Tech Industry

Apple assault aimed at IBM PCs

Apple releases new low-priced Performa and aggressively cuts prices, giving IBM-compatible PC vendors reason to take notice.

Apple Computer (AAPL) has launched what may be the first of a series of product and price assaults on the PC market dominated by Intel, Compaq Computer, and Microsoft by announcing new, aggressively priced Macintosh Performas and lower pricing on existing models.

Apple has introduced new Performa 6360 and 6400 models for video editing and dropped prices on some of the 6400 line by as much as 21 percent.

"This is absolutely what Apple needed to do. It's a positive statement, along with the news of their quarterly results, that indicates they are getting costs under control," said Van Baker, an analyst with Dataquest.

"Apple's got to play well in the consumer market this season, and frankly we were concerned because Apple's prices were just not that competitive in the market. Now, [it is] so aggressive...[it] might even take in people not even thinking of Apple," Baker said.

The new 6360 Performa comes with a 160-MHz 603e PowerPC processor, 16MB of RAM, a 1.2GB hard drive, a 28.8-kbps modem, and an 8X CD-ROM drive for $1,499.

The Performa 6400 with a 200-MHz 603e PowerPC processor, 16MB of RAM, a 2.4GB hard drive, a 28.8-kbps modem, an 8X CD-ROM drive, and a level-2 cache is now priced at $2,199, down significantly from $2,799.

Apple has also introduced a new custom, high-performance Performa 6400/200 "Video Editing Edition," which is built to help small-office workers and home-video enthusiasts produce VHS-quality videos.

The system includes Avid Cinema, an editing system jointly developed by Apple and Avid Technology. Avid Cinema guides users through the entire video process, from planning shots to final output.

More than 24 sophisticated visual effects are possible, including wipes, peels, fades, and dissolves. The video production system is based on a 200-MHz Macintosh Performa 6400 with 32MB of RAM, a 2.4GB hard drive, 1MB of video RAM, 256KB of level-2 cache, an 8X-speed CD-ROM drive, and a 28.8-kbps modem. It is priced at $2,699.

Featured in all Performa systems, including the new 6360 and the 6400/200 Video Editing Edition, are more than two dozen software applications and 15 CD-ROM disks, Apple said.

The software includes ClarisWorks 4.0, Adobe Photo Deluxe, Quicken SE, and the American Heritage Dictionary. A complete multimedia reference library is also provided and includes an encyclopedia, dictionaries, an atlas, and a health reference guide.

In the next couple of weeks, Apple is also expected to rev up its handheld Newton computer with super-fast StrongARM processors, running as fast 160 MHz now and 200-MHz later. This could speed up functions such as handwriting recognition considerably, according to analysts.

A 160-MHz model is expected to be priced between $800 to $1,000 and will be slightly larger than the current Newton, said a source familiar with the rollout.

Other features which are expected include 5MB of memory (1MB DRAM, 4MB flash RAM), a 4.9-by-3.3-inch LCD with backlight, two Type II card slots, and a dual mode IR transceiver of up to 115 kbps (IrDA mode) and 38.4 kbps (ASK mode) within 3.28 feet.