RealTime IT News

Latest Apple Toys Target Budget Customers

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple Computer moved to shed its high-priced image with a new a Macintosh that sells for less than $499.

The computer, dubbed Mac mini, is just one of several less expensive offerings that CEO Steve Jobs rolled out Tuesday at the annual Macworld conference here.

"The biggest question we get is, 'Why doesn't Apple offer a stripped down Mac that is more compatible?'" Jobs said about the Mac mini. "Well we have one now that is the most affordable Mac ever.

The stark white computer comes in two different flavors: a 1.25 GHz and 1.42 GHz PowerPC G4 processor retailing for $499 and $599, respectively. Both units include ATI Radeon 9200 graphics support, 32MB of dedicated DDR memory and up to a 80GB combo hard drive. Both models come with internal support for AirPort Extreme wireless networking and Bluetooth, as well as DVI or VGA out (adapter included) and composite/S-video out with an optional adapter.

Mini Mac

"This can hook up to most any display on the market," Jobs said.

The Mac mini will be available starting on Jan. 22 along with an upgrade to iLife, Apple's photo, music and movie productivity suite.

However, the peripheral hardware is missing from the Mac mini. "This is strictly BYODKM, which means bring your own display, keyboard and mouse," Jobs quipped.

Jobs said Apple expects the Mac mini to be a big seller as a second or third family computer, as well as the final tipping point for any Windows-based user who was reluctant to plunk down $799 for Apple's next most expensive computer, the CRT-based eMac.

In addition to budget computers, Jobs unveiled the iPod shuffle, a low-price, Flash memory-based music player. The iPod shuffle is Apple's key into the entry-level music player market, which Jobs claimed was only 29 percent of the total digital music player market and which Apple did not have a stake in.

iPod Shuffle
The USB 2.0-based player is about the size of a pack of gum and comes with a click wheel but no display. The iPod shuffle can hold both data and music files. And whereas most Flash-based music players are selling with 256MB for just over $100, Jobs said Apple's new iPod shuffle will sell at $99 with 512MB of storage (about 120 songs) and a $149 version with 1GB of storage.

Also on Apple's new budget list is an upgrade to the company's AppleWorks productivity suite. Re-named iWork, the product includes a new word processor that is both Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF compatible.

The suite also comes with an upgrade to Apple's Keynote presentation product. Version 2.0 is also PowerPoint compatible and ties in all the bells and whistles Apple has in its 2005 upgrade to iLife. Both iWork and iLife 2005 will be available on Jan. 22 for $79.