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Apple's Jobs hints at '99 products

Steve Jobs offers a view of Apple's product direction at an education conference in Seattle.

    Apple Computer interim chief executive Steve Jobs today offered a view of Apple's product direction at an education conference in Seattle, saying that a new version of the company's QuickTime multimedia software will be introduced next month while a new consumer portable device would not.

    At the CAUSE98 conference, Jobs told educators that QuickTime version 4.0 will be introduced at January's Macworld Expo in San Francisco, as expected.

    Apple Computer has been working for some time on a new version of its popular QuickTime program. The multimedia playback software will offer "streaming" technology for live playback of audio and video.

    The news is of particular interest to educators looking to implement distance learning programs, according to a company spokesperson.

    Streaming allows content to be played while it is being downloaded, instead of making users wait until the download has finished. But Apple is up against some stiff competition, and its rivals have a substantial head start here. Microsoft and RealNetworks already have widely used streaming products on the market.

    Microsoft started its multimedia spree last year with investments in RealNetworks and VDOnet as well as its acquisition of VXtreme.

    Now the company is pushing to have its investments pay off. Microsoft has lined up prominent Web sites to use its NetShow streaming technology, offering them technical support and marketing money. Takers include Bloomberg, CBS, CNN Interactive, Warner Bros. Online, and CNET: The Computer Network, the publisher of

    One of the sites,, prominently uses QuickTime for playing back video files that are downloaded to a user's computer. But CNN has begun to deemphasize this, in part due to Microsoft's ability to tie the use of its streaming technology to its browser technology.

    Portable a no-show, but others may appear
    On the portable front, Apple was rumored to be readying new laptops targeted at the consumer market, but Jobs put the kabosh on that speculation.

    The portable devices, which sources say are expected to weigh less than 4 pounds and offer a variety of wireless communications options, should be priced at between $1,000 and $1,300. The new notebooks will make an appearance in the first half of 1999, according to Apple.

    Fans of portable devices won't have to worry about a lack of products early on in 1999. Apple may show off its next-generation PowerBook notebooks for corporate users, code-named Lombard, in private sessions at the Macworld Expo.

    Lombard systems will feature new designs that will be even curvier than the current notebooks and pack in processors as fast as 400 MHz, industry sources said. Apple demonstrated a prototype system with just such a chip earlier this year.

    With a healthy inventory of PowerBook G3 Series notebooks now available, one reseller said he expects Apple to continue selling the current systems at least through the end of January, speculating on the introduction of Lombard systems just over the horizon in the February or March timeframe.