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Analysis: Is It Enough?

New hardware and software punctuate Apple's new product lineup, but will pro users be satisfied? By Dave Nagel
At the Macworld Expo in New York this morning, Steve Jobs announced several significant developments in the Apple product lineup, many of them targeted toward creative professionals. Are the product announcements enough to satisfy users who have become frustrated over the apparent stall in chip development over at Motorola? Users have had mixed reactions to the announcements in forums all over the Internet.

For some, any advance in processor speed is welcome relief. The G4 desktop line, as previously reported, now tops out at 867 MHz, and the high-end model will sport a dual-processor 800 MHz configuration (along with a 2 MB level-3 cache). Not a terribly big leap from the previous high-end model, which ran at 733 MHz. (The 733 MHz model is now at the entry level, selling for $1,699. See below for details on all the new products announced.)

The most significant development in the desktop line, however, is the fact that you can get an 867 MHz G4 Mac with a DVD SuperDrive for $2,499. The DVD SuperDrive, when sold alone, goes for about $1,000. This means, essentially, that you're getting Apple's fastest machine ever (in terms of clock speed) for $1,499, plus the cost of the SuperDrive. And this blows away anything on the Windows side for creative professionals working in production or post production.

The second most significant announcement today was Mac OS X 10.1, which, when it's released, will represent the first truly useable version of OS X. It includes "thousands" of new features, according to Jobs, including support for digital devices and, finally, the ability to handle DVDs and CD-RWs properly. Unfortunately, it won't be available until September. But fortunately, it will be a free update, at least according to Jobs. It also includes several performance enhancements requested by users, including an improved Finder, faster menus, faster window redraws and an enhanced interface. (See below for more.)

For the corporate user and presentation professionals, the other significant development was the announcement of iDVD 2 for OS X. The new version not only supports the latest Mac OS, but it offers 90 minutes of encoding, background encoding and the ability to create motion menus. Unfortunately, iDVD 2 requires Mac OS X 10.1, which won't be available until September.

Apple's other announcement included a revamped iMac line, still with a G3 processor but now topping out at 700 MHz. (The high-end model doesn't ship until next month.)

For some, the changes announced today represent solid advances in the product lineup. But for those looking for a 2 GHz Mac to compete with AMD and, to a lesser extent, Intel for raw power, it looks like we're in for a long wait. Details on Apple's announcements follow. What do you think? Post your response in our user forum here.

Faster G4 desktops
Most significant and immediate is the new lineup of desktop G4s, which now top out at 867 MHz, delivering 12 gigaflops of sustained throughput. Both the midrange 867 MHz model and the top-end dual-processor 800 MHz model now feature the SuperDrive, a combination DVD-R/CD-RW drive. The drive alone sells for $999 retail, yet the midrange, 867 MHz G4 is selling for only $2,499, including the SuperDrive. The top-end, dual-processor model sells for $3,499.

Apple also reintroduced the 733 MHz G4, which will now be Apple's entry-level model selling for $1,699. (It comes standard with a regular CD-RW drive.)

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