What iApps can do for you

Apple has long prided itself on being the only computer manufacturer that creates the "whole widget". For the most part, this has allowed it to seamlessly integrate its hardware and software offerings to ensure that they offer the best possible experience to users.

Apple has long prided itself on being the only computer manufacturer that creates the “whole widget”.

For the most part, this has allowed it to seamlessly integrate its hardware and software offerings to ensure that they offer the best possible experience to users. With Apple’s current strategy of making its computers a “digital hub”, it has tried to extend this seamless integration to independent third-party devices such as video cameras and Palm handhelds.

While using hardware standards like the Apple-invented FireWire (aka IEEE 1394) or USB helps with connectivity, it is the application software that makes or breaks this goal. This collection of bundled applications is known in the Mac OS community as the iApps, and while they are principally aimed at a consumer setting, there are considerable uses for them in the business environment as well.

One of the best pieces of software offered is called iMovie. Its principal goal is to allow an average person to quickly edit digital video and put together their own cinematic masterpieces. When combined with a computer with a built-in DVD writer and the iDVD software, this allows almost anyone to take some video footage, stir in a bit of editing with whizzy transitions and titling effects, and write it back to a disk that can be played in any consumer DVD player. An alternative is to simply dump the edited footage back to the digital video camera where it can then be transferred on to VHS tape if required.

Armed with only an early FireWire-enabled Blueberry iBook and a mini DV video camera, this is just what Cookie Time does to create training videos for our Christmas Cookie Sellers and on-the-fly documentaries of our conferences. At our last major conference all of the staff and distributors so much enjoyed the documentary that was created in just a couple of hours of editing, that we converted it to VHS and gave a copy to everyone as a memento of the event. The thing that amazes me is that this bottom-of-the-range iBook replaced a four-year-old $80,000 analogue video-editing suite and achieved the same results.

A few years ago, CNN issued its reporters with a digital video camera, a PowerBook G4 and Final Cut Pro (the professional version of iMovie) so that they could put together their own stories in the field, negating the need for a separate camera operator. With the release of the 1GHz PowerBook G4 with built-in DVD writer, they will now be able to give their reporters a complete mobile digital studio that will allow them to take raw footage, edit it and turn it into a format that is more robust than magnetic tape.

In terms of the other iApps, one of the most promising to business is the combination of iSync, iCal and Mac OS X’s built-in address book. The purpose of iSync is to automatically synchronise the contact and calendar information on your desktop computer with the various portable devices that people carry around. While in beta at the moment, the system is definitely not perfect, but its potential to minimise the effort required to keep everything synchronised is clear. Right now, using D-Link’s USB Bluetooth adapter and a Sony T68i cellular phone, anyone would find it easy to set the software up to begin automatically synchronising once within range.

Finally, the recently released iChat has the potential to make life a lot easier for IT managers looking to set up instant messaging in-house, since runs in serverless mode. Using Rendezvous technology, which aims to make IP networks as simple to operate as the more user-friendly AppleTalk, all it takes to enable an instant messaging system is to run the application on each individual machine. That’s it. No further work required.

White is MIS manager at Cookie Time in Christchurch. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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