iMac gets flat-panel display, looks like a lamp

Having promised a new consumer product that is 'innovative, revolutionary and different,' Apple this week took the wraps off a redesigned iMac, which looks more like a desk lamp than a desktop computer.

          Having promised a new consumer product that is "innovative, revolutionary and different," Apple this week took the wraps off a redesigned iMac, which looks more like a desk lamp than a desktop computer.

          The new machine swivels, bends and performs a number of built-in digital functions demonstrated by Apple CEO Steve Jobs during a keynote speech opening the Macworld Expo in San Francisco. Packed with Apple's line of software for editing, storing and burning digital files, Jobs called the computer the hub of its digital strategy.

          Apple unveiled three models of the new iMac, with one each expected to ship monthly through March. Each iMac contains Apple's G4 processor at 700MHz or 800MHz and sports a 15-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) screen. Apple's all-in-one Superdrive, which reads and writes both CDs and DVDs (digital versatile discs), will be shipped with the first model due out this month. It will sport a price tag of $US1799. Apple New Zealand was unable to give any details on availability and pricing in New Zealand.

          "This is the best thing I think we've ever done," Jobs said. "It solves the whole cable mess problem … and every one has a flat screen."

          Each model of the iMac will include five USB ports and two FireWire ports, all located on the back of the machine. The high-end model, which will be the first to ship later this month, will include the 800 MHz G4 processor, 256M bytes of RAM and a 60G-byte hard drive. A $US1499 model will run a 700 MHz chip and ship with 256 M bytes of RAM and a 40G-byte hard drive, when it is released in February. The low-end model is $US1299 and features a 700MHz chip, 128M bytes of memory and a 40G-byte hard drive. That model will ship in March.

          Paul Laustsen, a Mac user and engineer with the US Department of Agriculture who attended the Monday (US time) keynote was impressed with the new iMac at first sight.

          "It's very exciting. At first it looked like a lamp, but it's got great potential," he said. One prediction he made was that the piston-like neck that supports the flat-panel monitor will easily allow Apple to later replace the 15-inch display with a larger monitor. "It lends itself to an upgrade," he said.

          With the release of the new iMac, Apple will ship all of its machines with its new Mac OS X 10.1 operating system as the default boot-up system, Jobs said. Users will be able to dual boot the Mac OS 9 operating system to run older applications.

          The keynote also featured a number of other anticipated announcements from Apple and its software partners. Graphics software maker Adobe Systems released new version upgrades to a collection of its software to run on the Mac OS X operating system. The upgrades are among the 2500 native applications now shipping for the new operating system, Apple said.

          But easily stealing the show Monday was the newly designed iMac. The original, bubble-like iMac was an instant hit when it was unveiled in 1998. The colorful computers have been credited with saving Apple from the doldrums it had settled into during the mid-1990s. But over time, some analysts said the iMac's design had become stale and was in need of a fresh look to boost sales.

          Details of the new iMac had been scarce leading up to the keynote, with Apple officials remaining tight-lipped on what users can expect the company to unveil at this week's Macworld.

          The first pictures of the new iMac were published Monday, when Time's Canadian website, Time Canada, ran two photographs of the elusive revamped iMac. The print issue of Time features the stylish desktop on its cover this week.

          The design of the new iMac is a radical departure from the previous version. Its base is a small, halved sphere that measures 26.4 centimeters in diameter. A flat-panel monitor is attached to the base using a jointed chrome neck that can be adjusted to position the monitor. The monitor itself is ringed by a translucent plastic "halo" while the rest of the case and the base is white plastic.

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