Was Apple's choice to rid its notebooks of PC Card slots a bad one?

Summary:As a part of ZDNet's video experiment and our attempt to take full advantage of the advancements in distributed commercial video production that Panasonic's AG-HVX200 enables, we (ZDNet) are now trying to figure out what the best video production workstation should be. One major requirement is it needs to be mobile.

As a part of ZDNet's video experiment and our attempt to take full advantage of the advancements in distributed commercial video production that Panasonic's AG-HVX200 enables, we (ZDNet) are now trying to figure out what the best video production workstation should be. One major requirement is it needs to be mobile. Another major requirement (to take advantage of one of the camera's most important features) is a PC Card (PCMCIA) slot. A third "very-nice-to-have" is Apple's Final Cut video editing software. It happens to be the video editing software that our broadband group at CNET's headquarters in San Francisco is having the most luck with, particularly when it comes to working with VideoEgg. 

So, on first blush, it seems like the way to go is one of Apple's new Core Duo-based MacBooks, right? Well, not quite. Somewhere along the way, the folks at Apple ixnayed PC Card slots in the Mac notebooks in lieu of something called an ExpressCard slot. The choice seems especially ironic given how well Intel (Apple's current choice of chipmaker) supports the PC Card specification. It also throws a wrench into the works for us here at ZDNet since we were really counting on the ability to pull Panasonic's novel P2 PCMCIA cards (loaded with video) right out of the AG-HVX200 camera and then FTP video to our studios in San Francisco without ever touching a FireWire cable or our own hard drives.

That said, we wanted the flexibility to use Final Cut in the process. But there is no Windows version of Final Cut, so buying a notebook that has PC Card slots, but that runs Windows, is of little help. My understanding is that there are a bunch of Mac users that want to use Verizon Wireless' PC Card-based EVDO cards (for really  big hotspots and wireless broadband, that's the only way to go) who have been left in the lurch by Apple. Word is that there will or may already be some ExpressCard-based EVDO (please share with us if you know) cards on the market. But that says nothing of the other cards out there like Panasonic's P2 cards that need ongoing support.

<sidebar>This is a good reason that Apple should more liberally license its OS so it can run on other notebooks. For mouse pointer operation, I personally can't stand touchpads (they give me RSI) and prefer the Trackpoint pointing sticks found in notebooks like those from Lenovo. If Mac OS X could be loaded on other Intel-based notebooks, most of the problems related to relying Apple and Apple only to satisfy our hardware requirements would be solved (provided OS X continues to offer PC Card support)</sidebar>

So, the situation is what it is, as they say which means we need to figure out how to make do. So, here are some questions, the answer to which aren't as easy to find as they should be. I was hoping that you Mac experts out there might have some thoughts:

  • If I need PC Card support in a Mac notebook and we'll be doing multimedia production, what are the most recent and powerful Mac notebooks to have PC Card slots? I've heard the answer is the G4. But which ones and do some have two slots versus one?
  • Is there any progress on ExpressCard-to-PC Card adaption and if so, where can more information be found? 
  • What about other ways to get PC Card support in a Mac notebook with out PC Card slots? For example, USB or FireWire-based solutions (if the notebooks even have FireWire, do they?). If custom drivers are involved, as is the case with Panasonic's P2's, will those work over these adaptations?
  • Speaking of the Panasonic P2 drivers, I've seen mixed reports on how well they work on OS X. If anybody has the deets, do tell.
  • If a G4 notebook is our only solution, if anybody has any thoughts on the best place to pick one up, I'm all ears.
Any other feedback that can improve our chances of success and efficiency with this experiment would be greatly appreciated.

Topics: Apple

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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