Apple Launches Intel iMac, Drops Firewire 800 on New Notebook

By Timothy R. Butler | Posted at 2:04 PM

Apple Computer's Steve Jobs announced the first Intel-based Macintosh computers today during his annual MacWorld San Francisco keynote. Contrary to previously published rumors that had spread across the web in recent days, Apple did not announce a Mac mini DVR or a plasma television.

(Disclaimer: the author of this story owns shares of Apple stock.)

The new iMac is much like the previous generation iMac G5 announced last fall, which added support for the “Front Row” full screen multimedia viewing tool, a remote control and built-in iSight camera. According to Jobs, the new iMac, based on the newly released Intel Core Duo processor (formerly known as “Yonah”), will over double the performance of the previous generation of PowerPC G5-based systems.

However, the biggest announcement of the show would seem to be the new MacBook Pro, the successor to Apple's PowerBook 15” notebook. The MacBook Pro marks a departure in Apple's professional line branding as the company retires the PowerBook name that first appeared in 1990. According to the Jobs, the new systems are thinner than the thinnest previous PowerBook, coming in at a mere 1”, sport Core Duo processors (like the iMac), and also pick up the features of the iMac line, including Front Row and a built in iSight camera.

According to benchmarks released by the company, the system will offer performance roughly four times that of the current generation PowerBook G4 1.67 GHz. Jobs highlighted the increased performance per watt of the new Intel chips during his keynote.

Both the iMac and the MacBook Pro received upgraded graphics cards over previous generation systems. The MacBook will feature a ATI Radeon Mobility X1600 with either 128 or 256 megs of ram, the iMac will include the desktop version of the X1600 with 128 megs of ram.

However, perhaps the most telling part of the announcement is what the new system omits from the previous generation. The MacBook drops the FireWire 800 (IEEE 1394) port that has graced several generations of PowerBook G4's at 15” and 17” sizes. While previous rumors that Apple would be dropping FireWire altogether appear to be false, this does seem to indicate a continued departure from Apple's formerly favored expansion technology that has also included a switch to USB 2.0 in present generation iPods.

Apple's new iMac is shipping today, Jobs announced, whereas the new MacBook Pro is only available for pre-order with an anticipated shipping date in February. The systems' MSRP's appear the same as those of the previous generation iMac G5 and PowerBook 15” systems.

During the keynote, Paul Otellini, Intel's CEO, and Roz Ho, Microsoft's Mac Business Unit General Manager, both took the stage to hail Apple's Intel transition. According to Ho, Microsoft is making progress toward Universal Binary support for Microsoft Office, which will allow the suite to run natively on the new Intel Macs. Ho also said Microsoft will continue to support the Mac for at least five years, assuring the audience that the Redmond-based rival of Apple is committed to long-term support of the latter company's platform.

The Cupertino-based company also revealed updates to its iLife and iWork software suites. iLife '06 adds a web publishing tool, and both GarageBand, iMovie and iPhoto were updated to offer or improve support for podcasting, vidcasting (video podcasting) and photocasting, respectively.

A new spreadsheet had been anticipated by some for the updated iWork suite, however the announced product did not add a third program to the package, instead somewhat expanding the feature set of Pages and Keynote, the product's word processor and presentations software.