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Apple to unveil fast Mac lines

High-performance Macintoshes based on new chips are expected to be introduced at MacWorld in August.

Apple Computer (AAPL) will try to generate some excitement at Macworld Boston in August with the introduction of desktop systems using new high-powered PowerPC processors.

Apple will use speedy new versions of the 604e, the most powerful PowerPC processor. The new versions are slated to run at 300- and 350-MHz. The 604e processor is aimed at the high end of the market that is also generally targeted by Intel with its Pentium Pro and Pentium II chips.

Apple also offers systems with the PowerPC 603e chip, running as fast as 300 MHz, but at an equivalent speed the 603e does not typically offer the performance of the more advanced, high-end 604e processor.

The company has exceptionally been active since the news of CEO Gilbert Amelio's resignation, announcing new portable computers and cutting prices on consumer desktop systems. The company is also expected to roll out an improved version of its operating system later this month.

Apple is expected to announce several new high-end Power Macintosh computers used in markets such as scientific applications, graphics, and desktop publishing and video production.

The company will roll out new Power Macintosh 9600s with upgraded chips, according to industry sources. To harness the power of the new processors, the systems will come with 1MB of cache memory that operates at twice the speed of the system's motherboard, or main circuit board. Cache is a high-speed memory that improves performance.

The systems are also expected to come with either 6GB or 5GB hard drives, 64MB of memory, and a 24X CD-ROM drive. The 350-MHz Power Macintosh 9600 is expected to sell for $5,400, while the 300-MHz version is expected to go for $4,600, sources said.

Apple will also give a speed boost to its popular Power Macintosh 8600 series computers. The company is expected to offer a 300-MHz 604e system for $3,700.

Slower versions of the same processor were introduced late last month. Motorola and IBM have already begun manufacturing a 250-MHz PowerPC 604e chip using what is known as the ".25 micron" manufacturing process. That technology will be used to produce the processor used in the 350-MHz systems.

Apple declined to comment on unnannounced products.