Jobs debuts new G4 Cube, iMacs

Headlining his presentation, which ran for almost two hours, was a range of upgrades to the company's G4 Cube and iMac desktop personal computers.

The new Power Mac G4 Cube, which is the first new model in the range announced since the machine debuted at MacWorld in New York in July 2000, has 128MB of memory, a 20GB hard disk and rewritable CD (CD-RW) drive and goes on sale from Thursday priced at $3395. With the arrival of the new machine, the current Cube is cut in priced from $2695, Jobs said.

In addition to the new Cube, Jobs unveiled three new versions of the iMac computer which are also available immediately. Available in Power PC G3 400MHz, 500MHz and 600MHz processor versions, the former two machines have 64MB of main memory while the high-end model has 128MB of memory. CD-RW drives are present on the latter two machines and prices for the computers are $1795, $2495 and $3195 respectively.

The company also unveiled two new case colours available on the two higher-end models -- Flower Power and Blue Dalmation -- which feature coloured patterns within the case mould.

Also of great interest to the Tokyo audience was the lowering in price of Apple's 22-inch (55-centimetre) LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor. The cost of the 22-inch screen is $6295. The company's 15-inch (37.5-centimetre) monitors retain their existing prices. LCD monitors are popular among Japanese computer users and the new price announced Thursday is likely to increase their popularity among Apple users.

Apple also gave over some time to NVidia to give the company's new GeForce 3 graphics processor its first public showing. Apple will begin offering the GeForce 3 chip as an option on its top-of-the range 733MHz PowerMac G4 machine from late March. This machine will be built to order only and the price of the graphics card will be $1195.

Job's keynote comes just over a month before the company's new Mac OS X goes on sale worldwide. Scheduled to hit store shelves on 24 March, the operating system will retail for 14,800 yen in Japan ($220), said Jobs as he previewed the software which he characterised as "pretty good". Applications written for the new OS are expected to begin arriving in stores from the second quarter with the majority becoming available in the middle of 2001.

Also unveiled by Jobs during the keynote was an upgraded version of the new iTunes software, a digital music jukebox launched a month ago. The new software, which can be downloaded free from the company's Web site, extends support for the CD burning function from Apple's CD-RW drive to an additional 25 third party drives.

Digital music underlined several parts of the keynote and looks set to become a major focus for Apple. In addition to a new version of the company's digital music jukebox software, iTunes, Jobs unveiled five new television commercials for the Japan market which promote the software and the iMac's CD burning ability.

Jobs characterised digital music as one of the main pillars of the digital lifestyle era, which he said was just beginning, and also outlined his vision for the Mac computer to sit at the centre of a digital home entertainment network. That vision is shared by several other companies, most notably Japan's Sony, and is likely to become a battleground for personal computer makers in the future.

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Martyn Williams

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