Apple Unveils New Products

Thursday, July 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple Computer chief executive Steve Jobs on Wednesday introduced faster, more compact and lower-priced machines and a new oval-shaped mouse to replace the company's much-maligned, smaller round mouse.

The company, whose third-quarter iMac sales were lower than expected but whose modest market share is growing, also announced a new palette of colors for the popular desktop machines.

Under a banner reading, ``Two brains are better than one,'' Jobs rolled out the company's first new machines in nine months as Macworld Expo opened Wednesday.

He told a packed hall that Apple's two top-line G4 PowerMacs will be shipped with dual-processors standard — an industry first — but the price will stay the same.

The company's long-awaited new operating system, MacOS 10, will take advantage of the two processors. A commercial release of the new OS is not expected until early next year, Jobs said.

Dataquest analyst Charles Smulders said he expects PC makers to follow Apple's design lead with the iMac desktop and iBook portable — and produce a wider variety of bolder, sleeker, more colorful machines.

``Apple has a significant lead in this area, but as expertise by PC vendors grows, it will make the market more difficult for Apple.''

In a new design feat, Apple also introduced a new G4 cube, which miniaturizes all the features of a mid-range G4 — 450 Megahertz chip, 20 gigabytes of storage, USB ports, modem, DVD drive, ethernet, Airport wireless networking — in an elegant 8-by-8-inch machine that lifts out of its case, giving users quick access to all its components.

The G4 cube, which comes with clear tennis-ball sized Harmon Kardon speakers, will be available in early August and sell for $1,799. A 500 MHz version with 30 gigabytes of storage will sell for $2,299.

On the lower end of the price spectrum, Jobs announced two sub-$1,000 iMacs. The entry-level iMac will sell for $799, with the other models ranging up to $1,499.

The sleek egg-shaped machines also will come in new colors: indigo, sage, ruby and snow.

Smulders said $799 is an attractive price for an iMac and could help Apple enter new markets. But the entry-level machine's 350 MHz processor is on the slow end of the PC scale and that could drag on sales and make it less of a threat to low-priced PCs.

Apple has shown some gains in market share against PCs.

In the first three months of this year, Apple sales made up 4.4 percent of total PC sales in the U.S., up from 3.9 percent the previous year, according to Dataquest. Worldwide, Apple's market share increased to 3.9 percent from 3.2 percent.

Perhaps the most anticipated product introduced Wednesday was an oval-shaped optical mouse.

The new mouse has no roller ball, so it doesn't need cleaning and works on nearly any surface. The entire surface of the mouse works as the button and fits any hand, making it easier for children and the left-handed to use.

``We're going from what some think is the worst mouse in the industry to the best,'' Jobs boasted.

The new mouse will be standard on all new machines, as will a new extended keyboard that comes equipped with a disk eject button. Both also will sell as upgrades for older Macs for $59.

Other announcements in Jobs' keynote speech:

—A new version of Microsoft Office for the Mac, due out in October. Office 2001 for the Mac includes Mac-only features such as a calendar in the Outlook Express e-mail program and new tools that make Excel spreadsheets easier to use; better interactivity with the Internet; and the ability to save a slide presentation as an Apple QuickTime movie.

—Game maker Bungie Software Products Corp., which was just bought by Microsoft, will team up with Apple and Microsoft to bring the entire line of Windows games, including Flight Simulator 2002 and the much anticipated Halo, to the Macintosh.

On Tuesday, Apple posted third-quarter earnings that narrowly beat Wall Street's expectations by a penny a share.

Profits for the quarter ended July 1 rose 43 percent to $163 million, or 45 cents per share, compared with $104 million, or 35 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

The company credited strong sales of its signature iMac and PowerBook computers. Revenues rose 17 percent to $1.8 billion from $1.5 billion in the year-ago period.

Investors seemed to want better numbers, particularly sales.

Shares of Apple closed down 8 percent, or $4.562, at $52.688 Wednesday on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Apple sold more than a million computers, split mostly between iMacs and PowerBook business portables. The company said PowerBook sales for the quarter rose 11 percent.

Sales of iMacs rose 13 percent, ``a bit below'' what Apple had hoped for, Apple's chief financial officer Fred Anderson acknowledged. But he said revenue should rise with Wednesday's introduction of new products.