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October 5, 1999

Apple Unveils Cut-Price iMac, Mac OS 9

By CBR Staff Writer

By Rachel Chalmers

The big surprise about Apple Computer Inc’s special event in Cupertino, California yesterday (Tuesday) is just how few surprises there were. As expected, perpetual interim CEO Steve Jobs announced that Mac OS 9 will be available on October 23, priced at $99. The operating system upgrade features Sherlock 2, a revised version of the desktop-and-web search engine with online shopping capabilities. Other new features include support for multiple users, file encryption and voiceprint passwords. None of this came out of the blue: it had all been divulged at Apple’s worldwide developer conference way back in May 1999 (CI No 3,658). Jobs did tackle pesky rumors about the Taiwan earthquake slowing down production for the iBook, Apple’s consumer portable. We’ve gotten tons of orders for these things, he said, adding: We started shipping in mid-September, just like we announced we would. He admitted that the earthquake had slowed things down, but concluded: We’re back on track and shipping again.

That said, it was down to the hardware, and again, there was little about the new machines that had not already been leaked. The new iMac is priced from $999 – not too hefty for what Jobs claims is the fastest consumer computer on the market. Available only in Blueberry, it boasts a 350MHz G3 processor with a 100MHz system bus – the original iMac only had 66MHz. Similarly, the new iMac ships with 64MB of RAM; the original had 32MB and without a separate memory upgrade, its performance dragged. Like the iBook, the new iMac includes a slot for the AirPort wireless networking card. Move up to the $1299 model and you get a choice of five colors, a 400MHz G3 CPU, FireWire, RGB video output, DVD-ROM, iMovie video editing software and a 10GB hard disk drive. For $1499, you get the Special Edition, available in graphite, like Apple’s relatively sober G4 business desktop. This high-end model has 128MB of RAM and 13GB of hard drive.

All three models have a slot-loading CD/DVD and all omit a fan, using convective cooling through vents in the handle, which should make them very quiet to run. They have internal speakers designed by stereo equipment maker Harman Kardon, which has also introduced the iSub subwoofer to run off the iMac’s USB port. The whole thing should be plug and play, meaning that the computer can recognize when a subwoofer is attached and dynamically reassign its bass audio to those speakers. The subwoofers should be available in November 1999, priced at $99. The three new iMacs are supposed to be available immediately. Mundane as it was, Apple’s special event evidently thrilled Jobs. I think I am more in love with this product than the original Macintosh we shipped two decades ago, he gushed. Apparently the markets agreed. The company’s shares, which had dipped to $60 from $80 in the last few weeks, made a modest recovery to close around $68.

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