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Apple’s Jobs wows Macworld crowd with Headless Mac, Flash iPod, and OS X Tiger

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.--Apple CEO Steve Jobs kicked off this week's annual Macworld Conference and Expo by demoing the new "Tiger" release of Mac OS X and unveiling the hotly rumored Mac mini "headless" desktop PC and a new flash-memory-based iPod.

The Tiger release of Mac OS X comes with 200 new features, jobs said, including a new desktop search feature, called Spotlight, which looks to put Apple in direct competition with similar new offerings from Google and Microsoft.

Jobs promised attendees in the packed auditorium at San Francisco's Moscone Center that Apple was on track to deliver the new OS in the first half of this year, adding, in a dig at Microsoft, "Long before Longhorn."

The Mac mini marks Apple's first serious move into the budget desktop market. Smaller even than some external optical drives, the Mac mini comes without a monitor, keyboard, or mouse, and is priced at $499 (40GB hard drive) and $599 (80GB hard drive), putting it in a head-to-head competition with Dell and Hewlett-Packard. The Mac mini is set to ship on Jan. 22.

"People who are thinking of switching will have no more excuses," Jobs told a packed house at Moscone Center.

The Mac mini comes with Apple's the Mac OS X 10.3, known as Panther, as well as the newest version of its iLife suite of digital media software

Jobs also unveiled a new software suite called iWork 05, which is designated as the successor to AppleWorks. It comprises a new version of Apple's Keynote presentation software and Pages, which replaces iWord with, in Jobs's words, "word processing with a sense of style." Pages is designed to integrate, via a media browser, with Apple’s iLife suite of digital video, audio, and photography software. Apple expects to ship the new bundle on Jan. 22 for $79.

Jobs also gave his audience an update on the state of Apple's iTunes online music store. iTunes currently commands a 70 percent market share, he said, and has sold more than 230 million songs. The current sell rate is half a billion songs per year, Jobs said.

The Mac mini was the keynote's "wow" moment, but the unveiling of the new flash-based iPod, which he saved for the end, drew a few ooos and ahhhs from the crowd. About the size of a pack of gum, the iPod Shuffle holds between 120 and 240 songs, compared with the 15,000-song capacity of top-end iPods, which sell for $599.

Jobs was joined on stage by rocker John Mayer, who helped him to demo new features of Apple's GarageBand music software. And a slightly confused Kunitake Ando, president of Sony, made an appearance to help Jobs usher in "the year of high definition video. Jobs introduced the second version of Apple's HD editing product, Final Cut Express HD.

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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