Steve Jobs unveils newest iMac

Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, Tuesday morning to present to a select group of journalists and other VIPs. “Today’s focus is on the iMac,” he told the assembled throng.

The market share of the Mac is rising three times faster than the rest of the PC industry, Jobs remarked.

The new iMac
“We think it is an all-in-one world,” said Jobs. This trend has been clearly defined in iPods, iPhones and other consumer devices, he noted, along with the dramatic rise in popularity in recent years with notebooks, which he said are taking over the whole PC industry.

“Why do people put up with this stuff on the desktop?” he asked, showing attendees a picture of a Dell desktop PC brimming with wires and cables. “We think there’s a much better way, and the much better way is this,” he added, showing the iMac.

“iMacs have been very successful, and we’d like to make it even better,” he said. Apple is borrowing two elements from its pro products for this new generation of iMac — aluminum and silicon dioxide, better known as glass.

Aluminum, Jobs explained, is extremely durable and very lightweight, and pros love Apple’s pro products — the MacBook Pro and the Mac Pro are both made from it. Glass, he explained, is a very elegant material and scratch resistant. It’s also recyclable.

“So what would an iMac look like if we upgraded it and made it out of aluminum and glass?” Jobs ruminated. And then he displayed the new device.

The new iMac is thinner than before, and comes in two sizes: 20 and 24 inch. It features audio input and output, three USB 2.0 ports, FireWire 400 and 800, Gigabit Ethernet and video out. The slot-loading “SuperDrive” has been retained, along with a built-in iSight webcam and microphone.

The displays have a glossy sheen to them, which Jobs says Apple’s customers have told them they love. He says the glossy display is better for displaying photos and movies.

To complement the sleek new aluminum design of the iMac, the system also has a new keyboard — confirming rumors that first appeared about a week ago, the keyboard shares the same thin design. It also sports special dedicated keys — dimmer, brighter, Exposé, Dashboard and media controls.

A new wireless keyboard and “Mighty Mouse” are also available. Both use Bluetooth 2.0.

Inside the iMac are Intel Core 2 Duo processors clocked from to 2.4GHz to 2.8 GHz in Configure To Order (CTO) offerings. They support up to 4GB of RAM, and feature ATI Radeon HD 2400XT graphics. They also feature hard disk drives up to 1 terabyte (TB) in capacity, and feature 802.11n wireless networking standard.

The new iMac is being offered in three basic configurations: An US$1,199 model with 20-inch display, 2.0GHz processor, 250GB hard disk; a $1,499 model clocked at 2.4GHz with a 320GB drive for $1,499, and a 24-inch model for $1,799.

All models will be available starting Tuesday, said Jobs.

iLife ’08, iPhoto redux
“Apple was one of the first to see that the computer was going to evolve into the hub of the digital life,” said Jobs. “And we started to do that with iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD and the other apps we have today. And we’ve never stopped. We’ve increased our lead over the PC world every time we come out with a new version of iLife and we’re not stopping.”

iPhoto, said Jobs, is being dramatically enhanced and taken “to a whole new level.”

New to this new release of iPhoto are “Events” — a way of navigating through the thousands of digital photos you’ve taken over the years. Albums are the way we’ve done it up to now, and now we have a ton of albums, he noted.

“When we make these groups, they’re centered around events,” explained Jobs. Events like birthday parties, family reunions, ski weekends and so on. “Events” take these groups of photos and automatically make events out of them.

Hiding photos is another new capability of iPhoto. It enables users to hide photos that they may not want to view for a period of time, then bring them back. A unified search feature has also been added so you can search by date, keyword and rating.

iPhoto also gains new editing tools, including the ability to copy and paste adjustments you’ve made on one photo to other photos where it makes sense. Books and calendars have been improved, theme based home printing is now available and more. Jobs demonstrated the new features and held up a book example, which can now be printed with foil lettering.

Jobs demonstrated a new “skimming” feature that enables you to quickly see different photos in an event by simply moving your mouse over the event icon. You can pick a photo to represent the event — the same as Aperture’s Album Pick feature. You can also push a Merge button to merge multiple items into one event.

The new iPhoto extends features into .Mac, as well, according to Jobs. iPhoto 08 lets users publish .Mac Web galleries, and features one-button photo sharing. Photos can be viewed by users in a grid, as a slideshow, in a mosaic and a carousel. The feature uses Web 2.0 technologies, according to Jobs, and works regardless of operating system or browser.

You can also let users download print-quality images, and others can contribute photos to your Web gallery using a special e-mail address. The Web gallery synchronizes with your Mac, as well, so you’ll get new photos that people add.

Apple’s also leveraging the iPhone with this new feature: The iPhone can talk to .Mac, lets you pick a gallery, and e-mails photos to the Web gallery.

“A completely new iMovie”
iMovie has been totally replaced with a new iMovie, said Jobs, who relayed the story of an Apple video engineer who took a vacation, shot underwater footage, and discovered he couldn’t do what he wanted either using iMovie HD or Final Cut Pro.

The new version now supports the AVCHD format, a burgeoning format for High Definition (HD) video. It utilizes a signle library that tracks all the video you’ve shot.

Like iPhoto, iMovie utilizes the “skimming” concept — you can use your mouse to skim through video, and don’t have to actually “play” clips to see what they contain. You can scrub, for example. “This allows you to have superfast movie creation,” said Jobs, who likened selecting video shots for your iMovie the same way you select text in a word processor.

The new iMovie also lets you add polish more quickly, said Jobs, with music, sound effects, photos, title effects, and transitions.

iMovie’s Share menu enables you to export your movie to the iPod, iPhone, Apple TV and .Mac Web Gallery. You can also identify multiple resolutions for encoding. What’s more, Apple has built in YouTube sharing.

iWeb enhancements
iWeb 08 gets enhancements, too. The software now features “live” Web widgets. You can drag Google Maps in, for example, and put in your addreess, and add Google Maps to your Web site. It works the same with any HTML snippet, according to Jobs, such as YouTube videos — you copy it and paste it in and the snippet will embed.

The new iWeb also builds in Google’s AdSense technology, and you can register with Google right in the app (or sign in if you’re already registered). Then drag in Google text ads to generate revenue for your site.

Perhaps most importantly, the new version of iLife now supports personal domains. The software was mainly focused on working with .Mac up to now, which made publishing to your own site to be a difficult process.

A Media Index page is new in this release. You can drag content in, fill it up, and when you click you go directly to that page to simplify the navigation. What’s more, iWeb 08 now supports “theme switching,” so you can switch themes to your Web site after it’s been published. New themes have been added as well.

“There are some people that still want to make DVDs,” remarked Jobs. To that end, iDVD 08 has been enhanced with better performance, pr-grade encoding and 10 new animated themes.

GarageBand has been tweaked, too, for musicians and non-musicians alike, according to Jobs. The software now lets users pick a genre, press Audition, then listen to a project. GarageBand will drop in loops, you can add your own and tweak them with different instruments.

iLife 08 is available Tuesday for $79.

Apple’s subscription-based online service, .Mac, is being enhanced to help support the new features of iLife 08 such as the “Web Gallery” features in iPhoto and iMovie. Beginning Tuesday, said Jobs, all subscribers are being allocated 10GB of online storage space. And the data transfer limit has been raised to 100GB per month.

iWork 08
Jobs called iWork 08 “dramatically enhanced,” with new features in Keynote, the presentation software, and Pages, a word processor designed for users looking for page layout capabilities.

Describing himself as “a voracious Keynote user,” Jobs said he loves the new version, which adds new text effects, new transitions, and a new feature called “Instant Alpha.” The feature lets you take the background out of images and just keep what you want without having to use masking features in image editing software.

Smart Builds are another new feature. You start with a floating palette that uses “Drop zones,” drag photos into place, and keynote will automatically generate accompanying animations such as spinning cubes, turntables, and thumb throughs.

Pages has been enhanced — it now features two modes, one for word processing and one for page layout. A contextual format bar has been added, and you can now review changes in documents using change tracking. Apple has included 140 templates in Pages 08.

“When you think of a productivity suite, you think of a third app,” said Jobs. “It’s our spreadsheet, and we call it Numbers. And it’s the spreadsheet for the rest of us.”

A spreadsheet “done in the style of Keynote and Pages,” according to Jobs, Numbers touts features like “intelligent tables,” which enable you to sort and filter by clicking on headers; “flexible canvas,” which lets you put multiple sheets on a canvas, tied together in formulas but not tied together by formatting. And it has the requisite set of features like chart creation, image management, text labels, the ability to add photos and diagrams, and so on.

Numbers supports the ability to import and export “almost all” documents from Microsoft Excel, said Jobs.

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