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Apple touts new G4 chip, Mac OS 9

Interim CEO Steve Jobs talks up the new products' superiority over similar products from Microsoft and Intel and emphasizes the growing importance of the Internet in Apple's plans.

SAN FRANCISCO--Apple interim chief executive Steve Jobs today unveiled computers with new G4 processors and showed off new features in an upcoming version of the Macintosh operating system at the Seybold conference here.

Jobs touted the new products' superiority over similar products from Microsoft and Intel and emphasized the growing importance of the Internet in Apple's product development efforts.

As previously reported by CNET, the Apple chief introduced the new G4 PowerPC chip, running at speeds of 400, 450, and 500 MHz. Designed to speed up tasks--like encoding digital media and running Internet applications like security software and Apple's own QuickTime streaming media software--the new G4 runs more than two times as fast as comparable Pentium III chips from Intel, Jobs said, adding that Apple used Intel's own benchmark tests. This claim will almost certainly be disputed by Intel and others.

Calling the new G4 a "supercomputer on a chip," Jobs said desktops running the 400-MHz version will be available starting today, featuring a new, faster system architecture to take advantage of the new chip. The 400-MHz G4 desktop computer will be priced at $1,599, he said. A 500-MHz system with DVD-RAM--the industry's first to ship with re-recordable DVD--will ship in October and is priced at $3,499.

Jobs keynote "These tasks are bringing today's computers to their knees," Jobs said. "This is the kind of stuff we're already doing, but we're doing it too slowly." Apple said that its computer is so fast, it is classified as a supercomputer by the U.S. government and can't be sold to certain countries. Jobs played a new TV commercial based on this issue, as well as commercials for the previously announced iBook notebook.

The new G4s, Jobs quipped, "Will be available in all freedom-loving countries."

Reaction to Apple's chip speed claims were swift from the Intel Developer Forum in Palm Springs, California.

"There are lies, damn lies, and demos," said David Wu, an analyst at ABN AMRO.

Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Insight 64, was not quite so harsh, saying it's "difficult to compare clock rates across [computer] architectures." Apple noted that it utilized tests Intel designed for its own chips by compiling them for use on the G4 processor.

Brookwood said that Apple does get some advantages from the AltiVec extensions (now referred to as Velocity Engine), that the chip uses. But "it's kind of irrelevant" to compare G4s to Pentium IIIs, because customers would buy them for different reasons, he said.

A brand new 22-inch flat panel display, which Apple claims is the industry's largest, was introduced as well. The display will be sold only by Apple in conjunction with a 500-MHz Power Mac because it will be available in such limited quantities. The package is priced at $6,498 and will be available in October.

Greg Hopper, president of San Jose, California-based Hopper Communications, a graphics design firm, said of the displays: "I'd sell my kidney to get one." Hopper said he figures the new computer will save him a significant amount of time in creating images and graphics when using applications such as Adobe's Photoshop.

Just as he had at Macworld New York in July, Jobs touted Mac OS 9, as the new operating system will be called when it is released in mid-October. One of the new features is the "key chain" function of the software, which acts as a master password and sets in motion all other passwords for accessing corporate networks, applications, and the Internet. The new OS will be available for $99, he said.

Of particular interest to Seybold attendees was Jobs's demonstration of a new function of AppleScript in Mac OS 9, which allows users to automate remote production of documents over the Internet. "This gives new meaning to the term 'Net publishing,'" he said.

Looking ahead
When Apple unveiled the now-popular iMac computer last year, it was seen as revolutionary for its new all-in-one design and lack of a floppy disk drive. Apple has since shipped more than 2 million iMacs, Jobs said today, and reached its target audience of first-time users interested in getting online. One year later, more than 90 percent of iMac users are on the Net, he said.

Apple is expected to unveil new iMacs in time for this year's holiday season.

The upcoming iBook portable computer may wind up being as big a hit as the iMac, if initial indications mean anything. Apple today said it had received 140,000 preorders for the notebook, which is due out later this month. Those orders don't yet include the Japan market, which is one of the strongest portable markets in the world, Jobs said.'s Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.