Looking to pull the company out of its recent slump, Apple CEO Steve Jobs kicked off the MacWorld conference and expo held here by unveiling an array of new products. With thousands of Apple faithful looking on, Apple's top executive revealed features in the Mac OS X operating system, faster G4 desktops and a new line of ultra-thin PowerBook laptops.
In the Mac OS X demonstration, Jobs showed a variety of new menu options, very fluid drag and drop features and media applications. The OS will be out later than expected, appearing in stores on March 24 priced at US$129. It will not be pre-loaded on machines until July, when an "avalanche" of OS X-ready applications arrives, Jobs said.
In the new OS, Apple focused on several features to gear the software toward corporate customers. The stability of the kernel – named Darwin – is aided by protected memory functions and automated virtual memory to help ensure the system will not crash, Jobs said. In addition, Apple included the BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) Unix interface into the OS to allow Apple machines to appeal to corporate systems managers.
Apple will integrate QuickTime 5 into the new OS in order to give users the most up-to-date multimedia ability and help the company play on its multimedia forte.
"We have the most killer graphics on the planet built into the core of the OS X," he said.
Apple sold 100,000 copies of its OS X beta, dating back to last September, and received 75,000 feedback submissions.
"Some of the feedback was quite long," Jobs quipped.
The end result of this process resulted in an OS unlike anything else on the market, Jobs said. For users happy with the old Mac OS, most of the features of the operating system can be used as the default. For those hungry for something new, Apple designed a user interface, called Aqua, that is extremely fluid and which can gives users much more flexible access to applications, Jobs said.
"We have taken out a few of the features you always use like the Apple Menu, Sleep, Restart, Shut Down and made them accessible from anywhere in the system," he said.
As he introduced the new line of faster desktops, Jobs said, "We have been coasting along at 500MHz for 18 months, and that is too long."
Apple will release four models of its faster desktops, stretching the processing power up to 733MHz. Along with the 733MHz machines, Apple will bundle its new SuperDrive product, which can read and write CDs and DVDs. The DVDs written and created by users can then be played on any commercially-available DVD player. The lowest-powered machine in this line will run at 433MHz and will be priced at $1,699, while the top model will be priced at $3,499.
"These new G4s have the power to burn CDs, DVDs and Pentiums," Jobs said.
Jobs also highlighted a new line of PowerBooks with 500MHz G4 processors. These laptops are made out of titanium, are one inch thick and come with a 15.2-inch LCD screen. Shipping by the end of January, the 400MHz model will cost $2,599 with the 500MHz model running at $3,499.
"We have the power and the sex," Jobs said of the new laptops.
To complement the SuperDrive, Jobs showed two new multimedia software applications.
"We are late to this party, but we are about to do a leap frog," Jobs said.
Jobs pulled out all the stops when demonstrating his company's iTunes audio application and iDVD application for enhanced movie making and viewing capabilities. The iTunes software compares with media players made by RealNetworks and Microsoft and touts a very simple interface, Jobs said. iTunes is free for users via download and can copy a CD at a speed of eight times faster than its play time.
The iDVD application builds on Apple's iMovie software and allows users to create and organize video content. After making a movie, the user can then use the SuperDrive to copy it onto a DVD.
Jobs used these multimedia applications to usher in a very definite message to the Macworld crowd - the PC is not dead.
"A lot of people have said the PC is waning," Jobs said. "We think the PC is on the threshold of starting its third great age - the digital lifestyle. Macs can become the digital hub of a new, emerging digital lifestyle with the ability to add tremendous value to all of these digital devices."
This message issued by Jobs was very similar to that presented by Intel's president and CEO Craig Barrett at last week's Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas. While Jobs made some attacks on Intel's Pentium 4, he agreed with the chip giant's philosophy on the PCs future.
Both Apple and Intel look to place the PC as the main device through which all manner of peripherals will connect. They both feel the PC provides the processing power needed to make digital devices truly useful. Jobs did, however, refer to the various earnings warnings issued by vendors over the last few months.
"The last several months of 2000 were particularly challenging for Apple and the industry," Jobs said.
Like other PC makers, Apple suffered from slowing late-year sales. Due to slower than expected sales in October and November, Apple last month said it expected both its first-quarter 2001 earnings and revenue, for the period ending Dec 30, will be well below its previous expectations. The company said it would miss revenue targets for the first time in three years and issued a number of rebates on its G4 Cubes. Apple now hopes the faster speeds of the G4s will boost sales and attract large, corporate customers along with its multimedia mainstays. Apple officials said lower-than-expected sales of its PowerMac G4 Cubes accounted for over $90 million in missed revenue for the quarter.