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Jobs Keynote Unveils iBook & AirPort Wireless Networking

In his keynote address at Macworld Expo in New York, Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iBook, a new eye-catching laptop system expected to be available in September with prices beginning around $1,600. The iBook will include a 300 MHz G3 processor with a 512K L2 backside cache, 32 MB of RAM (expandable to 160 MB), a full-size keyboard, a 24x CD-ROM drive, a single USB port, a 56 Kbps modem, and built-in 10/100Base-T Ethernet. Unlike current G3 PowerBooks, the iBook features a smaller 12.1-inch active matrix TFT display with a maximum 800 by 600 pixel resolution, driven by ATI’s RAGE Mobility graphics controller and 4 MB of VRAM. The iBook also sports a built-in handle in its rubber-coated translucent case, a power adapter with a nifty retractable cable, and up to six hours of battery life. The iBook will initially be available in two colors (tangerine and blueberry) and despite its relatively constrained screen real estate, the iBook is slightly larger and heavier than current PowerBook G3 systems.

The iBook will also optionally feature AirPort, a new wireless LAN technology developed in collaboration with Lucent Technologies, enabling wire-free access to both a local network and the Internet through an AirPort Base Station that can be up to 150 feet away. The AirPort Base Station has both a 56 Kbps modem and 10Base-T Ethernet for connecting to the Internet and/or local wire-based Ethernet networks. The Base Station, in turn, can support up to ten devices with wireless AirPort Cards within a range of about 150 feet, transferring data between the wireless devices and the Base Station at up to 11 Mbps, faster than even the theoretical high speed for 10Base-T Ethernet. The AirPort Base Station will cost about $300, and AirPort Cards for iBooks will be $100 and easily installed by consumers. Apple also plans to make AirPort Cards available for other PowerBook models. Farallon’s SkyLINE PC Card wireless networking product, due this August, is based on the same standards as AirPort and should also support peer-to-peer networking without base stations; Farallon hasn’t released pricing information for SkyLINE.

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