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OS X Upgrade, Windows-Based iPods Launched At MacWorld

The usual large collection of Mac fanatics were on hand last week at the Macworld Expo to hear Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveil the newest upgrade to Mac OS X, Windows-based iPod music players and a new high-end iMac desktop.

While Jobs spent most of his speech describing the new improvements to OS X, the new 20GB hard drive-equipped iPod received the most vocal reception from attendees. The device has a $499 suggested retail price and can hold 4,000 songs. To make room for this model, Apple lowered the price on its 10GB version to $399 and the 5GB version to $299.

Not as big a favorite with the crowd, but considered much more important by Apple, are the three new iPod models designed to work with Windows PCs. These will come in the same capacity and price points as the Apple models, but will use MusicMatch software instead of iTunes to manage the songs.

The Apple models will ship in early August with the Windows versions following at the end of that month. All the models have a thinner case and a new solid state shuttle mechanism and can hold contact and calendar information.

The new iMac, with a suggested retail price of $1,999, sports a 17-inch flat-panel display 800MHz G4 processor, DVD-R SuperDrive, 80GB hard drive, 256MB of RAM and is expected to ship next week. Apple also lowered the price on its higher-end 15-inch iMac to $1,799.

Jobs said rewritable DVD is by far the most requested feature on the iMac, with the SuperDrive-equipped models comprising 50 percent of all iMac sales.

Mac OS X version 10.2, nicknamed Jaguar, received several major upgrades including Bluetooth capability, the MPEG 4 QuickTime 6-movie player, a revised Sherlock Web searching tool, and what Jobs called a dramatically improved email application. OS 10.2 will be available on Aug. 24 with a $129 suggested retail price, although customers buying a Mac starting today can receive the upgrade for only $19.99.

“OS 10.2 is the most innovative release we’ve had in a long time,” Jobs said. He also gave a glimpse of several new technologies that are slated to be added to the OS in the coming months.

These include a new technology called Rendezvous that Jobs said will allow IP networked devices to locate each other on both wireless or wired networks. Apple is developing Rendezvous as an open standard, and Jobs reported that Epson, Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark have already agreed to include the technology in several upcoming network printers. To use Rendezvous to find, for example, a networked printer, the customer uses the usual printer application to perform a search of the network for a Rendezvous-equipped printer and it is immediately synced up without having to exchange IP addresses or make any other changes.

Rendezvous can also connect two computers allowing one operator to view any type of data file on the other device. However, when the other computer is shut off, access is terminated.

Apple’s iTunes music management software was improved to allow songs to be stored and played in several fashions. This includes automatically building playlists according to preset standards, all of which can be downloaded to an iPod. The new iTunes can be downloaded for free starting today. The improved e-mail application has junk mail elimination capabilities and an upgraded address book.

Jobs also opened another front in Apple’s battle against Microsoft with the creation of .Mac, an online Macintosh-oriented Internet service site. For an annual $99 fee members have access to 100MB of online storage space, photo hosting and all of the functionality that was contained within iTools. Apple’s current site will be shut down Sept. 30. Microsoft’s version is called .Net.

The site will continually receive new capabilities, one of the first will come in September when iCal becomes available as a free download. It is a calendar application that allows appointments to be segmented so consumers can juggle their work, family and other schedules. The application overlays the different schedules on one calendar so conflicts can be easily seen.

All of these online services will be made accessible to a variety of computers and handheld devices by using Apple’s new iSync software.

“This is a landmark, groundbreaking application to synchronize your digital life,” Jobs said.

The software is the newest addition to Apple’s digital hub concept that has devices like digital cameras and iPods working with a desktop computer to instantly share data. With the introduction of iSync, available in September as a free download, GPRS cell phones and Palm handhelds will sync with any of these devices, he said.

The availability of all these free applications is part of a renewed Apple effort to give Windows users a good reason to switch to Mac with their next computer purchase.

This line of thought was pushed by Jobs in last week’s speech, which had a decidedly anti-Microsoft slant compared to recent keynotes where he went out of his way to be nice to Microsoft. The presentation started out with showing several of Apple’s new TV commercials, which have people stating why they switched to Apple from a Windows-based PC. This new customer recruiting campaign takes several not-so-gentle swipes at Microsoft, and Jobs hopes it leads to a mass defection from that camp to the Mac.

During the show Apple held the grand opening for its first New York City Apple store. Located in the SoHo section of Manhattan, Apple’s 32nd store is housed in a 100-year-old post office building and includes an expanded Genius bar and kids play area.

In other news, Apple announced that for the 2002 third quarter it posted a net profit of $32 million on sales of $1.43 billion. These figures are down from the $61 million profit made during the same period last year. Apple reported that it shipped 808,000 units during the quarter, about 2 percent lower than last year.