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Apple releases its own Web browser

Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs unveils a new Web browser and says software innovation has placed his company at the forefront of digital entertainment in the home.

Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs on Tuesday unveiled a new Web browser and said software innovation has placed his company at the forefront of digital entertainment in the home.

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Speaking at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Jobs demonstrated an Apple-developed browser called Safari that he claimed is the fastest available. It's "three times faster than (Internet Explorer) on the Mac."

Before the announcement, IE for the Mac had been the default Web browser on new Macs. The bundling began in 1997, when Apple cut a five-year technology agreement with Microsoft that expired last year.

"It's a very minimal" user interface, Jobs said. "We want the contents of the page to be the star here."

Safari is available as a free download starting on Tuesday and runs on Mac OS X version 10.2.

Apple also introduced a new presentation application, called Keynote. "We built this for me, and so I wanted to share it with you," Jobs said, adding that he used test versions of the software for all his Macworld presentations in 2002. The program conceivably would compete with Microsoft's version of PowerPoint for the Mac.

"Keynote imports and exports PowerPoint," Jobs said. The program also supports Adobe's PDF and Apple's QuickTime formats. Keynote will be available starting Tuesday for $99.

Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg said the release of Keynote and Apple's Web browser show that the company is "serious at not relying on Microsoft to deliver key applications to the Mac OS platform." But these products also put the Mac in a precarious position, he said, particularly if Microsoft sees these new products as a reason to slow down how quickly it releases the latest versions of Internet Explorer or Office for the Mac.

"If Apple's products fail to deliver in terms of compatibility, Apple may well have put itself at risk of losing valuable platform support from Microsoft and not being able to supplant that loss with homegrown applications," Gartenberg said. "Nevertheless, this is a risky move that Apple needs to take."

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The company unveils its own Web
browser and supersizes a PowerBook.

While introducing Keynote, Safari and updates to Apple's "digital hub" software, Jobs spoke at length about the company's broader strategy, which revolves around OS X.

"We hit our goal...We now have 5 million active Mac OS X users," he said, predicting that the number could nearly double this year.

Jobs also talked about Apple's retail stores and the "switchers" ad campaign--Web testimonials, print ads and TV commercials featuring people who have switched from a Windows-based PC to a Mac.

"We were right on target" with $148 million in December sales at the retail stores, he said. About 50 percent of those sales were to former Windows users and the 51 stores had 1.4 million visitors in December, he said.

On other points, Jobs:

• Touted the success of a program to give free copies of Mac OS X to teachers. More than 290,000 people signed up for the program, which was supposed to end Dec. 31. Apple extended the deadline until the end of the quarter.

• Announced that Microsoft has extended a promotion that lets buyers of new Macs pick up the full version of Office v. X for $199. The promotion, which cuts about $200 from the full purchase price, was to end in December but has been extended until April.

• Discussed the value of .Mac, the company's online suite of paid services. Apple now has 250,000 paid subscribers, compared with about 2.5 million users when the service was free under name iTools.

• Introduced a new video-editing product, Final Cut Express, a trimmed down version of Apple's Final Cut Pro software. The new product will sell for $299, compared with $999 for Final Cut Pro.

• Talked up iPod, the company's portable music player. Apple has sold 600,000 iPods since its launch 14 months ago, and Jobs said the device has 42 percent market share for digital music players in Japan.

"We live at an incredible time in history," he said. "It's an inflection point," he added, referring to digital devices.

Taking a shine to digital
Jobs' focus on software was not unexpected. The company has increasingly focused on Mac OS X 10.2.3 and its six "i" applications to position the Macintosh as a hub for digital devices and content. The four core applications are: iDVD, iPhoto, iMovie and iTunes.

Jobs also touted the importance of and iSync, the company's newest digital media applications. Apple released new versions of the two digital applications Thursday.

Jobs explained that iDVD, iMovie, iPhoto and iTunes were developed separately but the company is now working to better integrate them. "We are going to do for digital lifestyle applications what Microsoft Office did for productivity applications," he said.

For example, with the updates a user can more easily bring digital music from iTunes into iPhoto for creating a slideshow that can be recorded onto a CD or DVD.

While showing off the new iMovie 3, Jobs highlighted a new user interface, the ability to edit audio and the importation of digital images from iPhoto and music from iTunes. Better integration of iMovie 3 with iDVD means customers no longer need to export movies to build menus before burning them to DVDs, he noted.

As expected, Apple also unveiled iDVD 3, which comes with 24 new themes for creating Hollywood-stylized DVDs. Jobs said Apple distributed 680,000 copies of the earlier versions of iDVD. Apple typically offers the software only with DVD-burning iMacs and Power Macs.

Apple called the integrated suite of "i" applications, iLife. The new suite will be available on Jan. 25 and will be included with all new Macs.

Jobs said that iTunes 3, iMovie 3 and iPhoto 3 will be available separately for free. But consumers will have to pay for iDVD 3 or get all four applications bundled together for $49.