Apple Infuses iBooks With G4

Apple Computer Wednesday continued its “year of the notebook” mantra with an update to its most popular mobile consumer model, the iBook.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker said it is now equipping its 12-inch and two 14-inch models with its PowerPC G4 processors running 800 MHz, 933 MHz and 1.0 GHz respectively. Previously, the stark white 4.9-pound notebooks ran on PowerPC G3 chips, while the G4’s were reserved for the company’s professional series PowerBook units. Apple’s long-time partner, Motorola , manufactures both the G3 and G4.

The USD$1,099 12-inch display is available immediately, while two other 14-inch display models ($1,299 and $1,499) are expected to be available next week through Apple’s online store, retail shops and authorized resellers.

The new iBook line offers AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth, and all models include 256MB of Double Data Rate (DDR) memory and slot-load Combo drives for burning CDs and watching DVDs. The new iBooks also include Apple’s latest operating system, Mac OS X version 10.3 “Panther,” pre-installed.

“Apple has the industry’s best notebook lineup, which has resulted in Apple’s mix of notebooks growing to double the industry average,” said Apple senior vice president Philip Schiller.

Certainly, Apple is focused on its laptop sales. The company’s latest quarterly earnings report showed iBook unit sales 28 percent lower than last quarter and a 25 percent drop year over year. Compare that to a robust 9 percent purchase increase for its professional PowerBook lineup resulting in a 203 percent boost year over year. The only other consumer Macintosh products on the decline are its iMac series, which includes its all-in-one 17-inch CRT eMac computers. Hoping to drive some sales, Apple Wednesday began offering a SuperDrive-equipped eMac with G4 processors starting at USD$1,099. The ComboDrive version retails for USD$799.

But putting the G4 in the consumer models is a clear sign that Apple is plotting its course to put its next-generation G5 processors in its laptops. IBM is currently manufacturing its PowerPC 970 processor as Apple’s G5. The 64-bit compatible processor is currently only available in Apple’s latest PowerMac. Historically, the computer maker introduces new technology in its professional series products and then trickles down the improvements to its consumer models to make way for next-generation upgrades.

In addition to running on G4s, the revised iBooks support ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 graphic chips with 32MB of dedicated DDR memory and AGP 4X.

Officially debuting this weekend, Panther has more than 150 new features including a completely new Finder that provides one-click access to a user’s favorite files and folders; Expose, that splits the screen showing all open windows at once; and iChat AV, a complete desktop video conferencing solution. Panther also has automatic networking that intelligently detects and switches the network connections between Ethernet, 802.11 and modem for easily connecting to the Internet. Panther also features Fast User Switching that lets users switch places without having to quit applications or log out; FileVault, which uses the latest security standards and 128-bit encryption technology to ensure that data in the home directory is kept secure and private at all times; and enhanced Windows compatibility that ensures files, printers and network services can easily be shared with Windows users.

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