Apple Computer Inc reckons it has the answer to why 1997 is, according to its chief executive, going to be its most exciting product year, in the shape of a range of PowerPC-based notebooks and desktops, a digital camera and a notebook that school children can throw out the classroom window. Chief executive Gilbert Amelio told the company’s worried, and no doubt impoverished shareholders at last month’s annual general meeting in the coming weeks and months we’ll be introducing a completely refreshed product family. Those include what the company claims is the fastest notebook on the market, the PowerBook 3400 (CI No 3,101), based on a 240MHz 603e PowerPC processor and incorporating a new Peripheral Component Interconnect architecture. It comes with built-in Ethernet, has a hot swappable expansion bay that will take either a floppy drive, a 12-speed CD-ROM, a Zip drive or additional hard disk and a four- speaker sound system. It is aimed at the mobile high end graphics user and costs around $4,100. There are also 180MHz and 200MHz versions. On the desktop, the new line includes the 603, 604 and 620 PowerPCbased series, running at up to 233MHz. The 9600/233 and 9600/200 are aimed at graphics and multimedia professionals, and Apple says they improve on the design of the 9500/200 introduced last August. Both include a new video board for improved graphics, and come in a new tower design box for simple access – while incorporating a security feature to ensure chip thieves do not have an easy time. There is a multiprocessor version of the 200MHz machine. Apple reckons some 66% of Web authoring is done on Apple machines, and the 8600/200, aimed at media and Web authors with extended video input-output capabilities and built-in graphics acceleration, is also the basis of the Power Macintosh Web Authoring Solution, a bundled offering of more than 15 Internet tools including HTML, ShockWave, Java and QuickTime and applications such as Claris HomePage, Pantone ColorWeb and Macromedia Director 5.0. The company also introduced the midrange 7300/200 and 7300/166 systems for small and medium businesses. The Power Macintosh 9600/233 should be available in May, for around $4,300, the 200MHz version in March for $4,800, and the 8600/200 will be $3,300. All the new systems should run both future versions of the Mac OS operating system, which it says is committed to maintaining and upgrading every six months, as well as its next- generation operating system code-named Rhapsody, which will be based on its NeXT Software Inc acquisition’s NeXTstep (CI No 3,078), and parts of the now abandoned Copland, which was to have been its new operating system (CI No 3,033). The company promises that in contrast to Copland, Rhapsody will be fully backwards- compatible, and that even old applications running on the PowerPC’s predecessor, the 68000, will run under the new operating systems. A developer version of Rhapsody is due to be released later on this year. The eMate 300 is a mobile computer designed specifically for education. It has a rugged case design with a steel chassis, and a battery life of up to 24 hours. The eMate runs the Newton operating system and comes with Newton Works, a set of applications including word processor, drawing program, spreadsheet and graphing calculator. It is also bundled with Newton Internet Enabler, giving TCP/IP capability for access to the Internet. It is based on an ARM 710a 32-bit RISC processor, and is should ship in March for $750. The company has also announced the QuickTake 200 digital color camera, which enables capture, editing and sharing of digital images, and creation of Web pages. It is targeted at Mac OS customers in the education, small business and home markets, and is bundled with Adobe Systems Inc’s PhotoDeluxe, PageMill and PictureWorks. It should also ship in March, for around $600.