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New iMacs, Multiprocessor G4s, and G4 Cubes

In his keynote address at Macworld Expo in New York, Apple iCEO Steve Jobs took the wraps off a complete revision of Apple's desktop computer offerings - plus unveiled new displays, a new keyboard, and an optical mouse.

Mouse & Keyboard -- The oft-reviled "hockey puck" USB mouse introduced with the original iMac never made Apple many friends, and Apple's abbreviated USB keyboard ruffled plenty of feathers when it became standard issue with Apple's professional computers. To rectify the situation, Apple has introduced the optical Apple Pro Mouse and Apple Pro Keyboard. The Pro Mouse sports a soap bar shape and uses optical sensors instead of moving parts to track movement, so it should operate accurately on a variety of surfaces. Also, its entire top surface serves as the mouse button, levering down in front to perform a click. The force required to click the mouse is adjustable, so the mouse should work for a wide range of Macintosh users - and no moving parts means no cleaning (although the clear plastic surface will probably be permanently smudged). The 108-key Pro Keyboard features 15 full-size programmable function keys, a standard configuration of navigation keys (arrows, Home, End, Page Up, Page Down, etc.) plus a key to eject a CD or DVD disk, although it lacks a Power key. Pressing any key on the keyboard will turn on or wake up the Mac systems Apple just released, but people who use it with earlier USB-equipped Macs will have to use front-mounted power buttons instead. (The new Eject key reportedly takes the place of the Power key for use with Apple's MacsBug debugger.) The new mouse and keyboard will ship standard on Apple's desktop systems (see below), and can be purchased separately from the Apple store for $60 each.


New iMacs -- Apple's latest iMacs introduce new colors - Indigo, Ruby, Sage, and the all-white Snow - but also sport aggressive pricing and performance enhancements while retaining the standard iMac form factor, 15-inch display, and convection cooling that eliminates the need for a noisy fan. The low-end model Indigo has an appealing $799 price, and features a 350 MHz PowerPC G3 processor, 64 MB RAM, a 7.5 GB hard disk, a 56 Kbps modem, two USB ports, 10/100Base-T Ethernet and a slot-loading CD-ROM drive, although it lacks FireWire and AirPort capabilities. Next, the AirPort-ready $999 iMac DV is available in Indigo or Ruby and adds a 400 MHz G3 processor, a 10 GB hard disk, VGA video mirroring, two FireWire ports, and iMovie, but carries a 24x CD-ROM drive rather than a DVD-ROM drive. Moving on up, the $1,299 iMac DV+ is available in Indigo, Ruby, and Sage, and offers a 450 MHz G3 processor, a DVD-ROM drive, and a 20 GB hard disk, and the high-end iMac DV Special Edition (available now in Snow as well as a slightly modified Graphite) sports a 500 MHz G3 processor, 128 MB RAM, and a 30 GB hard disk. The $799 Indigo model is due in September, but the other new iMac models are available immediately.


Dual-processor Power Mac G4s -- Apple also revised the high end of the professional line to include dual-processor Power Macintosh G4 systems running at 450 and 500 MHz. During Jobs's keynote, he and Apple Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller demonstrated that a single 500 MHz G4 system easily outmatched a 1 GHz Pentium system at rendering a real-world Photoshop file; they then went on to show a 500 MHz dual-processor Power Mac G4 system deliver Photoshop performance roughly equivalent to a theoretical 2 GHz Pentium chip - it would have been nice to see them compare the dual processor G4 with a dual processor Pentium. Although software currently must be designed specifically to take advantage of multiprocessor systems, Apple's forthcoming Mac OS X will offer symmetric multiprocessing capabilities for all Mac OS X applications as well as "carbonized" applications developed for the current Mac OS, so the performance benefits of multiprocessor systems will increase over time. Dual-processor G4s are now standard at the high end of Apple's Power Mac G4 line: 450 MHz systems start at $2,500 and 500 MHz systems at $3,500, while a single-processor 400 MHz G4 system still starts at $1,600. All Power Mac G4s now sport gigabit (1000Base-T) Ethernet.


And Next... the G4 Cube -- The real eye-opener of Jobs's keynote address was the introduction of the Power Macintosh G4 Cube, a surprisingly tiny 8-inch cube on a transparent plastic base that sports a 450 or 500 MHz G4 processor, 64 MB or 128 MB of RAM, a 20 GB or 30 GB hard disk, FireWire, USB, 56 Kbps modem, and Ethernet, plus support for up to 1.5 GB of RAM and 40 GB of storage. The small box might be confused for an air filter or perhaps an odd-looking speaker on your desk, but it's AirPort-ready, features a slot-loading DVD drive on top, offers easy access to internal components (just turn it over, pop up a handle, and pull), and - even better - the system is cooled by convection, so it has no fan and is virtually silent. (If all that silence gets you down, Apple includes special 20-watt Harman/Kardon stereo speakers.) Essentially, the G4 Cube features everything a mid-range professional G4 system would offer (except PCI expansion) in a 14-pound form factor that's one quarter the size of a standard G4 minitower. Prices start at $1,800 ($2,300 for the 500 MHz version) and G4 Cubes should be available in early August. For a display, you can use any VGA monitor, or choose among Apple's three new offerings, below.


New Displays -- Apple also rolled out three new displays, each of which combine power, video, and USB into a single cable. The $500 17-inch Apple Studio Display features a transparent chassis with a flat Diamondtron CRT display and an ultra-bright Theater Mode. The all-digital $1,000 15-inch flat-panel Apple Studio Display LCD display offers a 1024 by 768 resolution. Apple also updated its $4,000 high-end 1600 by 1024 LCD Cinema Display to use the all-in-one cable for USB, power, and video.



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