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Jobs satisfies Mac faithful

Apple Computer Inc. CEO Steve Jobs took to the Macworld stage last week to unveil a pair of offerings that gained the immediate embrace of the Mac faithful in the San Francisco audience. Jobs first unveiled the long-anticipated new version of the iMac, and then debuted an application for managing digital images, called iPhoto, and reassured the Mac faithful that Apple had not forgotten its commitment to create "the ultimate digital hub."

Jobs unveiled Apple's new desktop machine near the end of his two-hour conference kick-off speech in a theatrical moment worthy of any stage magician. With the sweep of his arm, a black box rose from beneath the stage, and, voila, the new iMac stood revealed, spinning gently in the spotlight. Jobs described the new iMacs as "a technical tour de force."

Design-wise, the new machine is a radical departure from the original, bubble-like device that were a hit with a variety of specialized audiences. With its 15-inch flat-panel display attached to a 10.5-inch, round base by a jointed chrome neck, the new iMac resembles a desk lamp, and has already acquired a nickname: "iLamp." The screens can rotate 180 degrees, and the systems come with a G4 processor and up to a gigabyte of memory.

"We have been working on this for two years," Jobs told an audience of an estimated 4,000 attendees gathered at the Moscone Center for the annual conference. "I know some of you wanted it sooner, but I think you'll agree it was worth the wait."

The original, brightly colored iMacs first appeared in May 1998, and many believe they saved Apple, whose fortunes had been waning. The company sold approximately 6 million of the machines, and the design had changed little since they first appeared. Recently, sales of the once-popular machines had been in decline. Some analysts estimated that fiscal fourth-quarter sales of iMacs fell to 294, 000 units for $276 million, almost half the 571,000 units for $593 million sold a year earlier.

During his speech, Jobs also announced lower prices on Apple's iBook consumer laptop, and introduced a high-end iBook with a 14-inch screen. He also announced that every new Mac would boot into OS X.

Jobs talked about Apple's digital hub strategy, first announced at last year's conference. Putting a Mac at the center of a user's digital universe—making it the link that unites digital cameras, MP3 players, and camcorders—is still at the heart of the company's strategy going forward, Jobs said. He hailed the new iMac as "the ultimate digital hub."

"Our goal was to...connect to all your digital devices," Jobs told attendees.

Jobs claimed that Apple's growing line of consumer-oriented "i" products is luring customers away from a Windows-centric world. He cited holiday sales figures for Apple's recently released portable digital audio player, iPod, as an example: During the 60 days before December 31, the company sold 125,000 iPods, Jobs said.

Jobs said the iPhoto software allows users to import, edit, and print digital photos. It comes bundled with the new iMacs.

Jobs said that Apple's 27 new retail stores are also helping to create converts to the Mac platform. He said that 40 percent of the computers and laptops sold at the stores were purchased by people who didn't own a Mac. "We are thrilled with this number and we see it climbing as time goes on," Jobs said.

The 800-MHz version of Apple's new iMac starts shipping this with a price tag of $1,799, according to Jobs. Two other models, running at 700 MHz, will sell for as low as $1,299, he said.

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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