Long-awaited iBook ships in US

Long-awaited iBook ships in US

Sticking to its promise of a mid-September release date, Apple Computer yesterday started shipping the iBook, its first portable computer aimed squarely at consumers.

The iBook will be available in the United States as of today, and will reach European shores within the next few weeks, said Steve Jobs, Apple's interim chief executive officer, in his keynote speech here at the opening day of the annual Apple Expo trade show.

"We announced that we would ship the iBook in mid-September, and guess what -- that's today," quipped Jobs, addressing a jubilant crowd of Macintosh devotees.

The iBook, which is powered by a 300MHz PowerPC G3 processor and features a 12.1 inch active matrix screen, will carry a retail price of 1649 euros (US$1,710) once it ships in Europe, said Jobs. Apple has already received more than 160,000 pre-orders for the iBook, although it has yet to start taking orders in Japan, claimed Jobs. In the US, the machine sells for $1599.

"It's a great product," said Jobs, referring to the iBook as the world's second-fastest portable computer, surpassed only Apple's own PowerBook line of corporate notebooks.

The company's iMac consumer desktop PC, which was launched on August 15 in 1998, has now sold more than 2 million units in just over a year, according to Jobs. He claimed that as many as 33 per cent of iMac buyers were first-time computer buyers, thus enlarging Apple's installed base.

Jobs did not, however, take advantage of the Apple Expo event to unveil the long-expected follow-up to the first-generation iMac.

In addition to the iBook announcement, Jobs also demonstrated the "voiceprint" password function and some 50 other new features, such as Sherlock 2, that will be part of the forthcoming MacOS 9 operating system. Scheduled to ship in October, MacOS 9 will carry a retail price of 110 euros ($US114), said Jobs.

Sherlock 2, Apple's Internet search software, has been redesigned to help users buy goods an devices from Net retailers and auction houses, said Jobs. "Sherlock can find the best deals out there for you," he added.

In another software demo, Jobs got a little help from an IBM official, who demonstrated a French-language version of IBM's ViaVoice speech recognition software running on a Mac.

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