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A Bushel of New Apple Products

Yesterday, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs unveiled new versions of three of Apple's major products: the iMac all-in-one desktop, the iLife multimedia suite and the iWork productivity bundle. All three products had gone a long time without any real update--almost a year for the iMac, over a year and a half for iLife and iWork.

Earlier this afternoon, I got to check out these new releases up close, courtesy of a few Apple PR types in town to demo them all. Here are my impressions:

* The new, aluminum-clad iMac is notably thinner than its already sleek predecessor--the 20-in. model, now the cheapest iMac at $1,199, is about an inch thick at the edges, though fatter in the center. Apple says the components inside incorporate the Intel "Santa Rosa" system architecture that I've covered here before, with incremental boosts to storage and speed. The niftiest hardware here may be the iMac's exceptionally thin, light keyboard, based on those used in Apple's laptops. (Anybody who's had to tutor a Mac newcomer should appreciate how its Command key is finally labeled "Command" instead of with an Apple or cloverleaf icon.)

* The $79 iLife '08--free with new Macs--includes a substantially revised iPhoto that relies on "events," date-specific collections of pictures, instead of albums to organize photos; the idea is that iPhoto will be able to do more of the initial sorting of photos for you. It also links to a new photo-sharing site on Apple's $100/year .Mac service--see this sample gallery from Apple. The '08 release of the iMovie video editor, meanwhile, employs a new three-pane interface, in which all of your video clips appear in an iPhoto-esque listing at the bottom of the screen--not just those clips you've already collected for the current project. IMovie allows you to share the results on YouTube in addition to .Mac. iDVD, however, seems the same--Apple didn't even bother demoing it this afternoon--and Garage Band's major new feature appears to be a "Magic" option that makes it easier for non-musicians to play around with canned loops of music.

* Then there's iWork '08, also $79, which may finally bring this set of applications to mass-market relevance. Set aside the upgraded versions of the Keynote slide-show creator and the Pages desktop-publishing program (which Apple says can now also serve as an everyday word processor, complete with support for Microsoft Word's revision-tracking features); the big news here is Numbers, Apple's first spreadsheet program in years. Numbers looks little like Microsoft Excel or any other spreadsheet that I've tried lately, and I'm looking forward to seeing if it makes things like formula composition less opaque to beginners. (I also wonder what Microsoft thinks--iWork '08 represents a direct challenge to Microsoft Office for Mac, itself now delayed to next year.)

In a Q&A period after yesterday's presentation [QuickTime movie], Steve Jobs mentioned one other thing. The cheap, tiny Mac mini desktop has gotten its first update since last September--at a time when some observers were expecting the mini to vanish from Apple's product line entirely. It now runs on an Intel Core 2 Duo chip and offers at least a gigabyte of memory and an 80-gigabyte hard drive, up from the Core Duo, 512 MB and 60 GB available earlier.

So, what do you think about:

1) The new products?

3) What wasn't announced--what were you hoping Jobs would announce yesterday?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 8, 2007; 4:01 PM ET
Categories:  Mac  
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