: Hardware Enhancements"> Hardware enhancements. The 17-inch LCD iMac was a pleasant, if not unexpected, boost to a consumer desktop line that (Apples recent financial results reveal) flagged distressingly in fiscal Q3 after screeching out of the gate in January. Ill admit that the spate of tube and flat-panel all-in-one consumer desktopsthe 17-inch eMac and entry-level, $799 iMac on the CRT side and the range of 15-inch and 17-inch iMacs representing the LCD campinitially struck me as somewhat convoluted. At first blush, it even inspired a few worries about the sort of market-blurring complexities that scuttled Apples worthy but unsuccessful Power Mac G4 Cube.Then theres the iPod, Apples tremendously successful MP3 gizmo: Hardware enhancements (such as a solid-state scroll wheel and 20GB of storage at the high end), aggressive price cuts on existing models, improvements to the accompanying software and a new assortment of extras (such as a nifty case and remote control) should continue to generate buzz for Apples first (but not last) foray into consumer electronics. And considering that the iPod already seems ubiquitous while limited to the Mac-owning minority, Im fascinated to see how many of them I count on my commute once Apple delivers a Windows version in late August. Software enhancements. If Apple manages to get its karma straight over software pricing, the features it introduced at Expo promise to boost the platform in a big way. eWEEK has already ruminated at length on Jaguar, which Jobs first demoed at Mays Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., but Ill reiterate my excitement about the new OS performance, its features for consumers and pros alike, and its compatibility in mixed-platform environments. By the same token, I believe that my friends in the server closet will take similar pleasure in the Jaguar Server package, which also includes niceties such as Workgroup Manager and IP failover. The rest of Apples new software announcements look like theyll strengthen the companys hand as the centerpiece of Jobs "digital hub" and (if it can solve the aforementioned unpleasantness over .mac upgrades) help leverage its strengths as a provider of consumer-friendly online services. At Expo, I talked to a lot of institutional customers as well as individual users who were plenty excited about iSync, Apples new software for synchronizing data on the Mac with Bluetooth cell phones; Palm PDAs; and, of course, the iPod. The companys new iCal calendar utility fits tidily with a hosting feature on .mac and brings Apple interface panache to a mundane task. Innovations like iCal (or the newly announced Version 3.0 of the companys iTunes playlist-creation utility) might not spark an en masse conversion to the Mac, but they provide Mac OS X with end-user perks that Windows doesnt match (at least this month).
After talking with Apples hardware tacticians, however, Im pretty well satisfied with the logic behind the moves, as well as the companys apparent retreat from its January pronouncements that current Mac lines had converged on LCD technology. Considering the enduring inflation of flat-panel prices, shifting the PowerPC G4-based eMac from education only to retail channels and continuing to maintain (and even enhance) the bargain-basement iMac is the only way that Apple can field a range of models that will appeal to cost-conscious consumersespecially those potential "switchers" who might otherwise go with a Gateway or Dell system.