Apple expo: Attacks on Intel but hugs for Microsoft

Jobs underscores Apple's mixed relationship with Wintel while users fume over the OS X beta price tag

European Macintosh fans are getting their first look at the next release of Microsoft Office for the Mac and the latest microprocessors for Apple computers, and the experience is underscoring Apple's ambivalent relationship with the Windows-Pentium world.

In his keynote speech Wednesday, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs brought a Microsoft product manager on stage to show off the "most Mac-like" version of Office to date. But the mere mention of Microsoft caused a murmur of scorn to run through the packed auditorium, despite the fact that Apple's former arch-rival is now a major investor in the company.

Jobs felt compelled to defend Microsoft. "There's a whole contingent of people at Microsoft who love the Mac," he said. "They need your support. As you can imagine, they don't get a lot of pats on the back from the other people in the office."

Office: mac 2001, as it is called, will have some features not available on Windows, such as Entourage, an email program. The applications suite is due for release in October.

Microsoft also has a sizeable pavilion at the expo, solely to demonstrate Office 2001 -- no mention of such technologies as Windows Media Audio, which competes with Apple's QuickTime, or Windows itself, which dwarfs Apple's Mac OS in user adoption.

Apple also sniped at Intel's Pentium processor, the hardware half of the "Wintel" alliance that dominates personal computers. Looking to show that a 500MHz G4 processor outstrips a 1GHz Pentium III, Jobs demonstrated both systems side by side executing a series of more than 100 commands in Photoshop.

The Mac system finished nearly 20 seconds ahead of the Pentium, 108 seconds vs. 124 seconds. The conclusion, Jobs said: a 500MHz G4 is actually the equivalent of a 1.1GHz Pentium III.

Jobs then switched to a dual-processor G4 system -- the standard shipping today in PowerMacs -- against the 1GHz. The G4 completed the same task in about 60 seconds, and Jobs didn't wait for the Pentium to finish. "We know how long it'll take," he said. "Ladies and gentlemen, the Pentium III."

The show continued to gather steam Wednesday, with a full exhibition hall (despite the apparent lack of air conditioning) and packed audiences for demonstrations of the upcoming OS X and the Mac's movie-making capabilities. The show will open to the public Saturday.

But all is not well here in Paris. Apple has clearly ruffled some feathers over its decision to charge £24.99 for the public beta release of OS X. Despite heavy public interest in the OS, some users pointed out that it is, after all, just a testing version -- in effect forcing users to pay in order to provide Apple with feedback.

"How can you argue we have to pay for a beta release?" one user demanded at the OS X demonstration, to applause from the rest of the audience.

Apple's Bertrand Serlet, vice president of platform technologies, Argues that the price was an encouragement to test the OS seriously rather than just playing with it. But he admitted users who buy the beta will also have to pay full price for the OS when it is released early next year.

"Paying twice for the same OS -- that's a mistake," the user fumed.

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