Posted Tuesday, June 24, 2003

What the Power Mac G5 Means for iLife (and iPod)

The Power Mac G5 is finally here. Or at least it will be in August. Yesterday, Steve Jobs introduced the next generation of Power Mac, and it's a thing of beauty: new processors, a fast internal architecture, fast graphics, and a quieter design.

I can't wait. Although I'll have to.

Millions of Mac users will continue to run the iLife programs on G4 and even G3 machines, but speed freaks will grab the G5s as soon as they ship. What will they experience? Faster performance, obviously. But each of the iLife programs will benefit in unique ways. Here's a closer look.

iTunes. iTunes won't play your music faster (fortunately), but it will encode it much faster. Converting tracks from CDs will be dramatically faster on the new computers. The new Macs' faster processors and graphics systems will allow iTunes visualizer to display more frames per second. And with the front-panel headphone jack, you'll be able to conveniently connect your headphones for private listening.

iPhoto. iPhoto's image-processing features -- one-click enhance, convert to black and white -- will run faster, as will image exports that involve resizing images. More important, though, iPhoto's interface will feel much more responsive, thanks to the combination of a faster processor and faster graphics subsystems. Scrolling will be smoother, as will adjusting the size of thumbnail images using the size slider. And the new Macs' front-panel USB 2.0 interface should allow for faster image transfers from the growing number of cameras equipped with USB 2.0 interfaces.

iMovie. iMovie wins big on the new Macs. Rendering transitions, titles, and effects will take much less time, and the entire program will feel far more responsive. And the new machines' front-panel FireWire jack will make connecting and disconnecting a camera much more convenient -- no need to grope around the back of the computer.

iDVD. Of the four iLife programs, iDVD is the single biggest beneficiary of the G5. Encoding video into MPEG-2 format is an extremely taxing task, and the new G5 processors will make much shorter work of it. Not only will the new Macs encode the video faster, they'll be less bogged down by the process: you'll be able to work in other programs while video encodes and you probably won't even notice much of a performance difference. Also, every new Power Mac G5 includes a SuperDrive DVD burner -- which means every G5 will also be able to run iDVD.

iPod. Even the little iPod benefits from the new computers: their front-panel FireWire jacks give you a convenient place to plug in for charging and transferring tunes.

So each of the iLife programs benefits to one degree or another, but iMovie and iDVD are the biggest winners. Each of the benefits I've outlined will be immediately available, but even bigger performance boosts will come when Apple updates the programs to specifically exploit the features of the G5 processor.

Did I mention that I can't wait?

While you wait for the new G5, download your free, 18-page, full-color update to my book: it's packed with tips and insights for iTunes 4, the iTunes Music Store, and the new iPod. Get it here.