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Jobs: New Intel Macs are 'screamers'

Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduces the first Intel-based Macs, almost a half a year ahead of schedule.

A correction was made to this story. Click here for details.

SAN FRANCISCO--Addressing a packed crowd of the Mac faithful, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs on Tuesday served up the first Intel-based Macs, introducing a new high-end laptop and a revamped iMac.

The new machines both include Intel's Duo dual-core chip. The iMac will come in the same sizes and sell for the same prices as the current models, but the Intel chips make it two to three times faster, Jobs said. A new laptop computer, called the MacBook Pro, will be available in February, he said.

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Video: Debut of first Intel-based Mac
At Macworld, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveils an updated, Intel-based iMac.

In addition to the crop of new Macs, Jobs announced a new version of the iLife suite that adds a tool--iWeb--designed to make it easy to create Web sites with video, audio and blogs, and new features meant to simplify the sharing of photos over the Web and the creation of podcasts.

Jobs said Apple would transition to an all-Intel lineup of Macintosh computers by the end of 2006.

"We're a little ahead of schedule," he said, with Intel Chief Executive Officer Paul Otellini joining him onstage dressed in a head-to-toe "bunny suit," the protective suits that workers wear in chipmaking facilities. "These things are screamers."

The release of the new Macs comes just seven months after Jobs shocked the computer world with an announcement that Apple would move to Intel chips, after years of using the PowerPC hardware made by IBM and Motorola.

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Jobs said last June that Apple would have computers ready to ship by June of this year. Beating that mark by almost half a year will help ease a transition some feared would result in several quarters of diminished sales, analysts said.

"The critical thing they delivered on is what people, including analysts, were expecting," said Charlie Wolf, a financial analyst at Needham. "They have begun the Intel transition sooner rather than later."

Still, Jobs took pains to dispel any notion of a current slowdown in Apple sales. In an uncharacteristic announcement, he said the company had a record $5.7 billion in revenue for the quarter that ended in December. Apple's retail stores alone accounted for $1 billion in revenue, he said.

That included sales of 14 million iPods in the holiday quarter, with more than 32 million of the music devices sold over the course of 2005. Those figures, at least as much as the new products, impressed analysts.

"They could have announced dog food and the stock would have been up five points," Wolf said.

The new iMac line will include a 17-inch, 1.83GHz version, selling for $1,299, and a 20-inch, 2GHz version for $1,699.

Once released in February, the MacBook Pro line of laptops will include a $1,999 model running at 1.67GHz and featuring a 15-inch screen. That version will also come with an 80GB hard drive and a new infrared sensor to use with the Apple Remote control device. A second version will feature a 1.83GHz processor and a 100GB hard drive and cost $2,499.

"The MacBook Pro is the fastest Mac notebook ever, obviously," Jobs said.

Focus on creating media, not selling it
The company was light on the media announcements that have come to define Apple events in recent months. Jobs did say, however, that the iTunes store will begin selling clips from "Saturday Night Live" and that more than 8 million videos have been sold through the iTunes online store since October.

The iTunes Music Store has now sold about 850 million songs and is on track to pass the 1 billion mark in the next few months, selling about 3 million songs a day, he added.

He also introduced a new, $49 FM radio and remote control accessory for the iPod. Most rival MP3 players already offer FM radio as a standard feature.

Aside from those media tidbits, Tuesday's announcements were focused on the new generation of consumer software, much of which has been seemingly inspired by the success of podcasting and is designed to help Mac users distribute movies, photos and audio more easily over the Net.

Macworld

Jobs spent considerable time demonstrating the new version of iPhoto, which includes a "photocasting" feature that lets people create online photo albums. Other people can subscribe to these albums, just as they do today with blogs or podcasts, and have new photos downloaded automatically to their own computers.

The new iPhoto is faster and can now handle up to 250,000 photos--10 times the prior limit, he added.

The GarageBand music-production software has also been updated to include a podcasting studio, which streamlines the process of making a radiolike show and posting it online.

As expected, the software suite's biggest addition was iWeb, which allows users to make their own Web sites, complete with audio, video and photos drawn from the company's other applications, in just a few minutes. The entire software suite will keep its $79 price tag and will come free on new Mac computers.

"It's a giant new release," Jobs said, talking about the new iLife '06 suite. "It's going to propel us even further ahead of anything else in the world.

The company's consumer applications, including iLife, will run natively on the new Intel processors starting immediately, as well as on the Power PC chip. Professional audio, video and photo applications will be updated in March, and customers will be able to buy a "crossgrade," or new version of the existing software, for $49, he said.

Most other applications will run smoothly by using the translation software called Rosetta, which will come with every new Intel-based Mac, he said. Microsoft's Office will be one of those applications.

Microsoft Mac Business Unit General Manager Roz Ho joined Jobs onstage to say that the software powerhouse is moving ahead to create an Intel-based version of Office. She announced a deal between Apple and Microsoft under which Microsoft will continue creating new versions of Office for Mac for a minimum of five years.

The "commitment should leave no doubt in your mind that we're here to stay, and we're in it for the long term," Ho said.

The quick release of the Intel-based products has left some developers, who expected a few more months before release, scrambling to transfer their own applications over to an Intel-compatible version. Code written specifically for that hardware will typically run faster than software written for the PowerPC chips, but using the Rosetta translation software.

Some of the largest developers have already done considerable work, and are nearly ready to release product. An Adobe spokesman said their Photoshop application would have to wait until the next scheduled update (which doesn't have a date attached yet), but their new Lightroom software will be released in Intel-compatible version sometime in the next few months.

"We think it's great that Apple was able to get this ahead of schedule," said Kevin Connor, Adobe's senior director of product management for digital imaging. "We've already got (Lightroom) running in house on Intel based Macs. We've been waiting until they ship to post it, and now this will let us get that out too."

Other developers are starting to release Intel-based versions of their products too, but they hadn't been warned of the change in the release schedule, Jobs said.
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Video: Jobs shows off the MacBook Pro
Apple CEO debuts an Intel-based laptop that he says is four to five times faster than the PowerBook G4.

Leaving no doubt that Apple would launch a marketing blitz around the Intel-based machines, Jobs showed off a new advertisement introducing the products. Reminiscent of the "1984" commercial that touted the first Macintosh computer, it painted the new line of products as a liberation for the Intel chip itself.

For years, the Intel chip has been "trapped inside PCs--dull little boxes, dutifully performing dull little tasks," the ad says. "Starting today, the Intel chip will be set free, and get to live life inside a Mac."

As is often the case, some of the wildest predictions about potential products turned out to be off the mark, including rumors that Apple would have a plasma television with a built-in Mac computer. The company also did not update the Mac Mini or iBook with Intel chips, as many enthusiast sites predicted.

 

Correction:This article incorrectly reported the screen size of the MacBook Pro laptops that Apple will be releasing. Both new models will have a 15.4-inch screen.
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