Jobs unveils new iMac, calls Apple's 'i' products a success

Having promised a new consumer product that is "innovative, revolutionary and different," Apple Computer Inc. today announced a redesigned iMac that looks more like a desk lamp than a desktop computer.

The new machine swivels, bends and performs several built-in digital functions demonstrated by Apple CEO Steve Jobs during a keynote speech opening the Macworld Expo in San Francisco. Packed with Apple's line of software for editing, storing and burning digital files, Jobs called the computer the hub of its digital strategy.

Apple unveiled three models of the new iMac, with one expected to ship each month through March. Each iMac contains Apple's G4 processor at 700 MHz or 800 MHz and sports a 15-in. LCD screen. Apple's all-in-one SuperDrive, which reads and writes both CDs and DVDs, will be shipped with the first model, due this month. It will have a price tag of $1,799.

"This is the best thing I think we've ever done," Jobs said. "It solves the whole cable mess problem ... and every one has a flat screen."

Each model of the iMac will include five USB ports and two FireWire ports, all located on the back of the machine. The high-end model, which will be the first to ship later this month, will include the 800-MHz G4 processor, 256MB of RAM and a 60GB hard drive. A $1,499 model will run a 700-MHz chip and ship with 256MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive when it is released next month. The low-end model will cost $1,299 and feature a 700-MHz chip, 128MB of memory and a 40GB hard drive. That model will ship in March.

Paul Laustsen, a Macintosh user and engineer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who attended the speech, was impressed.

"It's very exciting. At first it looked like a lamp, but it's got great potential," he said. One prediction he made was that the pistonlike neck that supports the flat-panel monitor will easily allow Apple to later replace the 15-inch display with a larger monitor. "It lends itself to an upgrade," he said.

With the release of the new iMac, Apple will ship all of its machines with its new Mac OS X 10.1 operating system as the default boot-up system, Jobs said. Users will be able to dual-boot Mac OS 9 to run older applications.

"We believe the computer is going to become the center -- the digital hub," Jobs said, adding that the company's Macintosh computers would power that hub with new software for managing content such as digital photos, videos and music.

The new iMac

The new iMac

The keynote also featured several other anticipated announcements from Apple and its software partners. San Jose-based graphics software maker Adobe Systems Inc. released new version upgrades to a collection of its software to run on Mac OS X. The upgrades are among the 2,500 native applications now shipping for the operating system, Apple said.

One of Adobe's highlights was a preview of its flagship application, Photoshop 6.0, a program users have waited for since Version 10.1 of Mac OS X debuted. With more advanced photo-editing functions, the application allows users for the first time to spell-check a document.

Showing off the new software during the keynote, Adobe's executive vice president, Shantanu Narayen, took a jab at Microsoft Corp.'s Office for Mac OS X productivity software, which to date has been considered the "poster child" application for the new operating system.

"Given the demonstration that you've seen, Steve, I think we're the poster child application of OS X," Narayen said.

Adobe also announced upgrades to Adobe GoLive 6.0 and Live Motion 2.0. Apple took the wraps off another software application for its digital hub lineup called iPhoto, which allows users to edit, share and print digital photos all in one application. The software was endorsed in an on-stage video by famed Vanity Fair photographer Annie Leibovitz.

But easily stealing the show today was the newly designed iMac.

The original, bubblelike iMac was an instant hit when it was unveiled in 1998, and the colorful computers have been credited with saving Apple from the doldrums it had settled into during the mid-1990s. But over time, some analysts said, the iMac's design had become stale and was in need of a fresh look to boost sales.

Details of the new iMac had been scarce, with Apple officials tight-lipped on what the company would unveil at this week's Macworld Expo. But the first pictures of the product slipped into the public domain early today, when Time Inc.'s Canadian Web site, TimeCanada.com, ran two photographs of the elusive machine.

The new iMac design is a radical departure from the previous version. Its base is a small, halved sphere that measures 26.4cm in diameter. A flat-panel monitor is attached to the base using a jointed chrome neck that can be adjusted to position the monitor. The monitor itself is ringed by a translucent plastic "halo," while the rest of the case and the base are white plastic.

The new iMac, which is priced starting from $1,299, includes a raft of multimedia software applications and, in the top-of-the-range $1,800 model, a DVD burner, according to specifications on Apple's Web site. The iMac will ship with iDVD, which allows users to make DVD movies; iMovie, a video editing application; iPhoto, a new digital photo editing tool; and iTunes, which lets users convert CD music into MP3 files and can sync with Apple's iPod portable MP3 music player, the company said.

Biotechnology firm Genentech Inc. in South San Francisco, Calif., was the first to preorder the new iMac, announcing today that it will buy 1,000 of the new computers.

Some Macintosh enthusiasts expect the new machine to reignite Apple sales.

"It has the potential to blow the market away," said Matthew Kimber, an Apple reseller in New South Wales, Australia, as he posed with a photo of the new computer. "Just look at that. To compare this to the old one -- it's revolutionary."

In his keynote speech, Jobs also said the company's growing line of "i" products is helping to lure customers away from Windows to the Macintosh operating system. He offered evidence of strong sales and customer migration to the company's products, highlighting customer reaction to its new consumer devices, including its digital music players and PCs.

Apple's portable digital audio player, iPod, released Oct. 23, has been the brightest spot in the product line, Jobs said. During the 60 days before Dec. 31, Apple sold 125,000 iPods, he said.

"We have been thrilled with the response," Jobs said.

Apple's retail stores have also taken off in their first few months of operation, even as worldwide PC sales have continued to tread water. The company had promised to open 25 retail stores by the end of 2001 and actually opened 27 around the U.S.

That sales method has won Apple converts, Jobs said, who noted that 40% of PCs and laptops sold at the stores were purchased by people who didn't own a Macintosh, according to internal figures.

"We are thrilled with this number, and we see it climbing as time goes on," he said. Apple plans to boost its business by luring new Macintosh users away from Windows, he said.

About 800,000 people visited the stores in December, Jobs said.

Jobs also used his keynote to plug one of the company's newest major customers. The state of Maine has signed a deal with Apple to equip each of its seventh- and eighth-grade students and teachers with a networked, wireless portable computer. In one of Apple's largest education deals yet, Maine has agreed to buy 36,000 iBook laptops.

"We look at this as one down, 49 to go," Jobs said, referring to the remaining U.S. states.

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