- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2006

Barely three months after the last IMac surprise — a built-in video camera and microphone to make communication easier — Apple Computer rolled out an IMac with an Intel Corp. processor.

This follows, by about six months, Apple’s announcement of a move to the Intel platform, a switch that evoked gasps from many, not least Mac loyalists.

I’ve had the new-new IMac online for about a week, and it’s a stunningly fast performer. Intel’s processors give the Mac far more horsepower than equivalent, or near-equivalent PowerPC processors.

My estimate is that things can move almost twice as fast on the new machine as they do on the older models.

Best of all, the price is unchanged: $1,699 will buy you the 20-inch display-sized IMac with a 250 gigabyte hard drive, a SuperDrive that will read and write CD- and DVD-ROM discs, and both WiFi and Bluetooth radios built in, as well as 512 megabytes of RAM and a separate 128 megabytes of video RAM. I would strongly suggest upgrading the main RAM to 1 gigabyte for an extra $100.

The new IMac is a lovely machine I’d like to keep on my desk permanently.

Friends and colleagues who saw the IMac sighed over it, as they did over its predecessor. It’s a stylish computer, compact and capable, one that not only looks very good on a desk, but also delivers tremendous performance.

Key to that performance is the fantastic job Apple has done in accomplishing what some would have considered nearly impossible: translating the operating system, OS X from the PowerPC world to that of Intel processors. Thanks to the Unix core of OS X, as well as plenty of advance work by Apple, where an Intel-friendly version of OS X had long been rumored to exist, this move was far less traumatic than it might have otherwise been.

The “new” OS X boots up exactly the same as the “old” OS X, except faster.

A few PowerPC-specific programs, among them Microsoft’s VirtualPC Windows emulator, won’t run on the new chip. Nor is it yet possible to have a “dual boot” Intel-based IMac that runs both OS X and the Intel-based Microsoft Windows. There are some engineering issues, which may be fixed when Microsoft’s next Windows release, code-named Vista, arrives.

I found that just about everything on my “old” Mac ran on the Intel-based IMac: the only thing lost in translation were the mouse drivers for a Microsoft Wireless IntelliMouse, but Microsoft promises new drivers soon.

Other programs, from the everyday Microsoft Word to the specialized Accordance program for students of the Bible and related texts, performed flawlessly. That’s because of something called Rosetta, which translates instructions between “old” programs and the “new” OS X and Intel processor. I don’t know how it all works, and I’m not sure I could explain it any more succinctly than to call it digital alchemy. Rosetta turns old, if not leaden, Mac applications into new Mac gold.

Apple has done something incredible here, and while some may be tempted to wait and see if so-far-undiscovered bugs appear, the rest of us may well be happy to dive in and reap the advantages of a faster, sleeker computing environment.

• E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit www.kellner.us.

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