RealTime IT News

Apple Trots Out New G4s, No Flat-Panel Display

Apple Computer Inc. has been making nips and tucks to its product line, but the revolutionary changes Mac aficionados were looking for didn't materialize Wednesday at the MacWorld trade show in New York.

"Apple's new hardware introductions at yesterday's MacWorld were largely an evolutionary approach, with increases in system specs for PowerMacs and iMacs but nothing dramatically new (the first MacWorld in recent memory without a major new system for factor)," said Goldman Sachs Analyst Joe Moore.

Noticeably missing was an iMac with a flat-panel display, a product that had widely been expected to be introduced at the trade show.

"During the analyst meeting, management discussed lessons learned from the failed cube launch, and the potential for flat-panel screens in consumer desktops, both of which make it clear to us that press reports of a flat-panel iMac are correct, though with uncertain timing," Moore said. "Management also continued to indicate that they are moving away from synchronizing new product introductions with MacWorlds, and that they can easily do intermediate product launches such as the very successful iBook launch in May. Further, the lack of the new hardware form factors at the MacWorld keynote makes us think that at one point Apple had planned an iMac launch at MacWorld, but that it was delayed, likely to ensure that the product is technologically robust."

What Apple did introduce are new, speedier versions of its iMac and PowerMac lines. The company discontinued the slowest iMac, making the 500 MHz version the new entry-level machine. It features 500 MHz PowerPC G3 chips and a CD-RW drive at $999. The new big guns are the second-generation "QuickSilver" PowerMac G4s, offered up in three configurations -- 733 MHz, 867 MHz and a high-end version with dual 800 MHz processors. The new G4s will be priced at $1,700, $2,500 and $3,500 respectively.

"The PowerMac changes should reaccelerate sales in that lineup, particularly after the inventory clearance quarter just completed; particularly the dual 800 MHz system," Moore said.

On the software side, the company has already upgraded its new OS X operating system to OS 10.1. But while the operating system offers many innovative features to the Mac lineup, including multiprocessing and the much-touted Aqua interface, the selection of software that utilizes the OS is still small.

One of the companies promising the imminent release of OS X software is Microsoft Corp. , which demonstrated a prerelease version of its Windows Media Player (WMP) for Mac OS X on Thursday. Microsoft said the OS X version of the WMP was designed using the "Carbon" APIs for OS X, meaning it will run natively in the OS X environment and take advantage of features like multiprocessing and the Aqua interface.

The company said it also supports Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM), aimed at helping content providers protect their content.

Microsoft said WMP will be available as a free download this fall.