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Umax debuts two Mac clones

The company continues to expand its presence in the low end of the Macintosh market without giving up on the high end.

Umax Computer continued to expand its presence in the low end of the PC market with today's introduction of a new Mac clone that will sell for under $1,300, but Umax hasn't given up on the high end of the market.

The company introduced a new system and associated upgrade program that will allow customers to use the latest PowerPC 750 processor as well.

Umax refreshed its C-series computers with the C500/240, which offers a 240-MHz PowerPC 603e, a 3GB hard disk drive, 24MB of memory, and a CD-ROM drive for $1,295, while the C500e/240 with built-in ethernet networking ability will be available for $1,395.

Umax also introduced the new SuperMac S900Base system, which ships with a curiously out-of-date 150-MHz PowerPC 604e processor. The fastest Mac systems to date have the 300-MHz PowerPC 604e; next week, Apple will introduce its first systems using the new PowerPC 750 processor, which is expected to outperform the 604e in some tasks. (See related story)

Umax has not been certified by Apple to use the new processor yet, so to skirt the issue the company today announced an upgrade program in conjunction with Newer Technology, a maker of processor upgrade cards.

Customers who purchase the S900Base systems can buy a PowerPC 750 upgrade card from Newer for $1,395, a savings of $500. The price of the system with the upgrade card, 64MB of memory, a 4GB hard disk drive, built-in ethernet, and 24X CD-ROM drive will be about $4,000, Umax says. That price is comparable to prices for Apple's line of Power Mac 8600 graphics and scientific workstations, which don't currently use the PowerPC 750 (also referred to as the G3 processor).

"We're supportive of Apple's goals and desires because we want to be the sole clone vendor. We're letting them make the clearest, loudest, noise about their G3 systems," says Bruce Berkoff, director of product marketing for Umax. "We're the supportive Mac-compatible maker," Berkoff quips. Umax is not expected to ship a G3-based system until after the January '98 Macworld, but Berkoff says the current offering will fill the needs of customers who need one before then.

Two major competitors in the market for Mac clone systems--Motorola and Power Computing--will stop selling Mac-compatible systems by the end of the year. Power Computing, in particular, had been a thorn in Apple's side because it could announce new systems with the latest PowerPC processors before Apple, thus appearing to be the more advanced company. This was due in part to Apple's practice of building up a larger supply of systems before announcing a product.

For example, both Motorola and Power Computing announced a PowerPC 750 system in August. Both Power Computing and Motorola were prevented from shipping the systems when Apple refused to certify the systems for use with Mac OS 8.

Apple Computer has kept Umax on as the sole major clone vendor in part because the company has been selling systems through smaller VARs (value-added resellers) and retailers--where Apple doesn't have a strong presence--even though Umax also sells machines that serve the same market segments as Apple. Umax has also worked to sell less expensive systems and offers models below the $1,000 price point, where Apple has no offerings.

The new C-series systems are expected to be available in November.

The S900Base system will have an estimated street price of $2,695 and will be available in mid-November.