Giving life to rumors that circulated around the Internet earlier this month, Apple Computer detailed a Mac that will sell for less than $500, a new version of Mac OS X, and a productivity suite.
The announcements came during CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote address at the Macworld Conference & Expo last week in San Francisco.
The Mac mini is designed to attract users who may be familiar with Apple’s other products, but who are unwilling to spend the money on the full-featured versions, Jobs said.
The Mac mini -- a complete Macintosh system -- is not much longer or wider than a compact disc and, at only 2 inches, is shorter than Apple’s iPod mini. It features Apple’s G4 processor, a generation behind the G5 processor currently shipping in Power Macs and iMacs.
Apple will release two versions of the Mac mini on Jan. 22. The least expensive model will cost $499 with a 1.25GHz G4 processor, 256MB of PC2700 (333MHz) DDR SDRAM, a 40GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM/CD-RW optical drive, and a Radeon 9200 graphics processor from ATI Technologies. The other model costs $599 with a 1.42GHz processor and an 80GB hard drive.
“I and a lot of others have been on [Apple’s] case for a long time now about not covering the lower price points. They have left a lot of business on the table by not having something available in that space,” said Roger Kay, vice president of client computing at IDC.
Apple also touted its forthcoming iteration of Mac OS X, code-named Tiger and slated to ship in the first half of this year.
Tiger integrates a number of helpful applications that Jobs called “widgets” -- including a weather report window, currency converter, and dictionary, among others -- and displays them in a dashboard at the bottom of the screen.
Apple also released a new office productivity suite, iWork ’05, which costs $79 and features Keynote 2, an update to Apple’s presentation software, and Pages, a new word-processing application designed as an update to AppleWorks.
Some observers think the new package is more of an attempt to replace the aging AppleWorks productivity suite than it is to compete directly with Microsoft Office on the Mac.
“Apple has its legacy product in AppleWorks, and they have put no money into updating it. I think what we are seeing is the reincarnation of AppleWorks. It would never replace Office; but if you are targeting an audience that looks at their computers as digital content managers and they want to do some light word processing, then a suite like that -- that sells for $99 -- would be much more appealing,” said Charles Wolf, analyst at Needham & Co.