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Apple expected to detail new iMac

Industry sources expect the company to unveil the much-anticipated new computer at a "special event" today.

Apple Computer appears to be ready to finally launch the successor to the immensely popular iMac.

Apple has posted a message on its Web site inviting customers to view a "special event" today. In anticipation of the news, Apple stock was up almost 3 points, or 4.51 percent, yesterday, closing at 64.5.

Industry sources expect that Apple will use today's occasion to formally launch the next-generation iMac along with the new Mac OS 9 operating system software.

The new iMacs are expected to have faster chips and, for the first time, DVD players, sources said. The new iMacs themselves have been ready to go into volume production, but they needed certain software technology present in the OS 9 before they could ship, said one source familiar with the matter.

Apple declined to comment.

New iMacs would come at a time when two other recently introduced products are in short supply, say various resellers contacted by CNET The iBook notebook computer, introduced in July, was shipped to customers in September--as Apple promised--but only in extremely limited quantities.

Also, the high-end Power Mac G4 systems, especially those with the fastest chips, have been delayed and have only recently started to trickle into customers' hands. Those delays will cause Apple to post lower earnings for the fourth fiscal quarter of 1999 than had been anticipated, the company has said. Apple will report earnings on October 13. Consensus analysts' estimates of earnings are now at 45 cents per share, according to First Call.

Anticipation builds
Reseller sources note that Apple has been instructing them to pare down inventory of the current iMacs. Historically, such moves have preceeded the launch of new products.

Apple itself has been hinting at the introduction of new products, including the new Power Mac G4 systems, since July. During a conference call, chief financial officer Fred Anderson told financial analysts to expect product transitions in the December quarter (which is the first fiscal quarter of 2000 for Apple).

Apple has previously said that Mac OS 9 would be available in mid-October. Among the features are an update to the Sherlock search technology which would make online shopping easier, as well as offer Apple opportunities to boost revenues by becoming an e-commerce portal. The new OS will be available for $99, Apple has stated previously.

Will new products restore sheen?
Apple has lost some of its luster as a result of the product availability issues, but analysts have not expressed concern that the issues will last into the next quarter, mostly because things such as processor availability were out of Apple's control. A new product launch often has resulted in a lift for Apple's stock price, and should help boost investor confidence in the company.

Retailers and financial analysts alike are anticipating that the revised iMacs should be popular items in the upcoming holiday selling season. The systems could be even more popular if Apple decided to offer rebates for Internet service, like other PC companies, analysts say.