Apple Showcases its Digital World (Shangri-La Hotel: 25 September 2002)

By Graham K. Rogers

Although Apple, Cupertino, has often been a market leader over the years -- particularly with its latest hardware and operating systems -- Apple, Thailand, has often lagged behind the market.

The Apple Digital World Conference 2002 (2), held in the ballroom of the Shangri-La Hotel, last week (Wed 25 Sep) was a good illustration of this difference.

The day was in two parts. In the morning, a team from Singapore, led by Graham Perkins -- himself a dynamo -- with some input from local resources, gave a series of demonstrations: what the latest version of OSX (10.2), Jaguar, can do. In the afternoon, there were five streams: Design; Maya; Digital imaging; Education and Developer; and Xserve. I was in the Education group.

The Shangri-La hotel is a good facility for such demonstrations. Not only are there good display facilities but the Internet connection was as good as one is likely to find in Thailand and there was only one minor problem, probably caused by outside forces. Every chair had paper and a pencil; and the staff also distributed a survey for us all to complete. Surely, Apple in Thailand could at least check the spelling of Macintosh?

The Morning Session
After the usual opening speeches, the fun began with Graham Perkins, Creative Markets Manager, demonstrating.

Among the items were i-Photo, i-Cal, i-Chat. Respectively, for digital camera and images; for organising and publishing calendars, and for online chat with AOL or .Mac accounts. The latter was demonstrated using the Airport (wireless broadband) connections on the Macs in the hall. There is also i-Tunes and i-Movie. When time permits, I will be writing an "i-Toys" article with information on each of these.

Perkins amused the audience by demonstrating the Thai language facility. He created a folder with the Thai word, Sawasdee (but admitted someone had told him how to write Thai).

With Quicktime Broadcaster (free like QuickTime) a user can connect a camera and transmit live video on the Internet.

One item that caused a lot of interest was Universal Access: a system preference with special facilities for the hard of hearing and those with sight problems. This includes switching the whole screen from black on white, to white on black for certain types of color blindness.

Some of the most useful items concern connectivity. With Rendezvous and with Bluetooth (both now included with OSX) there are a range of devices that can be linked with the computer in a "configurationless network environment."

The Apple is not a Windows machine, and it has been recognised that, with networking many users will want access to Windows. In the Sharing panel of System Preferences an entire range of options is available. It is this preference that turns on Windows sharing. E.C Tan who was showing this facility made it start up perfectly, but then, with some sniggers from the audience, the Windows machine crashed.

As much in OSX that I have become familiar with was displayed, there were appreciative noises from the audience. This suggested a large number in attendance who were not OSX users: either System 9 or Windows users. In conversation with one user later, he told me he was about to make the move from 9 to X, but wanted just a bit more information.

I also overheard a couple of users chatting. One had made the move and was delighted with what he had found. The other was about to start work web-designing and had asked for a Titanium Powerbook. Lucky boy. He also won a prize in the draw later.

The Education Session
I was disappointred with most of the session on education. The one thing I wanted to hear -- what Apple is doing for education in Thailand -- was unspoken.

To start, E.Y. Yeo, from Singapore, gave the small audience a quick run-down of Apple's mobile computing hardware, including the i-Pod and inserted some videos of how laptop computers had been used in other countries. 36,000 laptops were bought by the State of Maine, he told us; 13,000 by a school in Singapore. I would settle for 13.

Apple made its greatest sales in the US and in Europe in the education field and established itself as an important player for academic computing, driven by good discounts for students and teachers. As far as I have seen in Thailand, Apple's input to the education market in these terms has been zero. A few well-endowed schools have bought these machines but my own experience is that any Macs in education have arrived at top retail prices.

This was compounded the day after the Conference by an announcement that OSX (10.2) had just been launched in Brazil and that "the company is marketing its brand aggressively by offering discounts on iMac and iBook models to lure students and teachers in Brazil" (SABI).

As part of the Developer track of this session, Leon Chen introduced the idea of UNIX on the Mac and pointed out many ways in which this could be used for software development. This was followed by two Thai sessions. The first on the Thai language dictionary by Somporn Maneeratanakul.

The final presentation was, for my money, one of the best of the day. Nusorn Photpipat must be the life and soul of any party and he had the audience in the palm of his hand when reporting the state of the art with the Pladao Office suite for Mac OSX. This is a development of Open Office, an English language version of which I have been running on my i-Mac at home.

A working version will be up and running soon, but the full version for the Aqua interface will not be ready until 2004. We should look forward to this. Those attending this part of the conference would have gladly stayed longer but the session had to be drawn to a close.

Let us hope that we get more from Nusorn, more from Graham Perkins too. And much more from Apple in Thailand.

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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