Apple's Big News

Was it earth-shattering? No. It's kind of slick. Apple's introduced new iMacs that look nothing like a computer has ever looked before. They have an armature that's double-jointed and fully positionable which supports a 15-inch LCD screen. The base to which its attached is small (about 10 1/2 inches in diamter); a hemisphere containing all the components, drives, and power supply. Jobs made an allusion to that last point about how it didn't have a big block power supply external to the unit, which the Cube did.

The new units are impressive, though, not just because they integrate the LCD and articulate it, nor because they're compact. No, what's important here is the price/performance ratio. For $1,299 you get a 15-inch LCD, CD burner, 700 MHz G4 processor, and OS X coupled with some good memory and hard drive space. Last year, you'd have spent at least $3,500 and would have had a lot more gear and boxes.

The top-end iMac is $1,799 and has a SuperDrive (DVD-RW/CD-RW) plus an 800 MHz G4 processor. This is fairly astounding, given that this unit was $4,500 last January when it was introduced as a G4 tower configuration.

So they pulled a price/performance/design rabbit out of their hat, but it really didn't warrant all the hype. They would have done better to be quieter.

Jobs demoed iPhoto, which closes the loop on how you get stuff from external digital devices to and from the Mac. The iPhoto program downloads images from digital cameras (and other sources), turns them into manageable albums, exports them as Web pages, uploads them to a Kodak print source (an unbranded, I think), and can even assemble a print book of photos. It's very good along the lines of iTunes.

Lots of other tidbits, including the fact that Apple shipped 125,000 iPods between Nov. 10 and Dec. 31. This is amazing. I read a lot of assumptions even by the many writers who love the unit itself that the iPod was doomed to failure a la the Cube. So 125K by $400 = $50M of raw sales. Assuming that a lot of these were sold direct via their online and bricks and mortar stores (which I believe was the case), Apple added at least $10M, maybe as much as $20M to their profit for last quarter. And that's before they start adding more features.

Adobe showed off a bunch of their apps, some ready for OS X, some near-term. Some impressive demos of graphics, rendering, and visualization tools, including a guy from LucasFilms. The iBook also got a refresh. More news in tomorrow's Seattle Times in my business section story for them.