Apple exec on the iMac, iPod, Cinema and Bluetooth

Yesterday, during his keynote address at Macworld Tokyo, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs announced several updated products and also addressed concerns about iMac shipments. Much to the delight of the crowd, Jobs introduced a 10GB iPod, a 23-inch Cinema Display and a new Bluetooth product.

The topic that seemed to be on everyone's mind was the iMac and Apple's problems in filling orders since it was introduced at Macworld San Francisco this past January. According to Apple, they are working to fill the backlog of orders as quickly as possible.

"We have now shipped more than 125,000 iMacs and we've ramped production to more than 5,000 a day," Apple's Senior Director of Hardware Product Marketing Greg Joswiak told MacCentral. "This is really good news; it means that we are going to eat into to the backlog created for this product."

Jobs also announced last night a price increase of US$100 for the new iMac, which he attributed to conditions outside of Apple's control. Joswiak said the problem is an industry wide issue; RAM prices have tripled and LCD prices have risen by 25 percent.

"We had a couple of choices: we could de-configure the iMac, like some others are doing or make a price adjustment -- we decided to make a price adjustment," said Joswiak. "Even after we make the price adjustment, our configuration and pricing is still really aggressive and the iMac is still the value leader for flat panel computers."

The price increase is effective immediately, but don't worry, if you already placed your order, Apple will honor the previously lower prices.

Joswiak also takes issue with the perception -- and some published articles -- that Apple is stocking its own stores with iMacs, leaving their dealer network with none of the new flat panel computers to sell to its customers. "The reality is, this is just not true," said Joswiak. "We've shipped less than 10 percent of the new iMacs to our own retail stores."

One of the products Jobs showed attendees was an updated iPod. The 10GB iPod enables users to store up to 2,000 CD-quality songs.

Apple has also released free software that adds the ability for iPod users to download and store contact lists with up to 1,000 names and addresses. Contact software enables users to drag & drop vcard contacts from Entourage, Palm Desktop or Mac OS X's Address Book into the iPod Contacts folder.

Users wanting to add a custom look to their iPod can now get them custom-engraved with laser etching. According to Joswiak, customers can add 2 lines, with 27 characters per line, of laser engraving for an additional $49.

Apple's Cinema Display always attracts a large crowd during a Macworld Expo. The new 23-inch Cinema HD Display boasts a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixel and costs US$3,400. The new Cinema has enough room to view High Definition Television (HDTV) content "with room to spare."

If the price is a bit much for you, don't worry, you will still be able to get the 22-inch Cinema Display. "We are adding it [23-inch Cinema HD Display] to the product line, so we are not replacing the 22-inch," Joswiak said.

Jobs also demoed Apple's Bluetooth implementation. Bluetooth enables short-range wireless connectivity between a Mac and a variety of digital devices, including Bluetooth-enabled PDAs and cell phones.

"We believe by building Bluetooth into the system level of OS X and making it logical and affordable to our customers we are going to make the launchpad for Bluetooth in order for it to take hold as an industry standard."

Apple is making a preview version of its Bluetooth software for Mac OS X 10.1.3 available as a free download and is offering a Bluetooth USB adaptor, which can Bluetooth-enable any USB-based Mac, for $49.

Joswiak believes Apple has a key role to play in the industry when it comes to Bluetooth adoption. As with other technologies, Apple feels they will lead the pack once again.

"We think our adoption of Bluetooth is important for the entire industry," said Joswiak. "We are acknowledged as the company that made USB popular by building into the system level of our OS -- we did the same for 802.11b in our AirPort."

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Jim Dalrymple

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