PARIS—While one of the worlds great metropolitan centers, Paris may be known more for its bright lights than for technology introductions. But for the Mac market, the annual Apple Expo here is one of the few industry events where Apple Computer Inc. chooses to unveil its new product lines. This years launch was a refreshed iMac series.
This 2004 edition of Apple Expo was kicked off Monday by a keynote address by Philip Schiller, Apples senior vice president of worldwide marketing. During the two-hour-long, standing-room-only event, Schiller covered a lot of ground, from an update on the iPod and the iTunes music store to the expanded lines of PowerPC G5-based iMacs.
If anyone needed proof of how important the iPod has become in Apples product lineup, the expo delivered ample proof: Signs for the show have been posted all over Paris for weeks now, exclusively using the now-familiar iPod dancing silhouettes. Even more striking, the iPod lineage is a strong theme in the marketing materials for the new iMac G5, drawing a parallel between the sleek styling of the music player and the profile of the new consumer model.
Introduced to a cheering crowd of Macintosh enthusiasts, the heavily anticipated announcement was clearly the high point of the keynote. The new consumer desktop, which will be available in 17-inch and 20-inch versions, should be available in the United States and Europe by mid-September. The 17-inch version will be offered with a 1.6GHz or 1.8GHz G5 processor; the larger model will be available only with the faster processor.
On the iPod and music front, Schiller said more than 5 million songs have been sold in the European stores since their introduction in early summer. With about 800,000 songs downloaded during the first week of operation, the sales figures of the iTunes Music Store are 16 times higher than the closest competitor, he said.
There was little doubt that the new consumer model generated interest with French Mac users. Every model on display on the show floor had long lines of people patiently queuing to get a closer look.
First reactions to the iMacs on display were mostly positive, although some visitors voiced criticism. For example, one games enthusiast lamented the sole choice of an Nvidia Corp. GeForce FX 5200 Ultra video card with 64MB of memory. Still, he was impressed by the demo of Epic Games Inc.s “Unreal Tournament” running on the 17-inch iMac G5.
Other attendees regretted the absence of an optical digital audio port on the new models and found on the Power Macintosh G5 models. “The iMac is a system you would feel comfortable with in your living room. Why doesnt Apple allow easy connection to Dolby Surround systems?” said one Mac user at the show.
Besides the introduction of the iMac G5, the Apple Expo keynote also featured the first public demonstration of Mac OS X 10.4, aka “Tiger,” previously shown at Apples developer conference in late June. While Schiller did not provide any new details on the next operating-system release, the keynote featured in-depth demos of several forthcoming technologies, including Spotlight, the search technology; the updated iChat AV; and RSS support for Apples Safari Web browser.
As for the obvious question given Microsoft Corp.s recent announcements of changes to the schedule of its Windows Longhorn, Schiller remained noncommittal. While a slide in his presentation stated that Tiger would be “years ahead of Longhorn,” he circumvented any detailed discussion of the subject—apart from underlining that Apples new release should still arrive well before Microsofts next major overhaul of Windows.