDVD

Jobs demoed the new title on one of the just-announced Power Mac G4s running Mac OS 9. He quickly added titles, menus and the media for playback, thanks to iDVD’s built-in collection of themes, templates and layout tools.6

In just a few short years, this technology would show up in cheaper desktop and even notebooks, but this was a big deal, and along with iTunes and iMovie, formed the foundation that would later become iLife, complete with iPhoto and even later, iWeb.

Titanium PowerBook

While the Power Mac G4 was great, the real hardware star of this event was my all-time favorite Apple notebook: the Titanium PowerBook G4. It was Job’s One More Thing, after 90 minutes on stage.

Titanium PowerBook G4

I’ve covered this machine a lot over the years, but in short, it was a huge departure from the PowerBook G3 series of machines. It was thin and made of metal, and brought the G4 to a notebook for the first time, with either a 400 or 500 MHz G4 in a chassis that was just one inch thick, weighing 5.2 pounds. It boasted a 15.2-inch widescreen display and slot-loading optical drive, all housed in a Titanium chassis.

Apple was very proud of this machine, as you can tell from the press release:

“The all new Titanium PowerBook G4 is the most revolutionary portable computer ever created,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Its a supercomputer to go’ in terms of performance, yet it’s thinner and sexier than the best subnotebooks.”

As it would turn out, this would be a short-lived design, as it had rather weak hinges and the paint used on parts of the case would often chip and flake off, making the expensive laptop look like a beater.

To learn more about this machine, I recommend this article on iMore and Jason Snell’s recent coverage of the machine on Six Colors and in the 20 Macs for 2020 podcast feed.

…and of course my video on the machine from a few years ago:

In Conclusion

This Macworld keynote is jam-packed with stuff that would really change Apple’s trajectory for years to come. Mac OS X would spin off other operating systems to power things from the iPhone to the Apple Watch. iTunes has since been replaced,7 but music is still near and dear to Apple. Most people haven’t thought about iDVD in years, but we all use Apple devices to shoot and share video. And, of course, Apple is still in the business of making fast and capable Macs.


  1. Jobs joked that some of these feedback submissions were quite long. I assume at least one of them was about a spatial Finder. 
  2. Jobs didn’t show these off on stage, but I wanted to include them here for the sake of completeness. 
  3. I believe Apple’s tech spec page for these machines has an error on it. The keynote video includes a 667 MHz G4, but it’s not listed here. Instead, Apple published that machine as having a 773 MHz processor. 
  4. Remember, this is some ten months before the iPod was introduced. 
  5. For an interesting look at a little-known story about the birth of iTunes, spend some time reading Cabel Sasser’s post about Audion, Panic’s super-dead MP3 player for the Mac. 
  6. There was also a professional-grade DVD authoring program announced named DVD Studio Pro, designed to work perfectly with Final Cut Pro, which Apple had purchased from Macromedia in 1998. 
  7. Unless you’re on Windows. 

2001 Revisited: A New Series

2001 was a huge year in terms of Apple history. Just check out this list of some of the announcements and news from 20 years ago:

Software

  • Mac OS 9.1
  • Mac OS 9.2
  • Mac OS X 10.0
  • Mac OS X 10.1
  • iTunes

Hardware

  • Titanium PowerBook G4
  • First SuperDrive
  • White iBook G3
  • Power Mac G4 QuickSilver
  • Original iPod
  • Two iMac G3 revisions

Throughout 2021, I’ll be writing about some of these topics in a new series. I’m looking forward to reliving a wild year in Apple’s history.