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Originally published January 11, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 11, 2006 at 2:50 PM

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Corrected version

Apple moves at top speed with switch to Intel's chips

Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini and Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs met on stage Tuesday at the Macworld Conference & Expo to mark a significant transition.

Special to The Seattle Times

SAN FRANCISCO — In a bit of showmanship reminiscent of headier days, two of technology's top titans met on stage Tuesday at the Macworld Conference & Expo to mark a significant transition.

Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini, clad in a white clean-room suit, emerged in a haze of fog to hand Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs a symbolic silicon wafer.

With that, Jobs said new Intel-based Apple computers were ready for the market "a little ahead of schedule."

For the first time, Macintosh computers will run on Intel microprocessors, which long have powered Windows-based personal computers.

Otellini pulled off the "bunny suit" helmet and said, "I want to report that Intel's ready."

Jobs replied, "I can report to you that Apple's ready, too."

Jobs unveiled substantially more powerful new versions of the iMac consumer desktop PC and a new professional laptop dubbed the MacBook Pro.

Intel to the Macs


What's in the box? Apple announced two Intel-based machines: an iMac desktop and MacBook Pro laptop. Both include Front Row software and Apple Remote.

iMac (shipping now)

$1,299 model

1.83 GHz Intel Core Duo

512 MB RAM

17-inch widescreen display (1440 x 900 pixels)

160 GB hard drive

8x SuperDrive

Wi-Fi

Bluetooth 2.0

$1,699 model

2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo

20-inch widescreen (1680 x 1050 pixels)

200 GB hard drive

8x SuperDrive

Wi-Fi

Bluetooth 2.0

MacBook Pro (planned Feb. release)

$1,999 model:

1.67 GHz Intel Core Duo

512 MB RAM

80 GB hard drive

15.4-inch widescreen display (1440 by 900 pixels)

Wi-Fi

Bluetooth 2.0

Ethernet

$2,499 model:

1.83 GHz Intel Core Duo

1 GB RAM

100 GB hard drive

15.4-inch widescreen display (1440 by 900 pixels)

Wi-Fi

Bluetooth 2.0

Ethernet

Source: Apple Computer

Both feature Intel's Core Duo chip, which incorporates two processors into a single integrated circuit, and which leading Windows computer makers plan to use in their new releases.

Jobs also used his traditional keynote address to say Apple sold 14 million iPods in the fourth quarter of 2005 and 32 million for the year — more than three-quarters of all iPods ever sold. He said the iTunes Music Store has sold 850 million songs.

The sales helped the company produce a record quarter — an expected $5.7 billion in revenue and crossing $1 billion in sales at retail Apple Store outlets. The company also shipped 1.25 million Macintoshes.

The news pushed up Apple stock yesterday $4.81, or 6.3 percent. Shares closed at $80.86, a 52-week high.

Separately, Apple secured an agreement with Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit, which produces the Office suite of productivity software, for a minimum of five more years.

Persistent rumors of discord have dogged the two companies since a reconciliation five years ago.

The pact, signed in November, requires Microsoft to produce new versions of its software for the Mac, while Apple agreed to provide Microsoft with developer resources "in a timely manner," Scott Erickson, Microsoft's Mac Business Unit director of product management and marketing, said Monday. "We wanted with Apple to make a very visible commitment."

The new iMac desktop that Jobs showed off Tuesday carries out basic operations two to three times faster than the model it replaced, which used an IBM PowerPC G5 processor. The MacBook Pro, with a 15.4-inch display, performs some tasks four to five times faster than its predecessor.

The MacBook Pro laptop supplements the remaining 12-inch and 17-inch PowerBook models, which use Freescale (formerly Motorola) PowerPC G4 chips. Jobs said Intel's chips use a quarter the energy for the same performance, with much less heat than G4 and G5 chips.

"It's not a secret that we've been trying to shoehorn a G5 into a PowerBook and have been unable to do so because of its power consumption," he said.

Jason Snell, editorial director of Macworld magazine, cautioned that Apple can select a favorable benchmark that "may or may not equate to real-world performance." The magazine plans to perform a wide range of tests in months to come.

But, Snell noted, "There's going to be huge uptake of people who have not bought a laptop in a while because the speed just hasn't been there."

Snell said the faster machines would definitely show to their advantage in demonstrations at Apple's retail stores.

Jobs also revealed Apple would convert its entire product line to Intel processors in 2006. When plans for the switch were disclosed last spring, the expected transition extended into mid-2007.

The products to have Intel processors include a smaller home desktop computer, professional high-end desktops and consumer laptops.

The new processor requires that software written for Apple's Mac OS X be modified to add instructions to work with the Intel processor. Apple developers can create so-called "universal binaries," or applications that operate on both PowerPC and Intel processors.

The company has updated most of its core software to universal binaries, including packages announced Tuesday. Updates to professional-level software will follow in March.

While the machines will have Intel processors, Apple has no plans to offer or support the use of Windows.

Reports had suggested Apple might use means to prevent Windows from running on an Intel-based Mac. But in an interview, Apple Vice President David Moody said, "We're not doing anything with the hardware that would preclude anybody from taking a run at it."

Microsoft did not provide a timeline for an updated version of Office, but its Mac Business Unit general manager, Roz Ho, said it has worked to ensure Office works with a compatibility method Apple will include with its Intel-based computers to run PowerPC-only software.

In a broad gesture at Microsoft, Jobs previewed a television commercial announcing the Intel-based computers in which a voice-over actor expressed sympathy for an Intel processor because "it's been trapped inside dull little boxes performing dull little tasks when it could have been doing so much more."

The company also announced several software updates, including a revision of the iLife suite, which is made up of digital-media-management software. The iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and GarageBand programs for handling photos, creating digital video films, burning personal DVDs and arranging music and voice had significant feature additions.

Jobs also presented iWeb, a simple Web-site creation and management program focused on photos, sound, and movies.

Glenn Fleishman, a Seattle freelancer, writes the Practical Mac column in the Personal Technology section of The Seattle Times.

A previous version of this story contained an error. Apple's stock closed Tuesday at $80.86. In the previous version, this number was incorrectly labeled. It is a 52-week high for the stock.

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