Apple Unveils Redesigned iMac With Flat Panel

Apple Computer Inc. is relaunching its flagship desktop computer, the iMac, with a redesigned flat-panel model that features a high-end processor, Chief Executive Steve Jobs said on Monday.

The new iMacs, which include a 15-inch flat panel display connected to a half-dome base via a pivoting arm, will ship this quarter, Jobs said at the Macworld Expo trade show.

The new entry-level model iMac will be priced at $1,299, and all of the new machines will run the PowerPC G4 processor that Apple had reserved for high-end machines.

The top of the line iMac, which will ship by the end of this month, will be priced at $1,799 and will include a drive capable of writing data and transferring video to DVDs, the company said.

``We expect demand to be large,'' Jobs said.

The announcement of the new desktop computer line and a 14-inch portable iBook PC capped weeks of speculation over what new products Apple would unveil at Macworld, a venue to promote upcoming software and hardware releases.

In an industry marked by increasingly tight margins, Apple's strategy has been to lure consumers with radical new designs and other features that promise ease-of-use, particularly in digital media such as video and music.

Apple engineers and designers have been working on the new iMac for the past two years, Jobs said, conceding that some of Apple's users and distributors had been hoping for a quicker release of the new desktop.

But he argued that the radically revamped design that allows the iMac's flat panel screen to pivot out from the computer's half-globe base had been worth the wait.

``This is the best thing, I think, we've ever done,'' Jobs told the Macworld crowd.

In the past year, Jobs has said Apple's strategy was to release the computer-linked products and software that it sees as central to a a new "digita3/4 Du Du2? DI IN Ka L+?The latest announcements, including the new iMac, complete that process, Jobs said.

``We've now got the complete digital hub for the digital lifestyle,'' Jobs said.

In addition to the new iMac, Apple said on Monday that it would make its OS X operating system standard on all new Macs and unveiled a new photo application called iPhoto.

That new software, which will be provided free to Apple OS X users, allows users to create slide shows of digital photographs and order prints and custom-bound photo albums online, the company said.

Chris LeTocq, a technology strategist at advisory firm SageCircle attending Macworld, said the new iMac was so appealing that it could take some of the shine from Apple's high-end computers, making it necessary to ship higher volumes to make up in exchange for potentially lower margins.

``Anybody who is considering the high-end line is going to be looking at the new entry now,'' LeTocq said. ``Here's hoping they got their business model straight.''

The original iMac series, which featured colorful designs and translucent cases, was a hit for Apple when it was released in May 1998 and Apple has sold over 6 million to date, making it one of the most popular computer lines.

Apple's three-year old iMacs were priced from $799 on the company's Web site on Monday, while its high-end Power Mac G4, was priced from $1,699.