NEW YORK—Apple Computer Inc. on Wednesday announced several products and initiatives designed to give Microsoft Corp. a run for its money – but they wont come cheap.
At its Macworld Conference & Expo in New York, the company announced that it is changing the name of its iTools Web services to .mac and as stated in an earlier eWeek story will start charging an annual fee for the previously free services.
“You used to be able to get free services like crazy,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in his keynote address. “All thats gone. Yahoo now charges you serious dollars for everything.”
.Mac will cost $99 for annual membership, $49 for current iTools subscribers for the initial year.
Jobs also introduced version 10.2 of the Macintosh Operating System. Up to now, known as Jaguar, Mac OS 10.2 includes 150 new features. Many of these are designed to woo enterprise customers, including the Kerberos authentication protocol and virtual private network support that links to a Windows-based network, Jobs said.
Jaguar also includes a multithreaded finder and support for QuickTime 6, Jobs said. It also integrates handwriting recognition into the text system so that users can write in any application without additional training.
Additionally, it includes an enhanced mail client that color codes threads of messages and automatically marks junk mail by turning it brown.
Apple also took steps to turn its iPod music player into a viable personal digital assistant.
The company is lowering the price of its 5GB iPod to $299 and the 10GB version to $399.
A new 20GB iPod for $499 will include capacity for 4,000 songs but also support for both a contact list and an interactive calendar. It also includes a solid-state scroll wheel.
Additionally, the new iPod supports “smart playlists” that organize songs into groups according to pre-set data such as artist and recording date.
“It is so cool,” Jobs said. Apple also announced a new iPod that will support Microsoft Windows. While it will not have all the features of the Macintosh-supporting iPod, “Its better than anything else out there that supports Windows,” Jobs said.
The new iPods will be available in August.
Jobs also announced a new protocol called Rendevous that will allow Mac OS systems to discover other devices, such as printers, over any IP network with zero configuration. It will appear within the next six months.
iCal is a new surprise app from Apple. The single-window calendaring app comes with a variety of schedules and calendars and lets users share calendars over the Internet with automatic updating and subscriptions. iCal makes it easy to deal with a variety of types of events.
“Modern life requires multiple calendars,” Jobs said.
iCal will ship in September as a free download at Apple.com.
iTunes 3, as anticipated earlier in the week, includes ratings, play counts, support for Audible.com, and smart playlists.
“I think this is going to change the way we listen to music,” Jobs said.
iTunes 3 is a free download at Apple.com starting today.
iSync is another surprise app, aimed at “synchronizing your digital life,” Jobs said. It works with the new generation of Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, as well as Palm devices, and the iPod to synchronize information. In addition, .mac subscribers will be able to sync their computers with .mac. Katsumi Ihara, the President of Sony Ericsson, took the stage to talk about his companys phone seamlessly connecting to the Mac.
“Today, I believe, Apple can proudly say it is a leader in easy-to-use connectivity between the powerful computer and our phones,” he said. “Our products complement each other extremely well.”
iSync will be available in September as a free download at Apple.com.
“But there is one more thing,” Jobs said, going on to introduce the new 17-inch flat-panel iMac to address one of the most commonly-requested additions. The new display has 1440×900 pixels and is in a cinematic-aspect ratio. The new iMac has an Nvidia GeForce4 graphics processor; the $1999 system will be available in stores two weeks from now.
Nick dePlume is the editor in chief of Think Secret.
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