About six months ahead of schedule, Apple Computer Inc yesterday released its first iMac desktop computer powered by Intel Corp silicon.
Intel-powered notebooks, sporting the new MacBook Pro name, will also ship earlier than expected, by next month, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said at the Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco.
Indeed, the entire Macintosh line of products will move to Intel processors by year’s end, Jobs said.
The new iMacs boast Intel’s latest Core Duo dual-core processors and perform two to three times faster performance than their G5 PowerPC predecessors in benchmark testing, Jobs said.
Everything is not going to run three to two times faster, but it will on the most important benchmarks, he said. It has gotten the best reviews of any product we’ve released.
Jobs was helped onstage by Intel chief Paul Otellini, who emerged from a cloud of dry-ice, dressed in a bunny suit used by chip-making factory workers and holding a silicon wafer.
The new iMacs sport the same basic design and price tag as last year’s models; $1,299 for a 17-inch screen machine and $1,699 for a 20-incher.
The forthcoming MacBook Pro notebooks would be four to five times faster than current Apple PowerBook machines, in key benchmark tests, Jobs said. For the first time, they will feature a built-in iSight Web camera on the lid, for mobile video conferencing. A 1.67 GHz Core Duo version will cost $1,999, while a beefier 1.83 GHz model will retail for $2,499.
A new TV commercial to introduce the line was also unveiled. Jobs seemed so pleased with the ad, he showed it twice to the show’s standing-room only audience.
The Intel chip. For years, it’s been trapped inside PCs, dutifully performing dull little tasks when it could have been doing so much more. Starting today, the Intel chip will be set free and get to live inside a Mac, was the ad’s message.
However, the accelerated Apple-Intel timetable will mean a scramble for many Mac software developers to convert their programs into Universal Binary releases, so they will run on both Intel-powered Macs and older PowerPC machines. In the meantime, older programs would require the Apple translation software called Rosetta.
(When Apple first announced its switch from IBM silicon to Intel’s, last June, the original plan was to release Intel iMacs by the middle of this year.)
We didn’t tell developers we would be announcing [Intel machines] early, Jobs said. But several new applications will be announced today anyway. That includes a universal beta version of QuarkXpress 7, slated for later this month. Quark Inc said the product would launch by year’s end.
Microsoft Corp Mac business unit VP Roz Ho also took to the stage yesterday, to announce a new agreement with Apple to continue Microsoft Mac updates for Office for at least the next five years.
This official agreement should leave no doubt in your mind that [Microsoft is] here to stay and is in it for the long term, Ho said.
Several new Office and Microsoft Messenger upgrades for Mac would be available in March, she said.
While the early release of the Intel machines was the biggest news from yesterday’s keynote, Jobs also disclosed some key revenue figures for the company.
Apple had a record fourth calendar quarter with $5.7bn in revenue, Jobs said. The company’s 136 retail stores pulled in $1bn, helped by the sale of 14 million iPods. He did not provide any iMac or notebook figures.
The Cupertino, California-based company also unveiled a new iPod remote with an FM tuner yesterday, as well as upgrades to its iLife software line. Notably, Jobs introduced iWeb, a Web page-creation program.