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Undaunted Apple offers new lines

Despite its management upheaval, the company continues to show that it intends to stay competitive with new products and reduced prices.

    Upheaval in Apple Computer's (AAPL) top ranks notwithstanding, the company continues to show that it intends to stay competitive with new products and reduced prices.

    On Saturday, CNET's NEWS.COM reported a surprising round of Apple price cuts. That was followed today by a critical update to its midrange notebook computer line.

    The PowerBook 1400 notebook now has a 166-MHz model, while prices on the 133-MHz computers are reduced--the first significant change to the line since it was introduced late last year.

    "These are the kind of speed bumps they need to be making as a regular course of the upgrade cycle. In that sense, its a job well done for getting on to a standard practice in the industry," says Mike McGuire, an analyst with market research firm Dataquest.

    The real significance, however, may lie in the fact that Apple was issuing this kind of business-as-usual product announcement so quickly after the stunning resignation of CEO Gilbert Amelio last week.

    The new PowerBook 1400c/166 will come with a 166-MHz 603e PowerPC processor, serving as Apple's midrange offering for basic office applications, as first reported in April by NEWS.COM. Apple's sub-$2000 PowerBook 1400cs/117 models will be dropped, while remaining 1400s will also get larger hard drives and faster CD-ROM drives.

    The newest model will bridge the gap between the older 1400s and high-performance PowerBook 3400 line, which offers the most powerful systems.

    Apple will add a 2GB hard disk drive and an 8X CD-ROM drive to the 1400c/166 model, which is expected to retail for $3,500.

    Apple says the 1400c/166 model is expected to retail for $3,500. The other models will range in price from $2,500 to $3,000. All models will be available later this July.

    Also, in the first concrete product move since its management upheaval last week, Apple on Saturday reduced prices up to $300 on select Power Macintosh 6500 and Macintosh Performa 6400 series computers.

    The Power Macintosh 6500 line, introduced in April 1997, offers performance ranging from 225 to 300 MHz, using a 603e PowerPC processor. It features an advanced graphics chip from ATI Technologies, built-in Internet access capabilities, and video capture, edit, and publishing options.

    The 6500 comes standard with a minimum of 32MB of memory, a 3GB or 4GB hard drive. Systems also feature built-in 12X-speed CD-ROM driveS and modems.

    A 6500 model with a 300-MHz 603e processor, 64MB of memory, and a 4GB hard drive will fall in price from $3,000 to $2,800.

    This compares favorably with fastest multimedia systems from Intel-processor-based vendors such as Compaq Computer and IBM. Systems with speedy Intel processors and large memory and hard drive configurations are typically well over $3,000.

    At the lower end of the spectrum, a Power Macintosh 6500 with a 225-MHz processor willfall from $2,000 to $1,800. This includes the standard features and a 3GB hard drive.

    Prices were also slashed $300 on the Performa 6400 series. The 6400/200 Video Editing Edition is now $1,800, down from $2,100. This model includes a 200-MHz 603e processor, 32MB of memory, a 2.4GB hard drive, an 8X CD-ROM drive, and a 28.8-kbps modem.

    The 6400/200 Video Editing Edition adds multimedia features such as video capture and creation and publishing using Avid Cinema video-editing technology.

    A standard Performa 6400 (not a Video Editing Edition) with a 200-MHz processor, 32MB of memory, a 2.4GB hard drive, an 8X CD-ROM drive, and a 28.8-kbps modem is now $1,400, down from $1,700.