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Jobs unveils new Apple hardware

Jobs unveils new Apple hardware

Apple CEO Steve Jobs yesterday met the aspirations of show-goers to the 10th MacWorld Expo Tokyo with the unveiling of several new computers during his keynote speech.

Anticipation for the keynote had been building for weeks with the help of rumours spread online, and the crowd was buzzing when Jobs strode on stage with little fanfare at just after 11am. After the briefest of introductions, he was straight down to business.

"We've got five or six things to tell you about today, so let's get started," he said.

In the consumer sector, Jobs unveiled upgrades for Apple's existing iBook notebooks and a special-edition iBook -- a companion to the special-edition iMac desktop that the company has already put on sale.

The upgraded iBooks feature double the memory of existing machines and double the hard drive space, 64MB and 6GB respectively, but will be sold at the same price as the existing machines. Available in Japan from today, the tangerine and blue machines will cost 198,000 yen ($US1820).

The special edition iBook will pack a 366MHz processor and the same memory and hard disk configurations as the previous two machines for 218,000 yen.

In the business space, Apple announced enhancements to its notebook and desktop personal computers.

The company's PowerBook notebook computers are being given a makeover. A new high-end machine features a 500MHz G3 processor that, according to Jobs, does not slow down when the machine is switched to battery mode. It features a 100MHz internal bus, Ultra ATA66 drives, ATI Rage Mobility 128 sound system, DVD drive, two FireWire ports and support for Apple's AirPort wireless networking system.

The machines also have a five-hour battery life, which, as Jobs was keen to point out, was a "real five hours" and no exaggeration by the company. Available in Japan from today, a version equipped with a 400MHz processor, 64MB of memory and a 6GB hard drive will cost 298,000 yen. The 500MHz model, which also features 128MB of memory and a 12GB hard drive, will cost 398,000 yen.

The desktop range includes a new high-end machine with a 500MHz G4 processor, and prices will be reduced on existing machines so that the 400MHz desktop costs 198,000 yen, the 450MHz machine carries a 298,000 yen price tag and the 500MHz machine costs 428,000 yen.

For the Japanese market, Jobs also announced the local debut of AirPort. Equipment for the system will be available from today with the new machines. He also said the company would resume shipping its 22-inch flat-panel display, supplies of which sold out quickly when the company put it on the market in 1999.

Further extending the machine's attractiveness to the publishing industry, he also disclosed a recently inked deal between Apple and Dai Nippon Screen Manufacturing. The two companies are working together on five new fonts that will be shipped as standard on Apple's new MacOS X. The fonts will feature 17,000 Chinese characters, which are extensively used in Japan, rather than the 8500 that ship with existing operating systems.

This removes the need for publishers to license, usually at great expense, new fonts that include all of the characters -- most of which are not shipped as standard because they are not in everyday use.

Jobs also took time to introduce Japan to MacOS X, which he said would ship as a single CD-ROM containing all language versions. This would enable Apple to ship the Japanese language version of the operating system on the same day as the English version ships, an announcement which drew applause from the local audience.

As with his keynote at MacWorld in San Francisco last month, Jobs also outlined some of what the company has learned about its customers and added details about those in Japan, the company's second biggest market.

Claiming a 7.8 per cent share of the local PC market, Jobs said surveys have found Apple to be selling more to first-time buyers in Japan -- 50 per cent of iMac buyers in Japan are first-time computer users, compared with 30 per cent in the US, he said. Among buyers of the iBook notebook, 36 per cent are new customers, compared to 26 per cent in the US.

Approximately 6000 people attended the keynote.

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