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Apple's new eMac sports 17-inch screen

Aiming to boost its fortunes in the education market, the Mac maker plans to unveil an all-in-one computer built around a 17-inch flat-screen monitor.

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Educating with Apple's new eMac
Greg Joswiak, hardware marketing director, Apple
CUPERTINO, Calif.--Aiming to boost its fortunes in the education market, Apple Computer on Monday plans to unveil the eMac, an all-in-one computer similar to the original iMac, but built around a 17-inch flat-screen monitor.

The all-white desktop, which will be sold only to teachers, schools and college students, features a 700MHz G4 processor, a 40GB hard drive and 128MB of memory. A model with a tray-loading CD-ROM drive will sell for $999, while a similar model that can burn CDs and play DVD movies will sell for $1,199, again only in the education market. Because it uses a flat-screen CRT (cathode-ray tube) monitor, the eMac takes up roughly the same amount of space as the original iMac.

"Customers were saying, 'We need something with a larger display,'" said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing. Schiller said Apple will start taking orders for the eMac on its Web site this week and start shipping in late May or early June.

Although Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs declared the CRT monitor dead in January, Apple has good reason to use a flat CRT monitor, which is thinner than traditional CRT monitors but thicker than the flat-panel liquid crystal displays (LCDs) found on notebooks and on Apple's latest iMac. They typically cost less than LCDs, and cost is all-important in the cash-strapped education market.

Also, Apple plans to introduce two new PowerBooks that are faster, have an improved screen and better graphics. An 800MHz version with improved ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics, a 40GB hard drive, 512MB of memory, a wireless networking card, and a combination drive that can burn CDs and play DVD movies will sell for $3,199--$200 more than Apple's current high-end machine, which ran at 667MHz.

The other model comes with a 667MHz chip, 256MB of memory and a 30GB hard drive but without an AirPort card, and is priced at $2,499. That's $200 higher than the current low-end model, but $500 cheaper than the 667MHz machine that Apple has been selling.

The PowerBooks, which will be made available immediately, feature the same size screen as their predecessors, at 15.2 inches. However, the new PowerBooks can display 1,280 pixels by 854 pixels, about 25 percent more than the models they replace. The new machines also benefit from 1MB of Level 3 cache memory, which helps speed up things like the real-time effects in video editing programs such as Apple's Final Cut Pro.

As for the eMac, its arrival comes relatively early in this year's peak education buying season. Apple Chief Financial Officer Fred Anderson indicated during the company's earnings conference call earlier this month that Apple was feeling the pinch of tighter budgets, but hinted obliquely that it might be doing something to improve its position.

"We experienced sequential growth in our education channel but our overall performance in the market continues to be impacted by tax revenue shortfalls," Anderson told analysts. "We are making additional improvements in our coverage model to further expand our advocacy during the upcoming education buying season."

Apple has been looking to regain the top spot in the education market, which Dell Computer currently leads. Apple, though, has a historically strong presence in the market as well as a substantial installed base.

"It's such a critical market to us emotionally, as well as (being) a percentage of our business," Schiller said.

Will Apple climb back in education with eMac?
Rob Enderle, analyst, Giga Information Group

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Last quarter, the company also saw its overall market share slightly recover, according to research firm IDC. Now, Apple is tied with Acer as the ninth-largest computer company worldwide. In the United States, the company saw its market share rise to 3.7 percent, from 3.4 percent the year before. In 1997, Apple held 4.1 percent of the U.S. market and 6.7 percent in 1996.

Schiller said that Apple's commitment to education goes beyond the bottom line.

"We think we make a better machine to learn on," Schiller said. Schiller said other tech companies have the wrong idea about the purpose of putting computers in schools. "It's not to have (another) IT department," Schiller said. "It's to help kids learn."

Schools had complained about the cost of the flat-panel iMac; many wanted a bigger screen, but not the high price tag. The new iMac has been selling to schools, but at a lower rate than either the old iMac or the iBook portable. The eMac fits in just above the old iMac in Apple's educational pricing structure, with the 15-inch screen products ranging from $699 to $949.

Apple's eMac From a design perspective, the eMac builds upon Apple's growing fondness for white, fitting in well with the iBook, flat-panel iMac and iPod. It has new 16-watt stereo speakers, which look as if Apple's baseball-like Pro Speakers have been inserted into the eMac's case. It also adds an audio-in port, another request from schools.

"We're about innovation, which means moving on," Apple Design Chief Jonathan Ive said in a January interview, discussing Apple's retrenchment from the days of Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian.

A 17-inch version of the iMac has been rumored to be under development for some time. Although the flat-panel iMac was two years in the making, Schiller said Apple started on the eMac more recently, as Apple saw it would have a tough time getting the flat-panel machine under $1,000.

The eMac is not the first Apple computer that the company has sold just to schools. In 1996, for example, Apple introduced the eMate, an $800, 4-pound mobile computer based around its Newton technology.

Apple also introduced an all-in-one PowerMac G3 computer in 1998 that was sold only in the education market.

Apple is also introducing a device that allows PowerBooks to connect to Apple's flat-panel displays. The DVI to ADC Adapter also will allow recent PowerMacs that have Nvidia's top-of-the-line GeForce 4 Titanium to use two digital displays. It will cost $149.