APPLE EXPO: Long-awaited iBook begins shipping in US

Sticking to its promise of a mid-September release date, Apple Computer has started shipping the iBook. CEO Steve Jobs says pre-orders for the consumer portable have already topped 160,000.

Sticking to its promise of a mid-September release date, Apple Computer has started shipping the iBook, its first portable computer aimed squarely at consumers.

The iBook became available in the United States yesterday, and will reach other territories in the next few weeks, said Steve Jobs, Apple's interim CEO, in his keynote speech here at the opening day of the annual Apple Expo trade show.

"We announced that we would ship the iBook in mid-September, and guess what -- that's today," quipped Jobs, addressing a jubilant crowd of Macintosh devotees.

The iBook, which is powered by a 300MHz PowerPC G3 processor and features a 12.1-inch active matrix screen, will carry a recommended retail price of $3795 in New Zealand. Although New Zealand will get its first stock in the second week of October, Apple New Zealand general manager Paul Johnston says he does not expect to be out of back order until early December.

Apple has already received more than 160,000 pre-orders for the iBook, although it has yet to start taking orders in Japan, claimed Jobs. In the US, the machine sells for $1,599.

"It's a great product," said Jobs, referring to the iBook as the world's second-fastest portable computer, surpassed only Apple's own PowerBook line of corporate notebooks.

The company's iMac consumer desktop PC, which was launched on August 15 in 1998, according to Jobs has now sold more than 2 million units in just over a year. He claimed that as many as 33% of iMac buyers were first-time computer buyers, thus enlarging Apple's installed base.

Jobs did not, however, take advantage of the Apple Expo event to unveil the long-expected followup to the first-generation iMac.

In addition to the iBook announcement, Jobs also demonstrated the "voiceprint" password function and some 50 other new features, such as Sherlock 2, that will be part of the forthcoming MacOS 9 operating system. Scheduled to ship in October, MacOS 9 will carry a retail price of 110 euros ($114), said Jobs.

Sherlock 2, Apple's Internet search software, has been redesigned to help users buy goods an devices from 'Net retailers and auction houses, said Jobs. "Sherlock can find the best deals out there for you," he added.

In another software demo, Jobs got a little help from an IBM official, who demonstrated a French-language version of IBM's ViaVoice speech recognition software running on a Mac.

Apple Computer, in Cupertino, California, can be reached on the Web at http://www.apple.com.

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