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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 14:01 GMT
Apple's flat-screen hopes
Apple CEO Steve Jobs with the new iMac, AP
A new Mac for the Anglepoise generation?
By BBC News Online's Jeremy Scott-Joynt

Four years ago, US computer maker Apple introduced the iMac.

The bulbous, colourful, all-in-one computer was a hit, achieving total sales of over 6m units. But in recent months its sales have slid, losing ground to cheap bare-bones personal computers.

For months, Apple fans have been spreading rumours about a new iMac - this time based around a flat-screen LCD monitor - and at Macworld San Francisco their speculation became reality.

The unveiling filled out Apple's product line, after a year which has seen new laptops - both high-end and consumer - which have for the first time in years had some Windows-based PC reviewers and critics green with envy.

Company Turnaround?

It remains to be seen whether the new iMac, whose hemispherical base and LCD screen on an adjustable arm have led some to compare it to an Anglepoise lamp, can deliver a sales boost in the middle of a technology slump.

The new iMac
15" flat screen
700 or 800MHz G4 processor
40GB or 60GB hard drive
Optional CD/DVD writer
2 Firewire and 3 USB ports
Apple now is reckoned to have about 5% of the US desktop computer market, and about 3% worldwide.

The dominant force in the personal computer market - machines powered by processors from Intel (and some from AMD) in combination with Microsoft's Windows operating system - has made life difficult for Apple.

Greater economies of scale and lower build quality means that Windows-based PCs tend to be cheaper, and ruthless price-cutting by build-to-order giant Dell has driven prices down further - while devastating the finances of much of its competition.

In addition, the last few years have seen a marketing focus on raw processor speed measured in megahertz.

On that measure Intel's chips have looked up to twice as fast, despite benchmarks which suggest otherwise in practical use

Top notch

With its upgraded specifications, some observers fear the new iMac could also cannibalise sales of the company's higher-margin machines aimed at the professional market.

The G4 processor that powers it is not far off the specification of the high-end desktop systems.

The disappointing sales of another mould-breaking machine, Apple's high-end Cube, in 2000 also gives pause for thought.

Still, the 27 stores Apple opened across the US in 2002 will help it push the new machine, which the company hopes will lift sales to 500,000 from the 300,000 iMacs shifted in 2001.

And the price of the new machine - ranging from $1,299 to $1,799 - makes it much more competitive.

The power of X

Along with the new desktop machine, Apple also launched a new version of its consumer laptop, the iBook, with a larger screen.

The new iBook, Apple
iBook: the first Mac laptop to be feted as better value than its PC competitors
And - furthering the "digital hub" consumer concept that chief executive Steve Jobs has stressed in recent months - the company unveiled iPhoto, a free photo management application.

The program, available for download from Apple, is designed to grab pictures from digital cameras and then allow easy editing and publishing either to the web or to paper.

The photo management application, an analogue to the iTunes music software which collaborates with Apple's iPod MP3 player and the iMovies video editing package, is designed to work only with Apple's new, more stable operating system, Mac OS X (pronounced "OS Ten").

OS X would now become the main system on all Macs sold, Mr Jobs told the Macworld audience.

See also:

27 Nov 01 | Business
Apple risks fresh Microsoft feud
21 Jul 00 | Business
The cult of the Mac
24 Oct 01 | New Media
Apple unveils digital music device
17 Oct 01 | Business
Apple beats tech gloom
18 Jul 01 | Business
Apple warns of trouble ahead
03 Jul 01 | Business
'Coolest ever' computer put on ice
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