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This week in Macworld news

Apple devotees descended on San Francisco for latest crop at Macworld Expo, but one thing was missing: the surprise. Photos: Mac Mini Photos: iPod Shuffle

Apple devotees descended on San Francisco this week for the latest crop at the Macworld Expo, but there was one thing missing: the surprise.

Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs introduced a new budget PC dubbed the Mac Mini during his keynote address at the expo, promising that the machine will expand Apple's audience beyond the Mac faithful. The Mac Mini, which will retail for $499, is a tiny machine with a processor, a hard drive and an optical drive--you supply the monitor, mouse and keyboard.

However, as low as the starting price is, it still costs about $100 more than similarly configured PCs from Gateway, Hewlett-Packard and others, according to analysts and price checks. The price delta increases as the typical equipment on PCs is factored in.

When market researcher IDC added in "the stuff you'd want," the final price came to $1,300, said IDC analyst Roger Kay, who nonetheless applauded Apple for putting out something that lets the company play in the bargain market.

Jobs also confirmed several other high-profile debuts that have been grinding through the Mac rumor mills, prompting the secretive company to sue the alleged source of several information leaks. Many of the reports turned out to be true, thus leaving the expo without a big shocker.

One of those products was a new version of its popular music player--the iPod Shuffle, priced as low as $99. Based on flash memory, rather than the more expensive computer-like hard drives that have been the centerpiece of all other iPods, the new player is aimed at the low end of the market, relatively untraveled territory for Apple.

The Shuffle comes in two sizes. The $99 version has 512MB of storage and holds about 120 songs; the $149 version has 1GB of storage and holds about 240 songs. Unlike most similar devices, the Shuffle has no display screen to show songs or playlists; it consists only of a slender white rectangle with the trademark iPod navigation wheel on one side.

While Jobs was the star attraction at the conference, many Mac fans were just as interested in hearing from one of the original Mac creators. Andy Hertzfeld signed copies of his book, "Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac was Made" on the conference floor. He sat down with CNET News.com to discuss his collection of dozens of short stories that provide a unique, behind-the-scenes look at the birth of the Mac.