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Apple unveils 'pro' photo software, Power Mac Quad

Company introduces new high-end photo processing software and upgraded its Power Mac desktop and PowerBook laptops. Photo: Apple's big picture

CUPERTINO, Calif.--Adding to its steady stream of recently announced products, Apple Computer on Wednesday introduced new high-end photo processing software and upgraded its Power Mac desktop and PowerBook laptops.

The new Power Mac G5 Quad has two 2.5GHz dual-core PowerPC G5 processors. At a press event at Apple headquarters here, the company said all Power Macs will now feature dual-core chips and improved graphics cards.

"With quad-core processing, a new PCI Express architecture and the fastest workstation card from Nvidia, the new Power Mac G5 Quad is the most powerful system we've ever made," Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in a statement.

Aperture

Meanwhile, Apple pitched the photo software, called Aperture, as a way for professional photographers to regain tools lost in the move from film cameras to digital technology. The application allows photographers to work easily with thousands of uncompressed RAW files and compare and edit the photos using a digital equivalent of a light table for sorting and a loupe for magnification.

Another key feature is what Apple calls "nondestructive image processing," in which a master file is preserved and any edits stored merely as a list of changes. That saves file space and protects the original.

Apple downplayed the competitive threat that Aperture potentially poses to Adobe's popular Photoshop software, describing it as "complementary" to Photoshop.

"This is to do a whole different set of things," Schiller said in an interview. "There's been no software that does what Aperture does."

However, analyst Kathleen Maher from Tiburon, Calif.-based Jon Peddie Research said she was impressed with Aperture and thought it represented an opportunity for Apple to attract some Photoshop users.

"The advantage for Apple is they could completely rethink the interface." But that's also the challenge, Maher said. "They have to create something for that user base that is going to make them willing to take that leap."

Aperture will be available in November for $499. Photoshop retails for $599.

More real estate
As for the new Power Macs, all will include a FireWire 800 port, two FireWire 400 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 1.1 ports, optical and digital audio input and output, and built-in support for 802.11g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0.

Additionally:

• The Power Mac with a dual-core 2.0GHz PowerPC G5 processor is available now at $1,999. It includes 512MB of memory, a 160GB hard drive, an Nvidia GeForce 6600 LE video card, three PCI Express expansion slots and a 16x SuperDrive with double-layer support.

• The Power Mac with a dual-core 2.3GHz processor is available now at $2,499. It has a 250GB hard drive, the Nvidia GeForce 6600 and double the video memory at 256MB.

• The Power Mac G5 Quad with two dual-core 2.5GHz processors is priced at $3,299 and will be available next month. Other than the additional processor, it is equipped similarly to the single-chip, 2.3GHz model.

Apple's PowerBook notebooks are getting higher-resolution displays and improved batteries on the 15-inch and 17-inch models. All PowerBooks also will include a DVD-burning SuperDrive.

With the high-resolution displays, a new 17-inch PowerBook with 1680-by-1050 pixel resolution will be able to display 36 percent more information than previous models. A 15-inch PowerBook with a 1440-by-960-pixel resolution will display 26 percent more real estate. Also, the display on the 17-inch model is up to 46 percent brighter.

The PC upgrades are the latest in a flurry of recent product announcements by Apple. Last week, the company introduced an iPod capable of playing video and new iMacs with enhanced media functions. Last month, the company unveiled the slim iPod Nano and the Motorola-built Rokr cell phone, which is capable of playing music and connecting with iTunes.

Also Wednesday, Apple lowered the prices of its larger LCD displays. The 23-inch model drops from $1,499 to $1,299 and the 30-inch display falls from $2,999 to $2,499.

The boost to Apple's pro laptop and desktop lines also comes ahead of the company's planned move to Intel-based chips. Apple reiterated last week that it expects to have Intel-based Macs in the market by next June, although the company has not commented on whether some models could come earlier than that.

Apple includes a set of editing tools with Aperture, but focused much of its presentation on the program as a way to organize and choose which photos are the "keepers" out of thousands of images. The program supports sending photos out to Photoshop for more in-depth editing and importing them back in for archivng.

Aperture also includes pro versions of tools found in iPhoto for publishing photos to the Web as well as ordering digital prints and photo books.

Aperture does come with some hefty system requirements. Among desktop machines, Apple is mandating a G5-based iMac or Power Mac with a 1.8GHz processor, though Apple says it will also work on a 15-inch or 17-inch PowerBook G4 with a 1.25GHz chip or faster. It also calls for at least 1GB of memory and 5GB of disk space just for the program and its related files.

Apple's recommended system is even heftier, with a suggested dual 2GHz Power Mac G5 and 2GB of memory.