New iBooks and iMacs on Tap for Summer 2001

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Date: Monday, February 1st, 1999, 00:00
Category: Archive

I wrote the following article on 26 March 2001 for the 4.18 issue of MacPower magazine which goes on sale today in Japan. -Jason

Like every company in the fast-paced computer industry Apple has to innovate to stay ahead of the competition and to remain profitable. The world of computers is moving faster than ever in the age of the Internet and all manufacturers are being forced to innovate or get out of the way of an agile foe that will.

Apple has a great record of innovation in the past several years: the iMac, iBook, G4, and Mac OS X have all forced Windows PC manufacturers to re-examine their products and their business models. While it is true that Apple has done a great job of innovation in the past, time marches on and faster than it did before. While Steve Jobs did an incredible job resurrecting a company that was in trouble, he did it when the economy was strong. It will be even more difficult to do it again during the current economic slow down and bear market.

The first product in need of attention is the iBook, Apple’s consumer notebook. The next revision to the iBook line will bring the entry-level notebook a few new features that will appeal to consumers, but it won’t take sales away from the PowerBook G4 Titanium. The new iBook is being developed under the code name P21 or “Marble” and should be declared Golden Master (or GM) some time around the end of March 2001. The new iBook could be ready to ship as early as April 2001.

The new iBook is likely to keep the same form factor as previous models but with some effort to lessen the weight by about one-half pound. Rumors have circulated that Apple is redesigning the iBook into a thinner and lighter form factor, but it appears that this energy is being diverted into the professional PowerBook G4 line. Instead, iBook will remain the inexpensive Mac portable while slowly gaining features from its professional big brother – Titanium.

The new iBook will retain its G3 processor but it will get speed bumped to between 466 and 533 MHz and ship with 10, 20 and 30 GB hard drives as a CTO (Configure To Order) options. RAM will likely stay at 64 MB to keep the price down and to make it attractive to resellers to offer bundles. CD-RW and DVD-ROM drives will be offered in the low and high-end models respectively as Apple investigates a combination CD-RW/DVD solution.

12.1-inch screens have been spotted in early prototypes of the new iBooks, so the physical screen size is likely to stay the same. The good news is that Apple is testing configurations with up to 16 MB of VRAM and an external VGA output, allowing true dual-monitor support in addition to composite video out to TV. The additional VRAM could allow the ATI Rage 128 Mobility video subsystem to display up to 1024 x 768 resolution on the LCD. Apple is also unbundling the AV cable that shipped with previous iBooks in a cost-cutting move.

The remaining question centers on colors. Apple is always most secretive about colors in new Mac models and the new iBook is no different. Engineering mules (development units) have been seen “in the nude” which means that they don’t have external plastics; only the metal shielding can be seen. Judging by the code name “marble” and the recent announcements of Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian iMacs, the company is believed to be considering new pattern designs for iBook and possibly some metallic accents due to the popularity of the Titanium PowerBook G4.

The new iBook should be announced some time between the National Association of Broadcasters convention (NAB) in April and Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) in late May 2001. The new iBooks will retail for US$1499 for the standard model and US$1799 for the special edition model.

Also on Apple’s drawing board is another round of revisions to the iMac. Details are limited on the new iMacs, as they are not expected to be released before Macworld Expo July 2001 in New York City. The next iMac revision is likely to be the last for the current enclosure design as Apple is getting pressured to innovate beyond the current iMac enclosure which will be three years old this summer.

Some have speculated that the iMac may get a totally new form factor for the summer announcements but it does not look likely. Instead Apple will try to squeeze more resolution out of the current display while they work on a totally new all-in-one enclosure that will debut in 2002.

The new iMacs will ship with faster 733 MHz G3 processors and a new motherboard design with 4X AGP. You will also be able to order the new iMacs with Mac OS X pre-installed on the hard drive.

Apple is working very closely with engineers at Toshiba to include the company’s SD-R1002 combination CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive in the summer iMacs. The new combo drive, which is shipping now, will allow Apple to please the DVD and CD-RW crowds with this last incarnation of the current iMac.

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