Apple Expo: Live Keynote Coverage

Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller on Tuesday morning took the keynote stage of Apple Expo in Paris, where more than 7,000 people are attending the largest annual gathering of Macintosh users in Europe. He opened the event to warm cheers, telling the crowd that Apple CEO Steve Jobs is doing well following recent surgery to remove a rare but recoverable form of pancreatic cancer. Jobs will return to the helm of Apple in September, as he originally announced following his hospitalization.

Music to Apple's ears

Schiller kicked off the keynote with news about last week's introduction of the Apple iPod from HP, a re-branded version of the iPod first announced at CES 2004 this past January. Television advertisements for the new Apple iPod from HP began running on MTV over the weekend, during the music channel's popular "Video Music Awards." Apple is also running a new iPod spot itself featuring Steriogram's "Walkie Talkie Man," which the company has posted to its Web site.

The iPod -- now in its fourth generation and featuring a "Click Wheel" interface similar to what's found on the iPod mini, continues market dominance in the United States, according to Schiller. The iPod enjoys a 58 percent share of the digital music player market, as of June.

Schiller said that Apple is the first company to sell 100 million songs online, through its popular iTunes Music Store -- first put online in April 2003, and available for both the Mac and PC since October of 2003. Apple has also brought the iTunes Music Store to the United Kingdom, France and Germany, where it has sold 5 million songs in its first eight weeks of operation.

More than 12,000 OS X applications

There are more than 12,000 Mac OS X-native applications now on the market, according to Schiller. He yielded the show floor to executives from game maker THQ Inc. and Luxology. THQ showed off their work in progress, a 3D action brawler based on Pixar's forthcoming animated film "The Incredibles," featuring a family of superheroes. The game was first announced as coming to the Mac at E3 Expo in Los Angeles, Calif. this past May. The Mac OS X version will make its debut simultaneously with PC and console versions later this year, closer to "The Incredibles'" theatrical release. Luxology showed off its polygonal and subdivision surface 3D modeling tool Modo in action on Mac OS X.

Schiller also showed off Motion, Apple's recently released real-time motion graphics design software aimed at creative professionals in the film, video and DVD markets. Motion is being offered as a standalone product for US$299, and is bundled as part of Apple's new Production Suite collection along with Final Cut Pro HD and DVD Studio Pro for US$1,299.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright ...

Mac OS X v10.4, "Tiger," was first introduced to Mac developers at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Calif. this past June. Schiller covered some old ground, talking about Tiger's more than 150 new features, support for the G5's 64-bit architecture and other new capabilities, including Tiger's vaunted "Spotlight" search technology; Safari 2.0, an upcoming version of Apple's Web browser now with support for RDF Site Summary/Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds; Dashboard, an interface for specialized applications called "Widgets," and Automator, which enables users to benefit from Mac OS X's AppleScript support without having to learn how to write scripts.

For Apple, the timing of Apple Expo couldn't be better. Tiger is anticipated for a release in the first half of 2005, while Microsoft's rival "Longhorn" update to Windows isn't expected until 2006. Microsoft just recently announced plans to cull features from Longhorn in order to ship on time, including support for WinFS, a new file system that would have provided search capabilities to rival Tiger. Microsoft's delay news served as ample fodder for some ribbing by Schiller.

Another carryover from WWDC was a demonstration of H.264, or Advanced Video Codec (AVC), a video technology that will be coming to Apple's QuickTime framework in Panther. H.264 is an industry standard that Apple has been publicly promoting since the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2004 trade show this past April. It's a scalable video codec that can be used in everything from 3G "Smartphones" to high definition television and video.

And finally, the new iMac

As had been widely speculated leading into the start of Apple Expo, Apple used the event to take the wraps off its long-awaited iMac G5. Contrary to Apple's usual secrecy, the company announced plans to produce an iMac G5 during a quarterly conference call with financial analysts. The news came two weeks after Apple announced that it had discontinued flat panel iMacs in favor of an "all-new" line that would bow in September. Schiller ended his Apple Expo keynote with an introduction of the new system, to rapturous applause from those attending.

Schiller talked briefly about Apple's past success with the iMac, which was first introduced in 1998. The system sold 7.5 million units in six years -- 2.38 iMacs per minute. When the iMac first debuted, it was in an all-in-one CRT-based design; the iMac was then upgraded to a flat-panel LCD-based design in 2002.

The new G5 iMac shares a similar industrial design to Apple's recently refreshed Cinema Displays -- Apple bills the new system as the world's thinnest desktop computer, measuring less than 2 inches thick (the 17-inch models measure 1.99 inches thick, while the 20-inch model measures 2.2 inches thick). The right hand side of the iMac features a slot-loading optical drive, while the back of the device features a vertical arrangement of peripheral connectors, including three USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire 400 connectors, mini-VGA, modem, 10/100baseT Ethernet, audio in and audio out -- including both analog and digital connector, similar to the audio out jack on Apple's AirPort Express hub.

The new iMac features 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz G5 processors. With IBM's East Fishkill, NY chip manufacturing plant continuing to struggle with chip yields, this may explain why some Power Mac G5 users have had a tough time getting backordered equipment in a timely fashion -- Apple may have been diverting CPUs to the manufacture of new imacs instead. The system also features a 600MHz frontside bus -- markedly slower than the Power Mac, but still considerably faster than previous generations of iMacs. The iMac G5 takes up to 2GB of 400MHz DDR RAM, features Serial ATA (SATA) internal storage, and an 8x AGP graphics architecture supporting Nvidia's GeForce 5200 Ultra graphics processor.

The new iMac will be available in two 17-inch (1,440 x 900 pixel) configurations and one 20-inch (1,680 x 1,050 pixel) configuration. Prices start at $1,299, with a 1.6GHz processor, 256MB RAM, a DVD-ROM/CD-RW "Combo" drive, 80GB hard drive, 64MB VRAM. A 1.8GHz system with a 17-inch screen will cost $1,499, while the 20-inch system, bumped up to a 160GB hard drive and "SuperDrive" optical drive, will cost $1,899. The iMac G5 will ship in mid-September.

MacCentral's live update of the keynote event has ended. Please visit our home page for more news from Apple Expo.

This story, "Apple Expo: Live Keynote Coverage" was originally published by PCWorld.

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