- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple Computer Inc.’s historic shift to Intel microprocessors came months earlier than expected as Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs debuted personal computers based on new two-brained chips from the world’s largest semiconductor company.

The first Macs to contain Intel Corp.’s Core Duo processors will be the latest IMac desktop, whose circuitry is all built into the slim display, and the new MacBook Pro laptop.

When it announced the switch in June, Apple said it expected to begin making the transition by mid-2006. Yesterday, Mr. Jobs was joined at the Macworld Expo by Intel CEO Paul Otellini to introduce the new jointly designed computers.

The shift comes as Apple is on a roll with its hugely popular IPod music players. Mr. Jobs said yesterday the company had a record $5.7 billion in sales during the holiday quarter as it sold 14 million IPods — nearly three times as many as it did a year earlier.

But the focus yesterday was on Apple’s Macintosh computers, and the repercussions could be enormous for other major industry players including Microsoft Corp.

For one, Apple erased concerns that its Macs are inferior to Windows-based PCs in performance.

Mr. Jobs said Apple’s entire Mac line will be converted to Intel by the end of this calendar year — a move analysts say could boost Apple’s computer sales, which cracked 4 percent of the U.S. market last year after hovering around 3 percent.

“Companies don’t typically under-promise and over-deliver, and that’s exactly what Apple has done,” said Sam Bhavnani, analyst with Current Analysis, of the early debut.

For years, Apple shunned Intel, which has provided chips that power a majority of the world’s PCs with Microsoft’s Windows. In the late 1990s, Apple even ran TV ads with a Pentium II glued to a snail.

But Apple, looking for faster, more energy-efficient chips, became increasingly frustrated in recent years as its chip suppliers, IBM Corp. and Motorola Corp.’s spin-off, Freescale Semiconductor Inc., failed to meet Apple’s needs.

Of particular concern was IBM’s apparent inability to develop a G5 chip that would work well in notebook computers.

Intel, on the other hand, has been focusing on developing chips specifically tailored for notebooks. In 2003, it introduced its Centrino notebook technology with a processor that boosted battery life by minimizing its power demand without hurting performance much.

During last week’s International Consumer Electronics Show, Intel introduced the latest generation, the Core Duo, which features two computing engines on a single piece of silicon.

It was that chip that the Apple decided to fit into the new IMacs and MacBooks.

Though the change to Intel has occurred faster than expected, it still poses some risks.

Besides potentially alienating a fan base that is accustomed to doing things differently, Apple’s move opens up the issue of backward compatibility and the possibility that PC users might run pirated versions of Mac OS X, Apple’s critically acclaimed operating system, on their generally cheaper non-Apple computers.

The new IMacs will have the same all-in-one design as previous models and will be available with 17- and 20-inch screens for $1,299 and $1,699. Mr. Jobs said the new models are two to three times faster than the IMac G5, based on an IBM chip.

“With Mac OS X plus Intel’s latest dual-core processor under the hood, the new IMac delivers performance that will knock our customers’ socks off,” he said.

The MacBook Pros — with 15.4-inch displays — start at $1,999. Mr. Jobs touted it as the thinnest and fastest operating laptop in Apple’s line.

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