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Wednesday, 19 July, 2000, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Apple unveils the 'Cube'
Apple Cube computer
Apple shrinks its own computers: The Cube is a miniature G4 machine
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson from MacWorld

The faithful in the Apple Macintosh community knew that company founder and born-again chief executive Steve Jobs would introduce new computers at the annual MacWorld expo in New York.

And Steve Jobs did not disappoint. He began by saying: "We've got a lot of stuff to tell you."

It has been nine months since Apple made a major product announcement, and analysts said the line was in need of updating.

The Cube display at MacWorld, New York
Apple celebrates the Cube as the smallest supercomputer available
Mr Jobs introduced a new keyboard and mouse, two dual-processor computers for Apple's line of professional hardware, an updated iMac range, new monitors and the "Cube" - a miniaturised desktop machine.

But what he failed to produce was the long-awaited upgrade of Apple's operating system, OS X.

iMac sales soft

On the eve of Mr Job's keynote address, Apple had announced quarterly profits that exceeded expectations, although only by a penny per share.

The increased revenue came on news that sales of its flagship consumer computer, the iMac, fell 50,000 units short of both analysts' and Apple's expectations.

When announcing the quarterly profits, chief financial officer Fred Anderson said the sales shortfall was due to customer expectation of a fresh product line-up, and promised that Apple would deliver.

New iMacs

Two years ago, the launch of the colourful iMac computers heralded Apple's resurgence. At this year's MacWorld, Mr Jobs unveiled four new iMac models.

ruby-coloured iMac
A new range of iMacs - now available in 'ruby'
New translucent colours, including Indigo, Ruby, Sage and the creamy white Snow, did not wow the crowd as much as the prices.

The new entry-level model is priced at $799. The entry-level digital video iMac will ship for $999.

All of the models apart from the $799 model will be available immediately, with the low-price iMac being sold from September.

New Mouse

Some of the updates to the product line were minor, if not important to Mac users.

The so-called hockey puck mouse became standard with the introduction of the candy-coloured iMacs.

Users complained that it was too small, and many professional users found it difficult to use.

Mr Jobs unveiled a larger mouse, which features optical technology that eliminates the roller ball.

One common criticism of Apple's mouse is that unlike mice on Windows machines, they have only one button instead of two.

However, instead of adding a second button, Apple has done away with buttons altogether. The mouse is clicked using a slight rocker motion.

Two brains

But Mr Jobs next announcement had been one of the most widely anticipated product rollouts in the Mac community: Multi-processing computers for the company's line of professional computers.

"Two brains are better than one," Mr Jobs said in introducing the dual-processor computer.

To demonstrate the speed of the new machine, he ran a graphics programme both on a Macintosh running two 500Mhz processors and an Intel machine with a 1Ghz Pentium III running the Microsoft Windows 2000 professional operating system.

The dual-processor Mac completed the graphics demonstration in 61 seconds as opposed to the 124 seconds for the Pentium-based machine.

He said that the dual-processor machine was equivalent in performance to a machine running a 2Ghz Pentium III.

In addition to faster processors, the machines will also ship standard with Gigabit Ethernet, a high-speed networking technology.

New OS

Mac users had expected Mr Jobs to unveil a public beta of the company's new operating system, OS X (the Roman numeral for 10).

Although Apple has updated its computers, a major overhaul of the operating system has been delayed several times.

One member of the Mac press once said that the new operating system is called OS X because that is the number of years that Macintosh users have been waiting for the new OS.

And it appears to have been delayed again.

Mr Jobs said the beta - or test - version of OS X would now not be released before September.

At one time, Apple had said that it would ship the new software update by the middle of this year, but was then forced to push back the delivery date to the second half of this year.

Now, Mr Jobs said that the OS would not ship before early in 2001.

The Cube

Before the expo, Mac rumour sites had been abuzz about something called the Cube.

Some said it was the enclosure for the multi-processing Macintosh.

Instead, Mr Jobs presented a miniaturised version of the single-processor G4 machine in an 8-inch cube.

"It has 2,000 times the volume efficiency of a Cray supercomputer in the 1980s," said Richard Crandall, an Apple scientist.

Two models, priced at $1,799 and $2,299, will be available in early August.

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