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New Design, Software Adds To Mac Cool Factor

UPDATED: CUPERTINO, Calif. – The iMac's got a tough act to follow, what with the industry going gaga over Apple's big summer iPhone news. But Apple has computers to keep making, and CEO Steve Jobs announced today that the Mac show is good and strong.

He took the stage in a small auditorium here on the Apple  campus to unveil the latest iMacs along with a greatly revamped iLife suite of applications that is far more integrated with the Web and comes installed on each system.

The new all-in-one iMacs are sleek, to be sure. There are three new models -- two with 20-inch displays and one 24-inch model ($1,799). All three are powered by Intel's Core 2 Duo processor and include 1GB of RAM and Apple's built-in iSight video camera. Intel's 2.8 GHz Core 2 Extreme processor is available as a build-to-order option.

imac
Sleek as glass.
Source: Apple

Apple's discontinuing its previous low-end 17-inch model in favor of a faster 20-inch version based on Intel's Core 2 Duo processor running at 2.4 GHz. The base 20-inch iMac sells for the same price, $1,199, as the earlier 17-inch model.

The display is also slimmer than previous models and borrows the sleek materials (aluminum and glass) from Apple's Pro line. Jobs said the new systems are far more recyclable than earlier models.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of today's news was that it may have been the first time the Mac applications news was a much bigger deal than the new hardware.

The iLife 08 suite integrates more tightly with .Mac and the Web in general. All five applications in the suite have been enhanced, including a complete revamp of the iMovie editing program. Jobs illustrated a new "skim" feature in iMovie, which lets you quickly skim through an image or video for easy review or when editing.

Jobs said Apple has applied for a patent on its unique "skimming" technology.

The latest iPhoto also includes the skim feature, as well as the .Mac Web Gallery, which lets you post your photos to the Web, and, in a nod to Web 2.0 , allows others to add to your galleries with your permission. Jobs gave an example of photos from a soccer game, posted online, that other families could contribute to live on the Web. The skim feature is also available when working with images in .Mac.

A feature for video posters allows them to select a YouTube option from a pull-down menu to automatically post to the video-sharing site.

Analyst Tim Bajarin with Creative Strategies said Apple's gone a long way toward making photos and videos easier to share. "At the very least it's even easier to post to YouTube," he told internetnews.com.

Apple said it also expects big growth from its .Mac Internet service, which Jobs said currently has 1.7 million subscribers. Online storage for the $99.95 subscription service has been increased from 1GB to 10GB.

And not to be forgotten, the iWork productivity suite got a lift, too. First off is its new spreadsheet, called Numbers, which Jobs referred as "the spreadsheet for the rest of us." It contains a "flexible canvas" that lets users change formats in one part of a spreadsheet without affecting the formatting elsewhere on the spreadsheet.

Apple also enhanced the Keynote program for presentations and the Pages page layout program in the suite.

Keynote now includes a bunch of new effects and transitions and a feature called Alpha One that lets you remove a background (example foliage surrounding a flower) with one mouse click.

Pages now features a distinct word processing mode for editing. Another new feature is interactive printing that lets you make changes in the print view in real time.

The iLife 08 suite comes bundled free with Macs and is available for $79 separately. The iWork suite is available separately for $79.