Apple goes square with G4 cube

Opening Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs unveils new computers and peripherals, including an 8-inch cube with G4 processor inside.

NEW YORK -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Wednesday unveiled not only new multiprocessor Power Mac G4s and revised iMacs, but the new Power Mac G4 Cube, CRT and flat-panel displays, a revised keyboard and a new optical mouse, previewed recently on ZDNet.

On the software side, Jobs announced a new version of iMovie, Apple's (aapl) consumer video-editing application, and glided over further delays to Mac OS X, the company's next-generation operating system.

Two of the three-model Power Mac G4 line, all of which are available immediately, are outfitted with dual G4 processors, Jobs said at his keynote opening Macworld Expo.

The base system remains powered by a single G4 processor and keeps its $1,599 price; the other two feature twin 450- and 500-MHz G4s but keep their previous $2,499 and $3,499 prices respectively.

One rumor that didn't pan out was that the new systems would feature ATI Technologies Inc.'s new Radeon 3D accelerator; according to the Apple online store, all Power Mac G4s will stick with ATI's Rage 128 Pro.

To demonstrate the advantage of dual processors, even with the limited multiprocessing capabilities of Mac OS 9, Jobs and his frequent keynote sidekick, Apple Vice President for Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller, showed a dual-G4 Power Mac halving the image-processing time for a large Adobe Photoshop file over a 1GHz Pentium III computer.

The entire Power Mac line also features Gigabit Ethernet built into the motherboard. Schiller showed the advantage of such a large pipe by playing and editing an uncompressed video file that resided on a remote server.

Apple's consumer iMac line also received a facelift; gone are the fruit flavors. Jobs introduced four new models ranging from the "Indigo" base iMac, hitting a new price point at $799 while including a 350MHz G3 processor, 64MB of RAM and a slot-loading CD-ROM drive, to the revised "Snow" iMac DV Special Edition which, at $1,499, features a 500MHz G3, 128MB of RAM, a 30GB hard drive and slot-loading DVD-ROM. All include Apple's new extended keyboard and new optical mouse; all but the base model include FireWire connectivity and Apple's iMovie.

The $999 iMac DV, which comes in Indigo and Ruby, ups its processor speed to 400MHz and adds more hard drive space and FireWire connectivity. For $1,299, the iMac DV+ includes a 450MHz G3, a 20GB hard drive, DVD-ROM and a Sage color.

The base iMac will be available in early September; the others are available to order.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Jobs' "one more thing" announcement at the keynote's close of the new Power Mac G4 Cube, an entirely new model that expands Apple's four-quadrant product matrix. Fitting in between the iMac and the Power Mac G4 (both in physical and marketing terms), the G4 Cube measures eight inches a side without a monitor and keyboard and is encased in Lucite around a pearlescent body.

The G4 Cube is scheduled to ship in early August in a $1,799 model with a 450MHz G4 and 64MB of RAM and a $2,299 version with a 500MHz G4 and 128MB of RAM. Both will include specially designed Harman/Kardon speakers.

Jobs called these models "the ultimate desktop video machine," although both lack the Power Mac G4's Gigabit Ethernet.

Complementing the pearl-and-clear design of the G4 Cube are three new Apple displays. The sole CRT is a 17-inch model priced at $499, based on Mitsubishi's Diamondtron technology; its clear case echoes the translucent iMac. Jobs also showed two new flat-panel LCDs: a $999 15-inch version and a revised Cinema Display. All feature USB ports and a "one-cable" connection, with one wire carrying power, USB and video from the new Power Mac G4s and the G4 Cube.

All these systems will come with a redesigned, extended keyboard and a new mouse that features optical tracking technology and uses the entire mouse body as a button. Both replace the much-maligned previous versions; Jobs referred to the reprobation they'd incurred, even quoting a ZDNet article.

The new mouse and keyboard, selling for $59 each, will be available in September through Apple's online store.

Though many were anticipating the public beta of Mac OS X, Jobs announced that it would be released in September instead, with a full release scheduled for "early 2001."

Though the audience offered a quiet reaction to the Mac OS X news, they cheered an announcement by Jobs, Ed Fries, Microsoft VP of games and Alex Seropian, CEO of recent Microsoft acquisition Bungie, that Bungie's game Halo would be released for the Mac. In addition, Fires mentioned that Apple, Microsoft and Bungie VP Peter Tamte would "team up" to bring all of Microsoft's games to the Mac.

Jobs also demonstrated updated features to Apple's iTools, a collection of Web-centric services for users of Mac OS 9. The on-line storage feature iDisk now offers expanded capacity, at a price: while 20MB remains free, users will be able to purchase 50, 100, 200 or 400MB of additional storage for one dollar per megabyte a year.

iTools' Mail was also upgraded, gaining signature file support, spell-checking and font selection. In addition, the Homepage Builder application adds new templates, automatic photo gallery layout, a new image library and more to the Web-page-building service.


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