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Apple Debuts 'Very, Very Fast' Macs

Steve Jobs pushes new Macs with faster chips.
NEW YORK--Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs worked the crowd of several thousand execs, developers, and Macintosh enthusiasts like a rock star Wednesday morning in his Macworld Expo keynote address at the Javits Center. In a two-hour presentation, the iconoclastic Jobs debuted lines of more powerful hardware with slashed price tags.

"These things are very, very fast," said Jobs, introducing the second generation of Power Mac G4s. The machines are shipping with 733-MHz, 867-MHz, and dual 800-MHz processors. "Yesterday, 733 MHz was the fastest model we shipped; today it is our entry-level G4," he said. The 733-MHz machine comes with a CD-RW drive. The faster models feature CD-RW/DVD-R SuperDrives. The new G4s will retail for $1,699, $2,499, and $3,499, respectively, an aggressive pricing strategy. "It cost $3,500 yesterday to get a 733-MHz G4," Jobs said. The machines are housed in a new silvery case reminiscent of the titanium PowerBooks and iBooks Apple released earlier this year.

Many Apple observers had expected Jobs to unveil a radical new design for the 3-year-old iMac line at the show, with rumors of flat-screen LCD iMacs or new tablet-based computers circulating on the Web. Those rumors will no doubt continue, and may yet prove true, with more hardware announcements expected from the company at trade shows and expos later in the year.

Nonetheless, Jobs did reveal a few changes to the iMac line, showing three new models: 500-MHz, 600-MHz, and 700-MHz machines selling for $999, $1,299, and $1,499, respectively. All three models come with CD-RW drives, and all but the 700-MHz models are available now. That machine will ship in August.

Much of Jobs' keynote speech was devoted to OS X, Apple's new operating system, which debuted in March. Jobs previewed OS 10.1, due in September, citing its increased speed as a major selling point. "You name it, it's faster," Jobs said. "We spent a lot of time on performance."

To help make his point, Jobs brought Phil Schiller, Apple's VP for worldwide marketing, onto the stage for a Mac-vs.-Pentium showdown, a staple of Macworld keynotes. Schiller ran an 867-MHz G4 against a 1.7-GHz Pentium 4, showing that the Mac ran tasks in Photoshop and New Media Cleaner almost twice as fast as the Pentium.

Next, Jobs brought out John Rubenstein, Apple's senior VP for hardware, to give a short presentation on what he termed the "megahertz myth." "Megahertz does not equal performance," Rubenstein told the crowd. "It's just a contributing factor."

The keynote also featured a parade of execs from major software makers who displayed some of their new programs written for OS X. The presentations included Microsoft, which is planning a new version of Office; Adobe, which showed off previews of Illustrator and InDesign; and IBM, which ran a demo of its new ViaVoice program. Game designer Blizzard Entertainment played a few bloody minutes of its new hack-and-slash battle game Warcraft 3, after which Jobs quipped, "that's a simulation of the Microsoft/AOL battle next year."