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Apple energizes Power lines

Apple unveils a high-performance notebook and refreshes its Power Macintosh line of business computers.

Apple (AAPL) today unveiled a much-anticipated, high-performance notebook computer and refreshed its Power Macintosh line of business computers with faster processors and new, easy-to-service cases.

As previously reported by CNET, Apple introduced the PowerBook 3400 line, formerly code-named Hooper. Initially, the notebook will ship with 180- or 200-MHz 603e PowerPC processors and is now available in limited supply. A 240-MHz PowerBook 3400 will ship sometime in April, according to the company.

The 3400 has other cutting-edge features such as a 3GB hard disk drive, a 12X CD-ROM, and a 12.1-inch active-matrix LCD screen. These are all firsts for PowerBooks and will make them extremely competitive compared with Intel-based notebooks. Prices range from $4,500 to $6,500 for the new notebooks.

Apple's latest lineup:  
Model Price
7300/180 $2,300
7300/200 $2,700
8600/200 $3,200
9600/200 $3,700
9600/233 $4,200
9600/200MP (multiprocessor) $4,700
4400/200 PowerBook $1,700
The entire Power Mac line's processor speeds will increase while prices will remain the same. At the top of the line, the 9500 that is used in medical, scientific, and publishing markets will be replaced by the 9600. The 9600 will be offered in single and dual-processor versions with the 200-MHz 604e and will be upgradable to faster processors as they become available.

Both the 9600 and 8600--the successor to the 8500--will be housed in a new chassis that has been designed for easier access to components such as memory and drive bays, according to sources.

The company also announced a whole new line of general use, entry-level computers for businesses with its Power Macintosh 4400/200 series, with other Power Macs replacing existing lines. The 4400 is the only Power Mac model to offer the lower-cost 603e PowerPC processor, which is normally used in consumer desktops and notebooks. All other models will use the 604e PowerPC chip.

Another feature of the 4400 is that it also uses more industry-standard parts than previous Power Mac products, such as the IDE hard drive, CD-ROM, and casing in order to drive the price down. It will come with 16MB of RAM, 2GB hard drive, 8X CD-ROM, and 2 PCI expansion slots, as well as built-in Ethernet connectivity. It is priced at approximately $1,700.

The 9600s will come in three versions--a 200-MHz and 233-MHz version and a 200-MHz dual-processor version. The systems come with a new 128-bit video/graphics accelerator card, 32MB of RAM, 4GB hard drive, 12X CD-ROM, 6 PCI expansion slots, and built-in Ethernet (as do all other Power Macs). The Power Macintosh 8500/180 and 8500/150 is being replaced by the 8600/200, which will have a 200-MHz 604e processor and 256K of secondary cache, 32MB RAM, 2GB hard drive, and built-in Zip drive from Iomega.

The midrange lineup sees the replacement of the 7600/132 and 7200/120 with two versions of the 7300, either with 200-MHz or 180-MHz 604e PowerPC processor. Other features are similar to the 8600 line, except there are only three PCI slots for expansion. For the first time, users will be able to upgrade the processors in these midrange systems. Apple says all of the new systems will run Rhapsody, the next generation of the Mac OS, as well as updates of the current System 7.0.

All new Power Macs are slated for February availability worldwide except the 4400/200, which should be available in early March.

For PowerBooks, all new models have 12.1-inch active-matrix screens and 256K secondary caches. Prices for the 3400 will start from $4,500 for the 3400c/180 with 180-MHz 603e chip and 1.3GB hard drive with no CD-ROM or Ethernet/modem port. The 3400c/180 will cost $5,000 with 6X CD-ROM and Ethernet/modem port, while the top-line 3400c/240 with 240-MHz 603e PowerPC processor, 3GB hard drive, and 12X CD-ROM will be priced at $6,500. The 180-MHz and 200-MHz models are immediately available in the United States. Worldwide availability of all PowerBook 3400 models, including the 3400c/240, is expected by April.

In other news, Apple?s imaging division introduced a new QuickTake camera that will be bundled with Web page creation and photo editing software. The new camera has an LCD (liquid crystal display) panel for viewing the picture subject, and up to 30 images can be recorded on an industry-standard removable storage card that's included. The camera will provide 24-bit color images at resolutions up to 640 by 480 pixels.

The QuickTake 200 has video-out capability so that users can view pictures on a television without downloading the images first to a computer. The QuickTake 200 can also be used as a videoconferencing camera with the appropriate software. It will be priced at $600 and will be available worldwide by April. Apple reiterated that it will be bringing out products based on the Newton platform for portable devices, which include the MessagePad 2000 for mobile professionals and the eMate 300 for the education market.

The eMate, according to Apple, is a low-cost mobile computer that will allow students to supplement PC-compatible and Macintosh desktop computers for use not only in the classroom but also in labs, at home, and in the field. The overall weight of the notebook computer is four pounds, including a curvy, rugged casing that can survive the rough handling of student use.

The eMate will begin selling in March for under $700 in quantities to schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. Due to intense interest in the product, Apple will also begin distributing the product to college campus resellers for the higher education market in April.

The MessagePad 2000 features a 32-bit StrongARM RISC processor running at 162 MHz and 5MB of RAM, bringing handheld devices closer to notebook PCs in computing power. The processor also uses less power than the previous generation of chips, and can run 24 hours continuously, according to Apple. Most notebook PCs run between three and six hours maximum on a single battery pack. Availability is expected in March with price for a MessagePad 2000 with carrying case and keyboard expected to be $1,099, while other models will be available for under $1,000.