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Intel Inside Apple Now

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple's Steve Jobs earns a well-deserved reputation for hype, but he also gets less credit for a tendency to under-promise and over-deliver.

This was evident in Job's big announcement at Macworld today where the rumored Intel-based Macs were announced with greater performance specs and well ahead of schedule. The iMacs are shipping today, and notebooks in February.

When Jobs announced the shift to Intel chips at Apple's developer's conference last Spring he said the first Macs with Intel chips would be delivered in June 2006. But the new models are shipping today, and include both iMacs and a new MacBook Pro, all based on the latest Intel Core Duo dual processors.

As is his habit, Jobs saved the biggest news, the Intel-based Macs, for the end of his 90-minute presentation, which featured several significant upgrades to its iLife creativity suite, as well as iWeb to help simplify the creation of personal Web sites.

He also launched what may become a new application category called "photocasting," a kind of cousin to podcasting that broadcasts pictures instead of audio.

Microsoft briefly shared the spotlight with good news for corporate and other users of its Microsoft Office suite. Roz Ho, Microsoft's Macintosh business unit manager, announced that Microsoft had signed a formal agreement to provide new versions of Office for a minimum of the next five years.

"Office for Mac is an incredibly successful product, and 2005 was the best year ever," said Ho. "This should leave no doubt in anyone's mind that we're here to stay an it for the long term."

Macworld crowds have not always been friendly to Microsoft, but Ho's statement brought a hearty round of applause. But since this is Macworld Expo, the crowd was mostly anxious to hear about new Macs, and Jobs didn't disappoint.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini emerged dramatically from a cloud of smoke on stage to present Jobs with a silicon wafer representing completion of its job.

Also, beating earlier forecasts that it would take two years to transition from PowerPC to Intel processors, Jobs announced Apple plans to transition its entire product line of desktop and notebook PCs to Intel by the end of this year.

Otelinni said the collaboration with its once pesky rival has been "energizing, challenging and fun." He said over a thousand people at Intel have been working on getting the processors finished to work with Macintosh.

Commenting on the announcement, Otellini added, "Our founder Bob Noyce once said, 'Don't be encumbered by history, recreate something wonderful.' We did."

Jobs teased the audience by noting that the latest Intel-based iMacs with integrated display would be the same shape (17- and 20-inch display models), same price and same integrated iSight video camera as current models. "So what's different?" asked Jobs.

What's different is performance. Jobs said Intel's Core Duo processor provides up to two to three times faster performance than earlier PowerPC- based models.

Jobs quoted Spec Integer benchmarks to back his claim, though he conceded "not everything will run two to three times faster, like the disks."

But he also noted this is not a simple port or emulation. Apple's latest 10.4.4 Tiger operating system and the latest iLife software is running natively on the Intel processors. Apple is shipping its applications on "universal" discs that will run on either PowerPC or Intel-based Macs.

Jobs recounted the problems Apple has had trying to develop a notebook with the same performance of its desktop line.

"We've had a pesky problem; we haven't been able to shoehorn a G5 [processor] into a Powerbook. We've consulted everyone," he said as a photo of the Pope flashed on the big screen behind him. "With Intel it was all about performance per watt."

He said the MacBook Pro will offer as much as a 4.5 times speed improvement over current G4-based models. Apple also built-in its iSight video camera in the MacBook Pro for videoconferencing on-the-go.