iMac Price Hikes Overshadow Tokyo Keynote

Kicking off the Macworld Expo Tokyo trade show, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced a 10GB iPod, a 23-inch flat panel display, and a preview of Bluetooth wireless connectivity technology for Mac OS X. But those products will likely be overshadowed in the short term by the other news Jobs announced in Tokyo Thursday--across-the-board price hikes for the new flat-panel iMac unveiled by Apple in January.

Apple blamed the $100 price increases on higher costs for memory and LCD flat-panel displays. Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, called increasing component prices "an industry-wide issue right now," noting that memory costs have tripled and flat-panel costs have risen by 25 percent since the iMac's January debut.

The reconfigured iMacs will now start at $1,399 for the 700MHz G4 model with a CD-RW drive. The 700MHz G4 iMac with CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive will sell for $1,599. And the price on the SuperDrive-equipped 800MHz G4 model increases to $1,899 from $1,799. Apple says it will honor all existing reseller and Apple online store orders at the original pricing.

Speaking to the Mac faithful at the Tokyo International Exhibition Center, Jobs announced the $100 price increase as the bad news in a good news-bad news situation. The good news, the Apple CEO said, was that demand for the redesigned iMac "has been off the charts," with the company shipping more than 125,000 computers since January. Apple has also reached volume production, shipping more than 5,000 new iMacs each day.

Apple hopes to catch up with the heavy demand soon, Jobs said. "We appreciate our customers' and resellers' patience during this ramp-up period."

The iMac news highlighted what figured to be, by Jobs's standards, a fairly low-key speech. After the past two Tokyo trade shows ushered in revisions to Apple's portable and iMac offerings, Apple announced a month ago that it wasn't planning to introduce new computers at this year's event.

The iMac price increase dominated the early discussion among Mac users, but it wasn't the only news to come out of Tokyo. Jobs also announced:

More music for the iPod: Apple will now offer a second configuration of its portable MP3 player, with this model sporting a 10GB hard drive. Apple claims the larger drive will let iPod users store up to 2,000 CD-quality songs -- enough to listen to music continuously on six round-trip flights between Tokyo and San Francisco without ever hearing the same song twice, according to Jobs. That 10GB iPod, which sells for $499, still comes in the same-sized case that houses the $399 5GB model.

iPod owners will also be able to download and store contact lists with up to 1,000 names and addresses on their music player, thanks to free software available from Apple. The software lets you transfer contact lists from Microsoft Entourage, Palm Desktop or OS X's Address Book into the iPod Contacts folder.

Apple introduced another iPod feature that lets users order custom laser engraving for the stainless steel back of the music player. For $49, you can engrave two lines of text with up to 27 characters per line.

An addition to Apple's all-digital flat-panel display offerings: The 23-inch Apple Cinema HD Display features resolution of 1,920-by-1,200 pixels -- which Apple says is ideal for creative pros using Final Cut Pro to author High-Definition Television content in its native resolution. To further appeal to the creative-pro crowd, the display has a 16:10 aspect ration that lets you easily view a full 11-by-17-inch two-page spread. It also supports 16.7 million colors and offers a 160-degree viewing angle.

The Apple Cinema HD Display, which requires a Power Mac G4 and ADC connector, sells for $3,499. To put that price in context, Apple's 22-inch Cinema Display sold for $3,999 when it was introduced at the July 2000 Macworld Expo in New York.

Bluetooth for OS X: Bluetooth is an emerging industry standard for wireless connecting computers to mobile phones and PDAs. Previously cool to Bluetooth, Apple is now embracing the technology, making a preview version of its Bluetooth software for OS X available as a free download in April. The software automatically recognizes any Bluetooth-enabled devices within its range, allowing you to connect by selecting the device from a list and clicking the "pair" button. Also in April, Apple will offer a $49 Bluetooth USB adaptor, which can Bluetooth-enable any USB-equipped Mac.

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