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New Power Macs arrive

Apple's new systems are intended to woo small-business users and bring some Macintosh-style excitement back into the home.

Apple Computer (AAPL) is looking to kindle the interest of small business users and bring some Macintosh-style excitement back into the home with the introduction of new Power Macintosh systems today.

The announcements will be the first from Apple since the March 14 reorganization and reflect its continued strategy of simplifying product offerings by grouping several product lines under one brand name. At that time the Performa brand name, a line of consumer products, was phased out.

"This is one of best hardware lineups they've had in a while....they are definitely on the leading edge in terms of fast processors and bringing good technology into the home," says Kevin Hause, an analyst with International Data Corporation, a market research firm.

As reported earlier by CNET, the new Power Macintosh 6500s for the home feature 603e PowerPC processors running at speeds ranging from 225 to 300 MHz.

Importantly, Apple can now boast that its systems are significantly faster than competing Intel Pentium MMX systems. The 6500/300 with 300-MHz PowerPC will outperform a 200-MHz MMX Pentium system by over 54 percent using industry-standard performance tests, Apple claims. The system is being targeted at the power-hungry home user, and comes with Web publishing software and 3D games, in addition to the typical office productivity software.

Apple has also built in a 64-bit processor from ATI for acceleration of multimedia functions such as MPEG video playback and 3D graphics. All 6500 models include a 12X CD-ROM drive, 33.6 data-fax-voice modem, and at least 32MB of memory. Some models also include Zip drives from Iomega for data backup.

The other high performance model, the 275-MHz 6500/275, is targeted at users who want to do video-music editing and Web publishing. The system comes with a special software bundle and the Avid video card.

Apple also introduced new Power Macintosh systems for small businesses. The Small Business Macintosh 4400/200 features a 200-MHz 603e PowerPC processor and is distinguished from other 4400 models by its bundled software and lack of Ethernet card. Apple also has a 6500 model for small business, the Small Business Macintosh 6500/250, featuring a 4.0GB hard drive, Zip drive, and 48MB of memory.

Both systems are targeted at small business-home office users that want a system that is easy to set up, according to Apple. The systems will include software for accessing the Internet and creating Web pages, as well as productivity software such as Microsoft Office. It is the first time Apple has bundled systems with MS Office instead of the company's own ClarisWorks software.

Although analysts believe consolidating all product lines under the Power Macintosh name is a good move, the company must carefully articulate which model serves which market needs.

"Apple felt there was confusion [about the Performa and Power Macintosh names] and it had gotten to the point where there wasn't any value to have the two names. Now that they've consolidated, they still need to have good, clear differentiation between the lines," Hause says.

Apple's new Power Mac 6500s
Processor speed RAM Storage Bundle Pricing
225 MHz 32MB 3GB Home $1,999
250 MHz 32MB 4GB, Zip Home $2,299
250 MHz 48MB 4GB, Zip Small business $2,599
275 MHz 32MB 4GB Creative studio $2,999 *
300 MHz 64MB 4GB, Zip Home $2,999 *
* These models will ship in May.

All the new systems will be available through retail channels as well as VARs and resellers.