Today at Macworld Expo Tokyo, Apple announced a new set of Macs, some of which give existing machines a speed bump and minor redesigns, one of which targets the Mac clone market, and one of which will make some PowerBook users green with envy.
Power Macs -- At the high end come the Power Macintosh 9600/233 and 9600/200MP, which are enhancements to Apple's 9500 series with faster versions of the 604e. The new 9600s have 12x CD-ROMs, 4 GB hard disks, 32 MB RAM, 512K of Level 2 cache, six PCI slots, 10Base-T Ethernet, and high performance IMS Twin Turbo 128 M4A video cards. Similarly, the new Power Mac 8600/200 is a revved-up version of the 8500, with a 12x CD-ROM, 32 MB RAM, the 8500's video input/output capabilities, and a built-in Iomega Zip drive. The 9600/233 should be available in May for $4,250; the 9600/200MP and 8600/200 will be available in March for about $4,750 and $3,250, respectively.
Closer to earth is the Power Mac 7300, at prices from $2,300 to $2,800. The 7300 replaces the 7200 and 7600 as a middle-of-the-road system, and features a 604e processor running at 180 or 200 MHz, 16 or 32 MB of RAM, a 12x CD-ROM drive, 2 GB hard disk, 256K of Level 2 cache, three PCI slots, and 10Base-T Ethernet. The 7300 also adds a security feature to the accessible internal design of the 7000-series: it seems those internal components may have been too accessible. Apparently, a thermal problem with some CPU cards has delayed shipment of the 7300s, although Apple has reportedly told dealers units will be available in early March.
If the 9600s, 8600s, and 7300s are variations on a theme, then the low-cost Power Mac 4400 is a new tune from Apple. Designed to compete directly with Mac clones, the 4400 includes a 200 MHz 603e processor, 16 MB of EDO RAM, 8x CD-ROM, 2 IDE GB hard drive, two PCI slots, 256K of Level 2 cache and 10Base-T Ethernet (via a card in the Comm II slot). The 4400 is the first Apple machine based on the Tanzania motherboard used by clone vendors, and (also like clones) utilizes less-expensive parts from the PC world, including a mostly non-Apple case and non-switching power supply. Unlike other models, the 4400 has almost no bundled software, but with a price around $1,700 and performance in line with similarly-configured Mac clones, the 4400 could sell well.
The Power Macs 9600 and 8600 have new swing-out case designs that provide easier access to internal components, and the 9600, 8600, and 7300 all use replaceable CPU daughter cards, making it possible to upgrade the CPU without replacing the entire machine. These machines ship with System 7.5.5, except the Power Mac 4400, which ships with System 7.5.3. Apple says all these machines will run Mac OS 7.6.1, which should be available in April. All these new systems come with both a keyboard and a mouse.
PowerBook 3400c -- Apple also introduced the fast, high-end PowerBook 3400c. The feature array for the 3400c includes a 603e processor at speeds from 180 to 240 MHz, 16 MB of RAM, 256K Level 2 cache, IDE hard drives from 1.3 to 3 GB, optional 6x and 12x CD-ROM drives, built-in 33.6 Kbps fax modem and 10Base-T Ethernet, and a stunning 12.1-inch active matrix screen. The PowerBook 3400c also has a hot-swappable drive bay (for a floppy drive, CD-ROM, or other devices), space for two Type II or one Type III PC Card, an infrared port, and a four-speaker sound system. The 3400c is reportedly very snappy, aided by its high clock speeds, 32-bit PCI bus, and responsive video. However, at 7.5 pounds and prices ranging from $4,500 to a whopping $6,500, the PowerBook 3400c is not for everyone. The 180 and 200 MHz versions of the 3400c should be available this week, with the 240 MHz versions appearing in April.
The Response -- Are Macintosh clone vendors going to let Apple steal the thunder with new machines? Not likely: you can expect vendors to reduce prices in response to Apple's new models, as well as introduce new models of their own. Also, as Apple's new machines enter the channel, watch for discounts on now-discontinued 7600, 8500, and 9500 models.