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Jobs celebrates Mac's 20th and Apple's future

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs kicked off this week's Macworld Conference with a bit of nostalgia during his opening keynote by re-playing the company's famous award-winning ''1984'' TV ad that ran during the Superbowl 20 years ago and launched the Macintosh computer.

''It was literally a decade ahead of anything else,'' Jobs gushed about that first Mac. ''We literally had to teach people what a mouse was, what pointing and clicking was, and what cutting and pasting was.''

Jobs didn't focus long on the past, however. He used his keynote before a packed audience of Mac faithful at the Moscone Center in San Francisco to talk about his company's expansion into online music, digital media editing software and supercomputing.

The big news for Mac-oriented enterprises this week is Apple's Xserve RAID storage system, which is designed to deliver 3.5 Tbytes of storage capacity and up to 210 Mbps throughout. The system complements Apple's new 2GHz Xserve G5, Jobs said, and delivers more than 30 gigaflops of processing power. It also supports both Windows and Linux, and is priced from $5,999 to $10,999, depending on configuration.

In addition, Microsoft previewed the 2004 version of Office for the Mac, which is due to ship this spring. The Mac version will allow people to record audio directly in Word, include a palette-formatting tool that becomes transparent, and it has a project center for managing and overseeing projects.

But the dominant subject of Jobs' keynote was Apple's move into the music business. According to Jobs, Apple's online iTunes music store now accounts for 70% of all legal music downloads.

Jobs unveiled Apple's newest music application, GarageBand, which he characterized as a ''professional music tool for everyone.'' GarageBand joins iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and iTunes to become the fifth app in Apple's $49 iLife suite.

''Surveys say that half of all U.S. households have someone who is a current musician,'' Jobs said. ''This is a big market, and we think this application will appeal to those folks.''

GarageBand includes more than 50 software instruments, more than 1,000 professionally recorded audio loops, and six guitar amps designed to duplicate the sounds of famous players, such as Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Users can save songs created in GarageBand to iTunes, which allows them to be played on an iPod.

To help demo the new app, Jobs called rocker John Mayer to the stage. Playing a keyboard linked to a Mac via a USB cable, Mayer used the GarageBand software to produce the sounds of a variety of instruments, including piano, guitar, percussion and horns. ''This is the first time I've heard a guitar sound like a guitar on a keyboard,'' Mayer said. ''You can hear string noise in there, too.''

But the star of the show opener was the new version of Apple's iPod portable music player, the unveiling of which drew cheers from the crowd. Jobs demoed the new iPod Mini during his presentation. The slimmed-down player, scheduled for release in February, weighs in at 3.6 ounces and is about the size of a half-inch-thick business card. Apple has squeezed a 4GB hard drive into that form factor, which is just large enough to hold about 1,000 CD-quality songs, according to Apple. (The top-of-the-line iPod ships with a 40GB hard drive.) The new iPod Mini will be available in five colors, Jobs noted.

Apple is going after the digital music market currently dominated by flash memory players, Jobs said, such as the venerable Rio from Digital Media Networks. ''We looked at this high-end flash market and we want to go after that,'' he said.

Although industry watchers had predicted that Apple would offer the iPod Mini for as little as $100, the little player is going for $249. Rival players from Rio, Creative and Dell cost less than $200, though they hold fewer songs.

Apple claims a 31% share of the MP3 market worldwide, and 55% of revenue. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company sold 730,000 iPods during its most recent quarter, Jobs said, and shipped its two millionth player in December.

Unconfirmed rumors that Apple would offer a smaller capacity player in the near future circulated among attendees.

Jobs decision to give the July Macworld event in New York a pass, reportedly because of a dispute with the show's producer, IDG World Expo, sparked a pre-show rumor that he would not appear at this week's event. Jobs skipped the July show because of IDG's decision to move the East Coast show to Boston beginning in 2004, a source inside Apple said. Jobs appeared at Apple's own Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco in June, where he unveiled the ''Panther'' 10.3 version of Mac OS X.

This week's conference filled both the North and South wings of the Moscone Center with a wide range of exhibitors.

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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