Macworld mysteries: MIA products

QuickTime 4, infrared ports, Final Cut Pro. Where are they? Mulder and Scully are on the case.

San Francisco -- Mulder and Scully would have a field day at this week's Macworld Expo here.

While Apple Computer Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL) is winning attendees' hearts and minds with multicolored iMacs and G3 Power Mac designs imported from the Star Wars universe, some items expected to surface at the show simply haven't. Amidst all the smoke and mirrors and sexy plastic, is the truth out there?

"I shouldn't be telling you this, but QuickTime 4 will be at Macworld," Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs told educators during a Q&A keynote session at December's Cause98 show in Seattle. But the only QuickTime in evidence at the San Francisco show is QuickTime 3, and sources close to Apple say the QuickTime development team never expected to have Version 4 ready for this week's show.

QuickTime due at next show
A public beta of QuickTime 4 is expected to appear in the next couple of months -- probably at February's Macworld Tokyo -- with a final ship date projected sometime in the spring.

You could be forgiven for feeling hungry as you walked through Apple's booth at the San Francisco Expo: Apple's new multicolored iMacs look like nothing so much as huge chunks of Jello in every flavor of the rainbow. But hunger pangs might distract you from what's missing from the iMac's new incarnation: namely, the infrared port on the front of the machine, and the mysterious Mezzanine slot on the underside of the iMac's motherboard, both of which drew speculation about Apple's expansion plans when they shipped with Rev A and B iMacs.

According to sources, the irDA-compatible port suffered from a serious lack of use, with potential candidates such as 3Com (makers of the Palm Pilot) selecting the far-more-ubiquitous Universal Serial Bus port as their interface of choice.

Who's the pitcher?
A quick audit of the Marketing 101 class dictates that you publicize a product you want to sell, but when that product competes with your own developers, maybe you don't want to publicize it too much. Consider Apple's Final Cut Pro, which got a mention during Jobs' keynote speech; the iCEO's brief nod was the first public acknowledgement of the video-editing package since Apple bought the software from Macromedia Inc. along with the rest of the company's video operation back in May 1998.

On the show floor, however, Apple remains stingy with details about the long-awaited application, despite an entire Web page devoted to the product and box shots in Apple's glossy Expo brochure. Apple employees working the company's booth told attendees that the software will go beta soon, with an expected ship date in the spring of 1999. A glance at the spring social calendar reveals some possible debut dates, with most speculation focusing on April's National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas.