LAS VEGAS -- Apple Computer Inc., making it clear that it will no longer be an outsider in the personal computer industry, introduced an impressive collection of new Macintosh computers last week's Comdex Fall computer trade show here.
Comdex Fall is the biggest annual event in the computer industry, but until this year Apple had been a minor participant in a show dominated by IBM PC and compatible computers.
Buoyed by its recent alliance with the International Business Machines Corp., Apple not only came to Comdex, but also made one of the biggest opening-day splashes.
Apple introduced three new desktop computers and three light-weight notebook machines, filling in the major gaps in its product line. The notebook computers, produced in collaboration with the Sony Corp. of Japan, are called Powerbooks. The Powerbooks deserve a column to themselves and will be described next week.
The desktop computers are the Mac Classic II, a brawnier version of Apple's best-selling, less-expensive machine, and two tower-style machines, called the Quadra 700 and the Quadra 900. The Quadra machines are the most powerful Macintoshes yet.
The Mac Classic II is built around a 16-megahertz version of the Motorola 68030 microprocessor, as against the 68000 chip used in the original Classic. The effect is that the Classic II will run most software at twice the speed of the original machine.
There are two versions of the Classic II, which vary in the amount of standard system memory and the size of the hard disk drive. Both models come with Apple's new System 7 operating system software, a high-capacity disk drive, a keyboard, a mouse, a microphone for adding voices or sounds to documents, and a built-in black and white monitor.
The Classic II 2/40, as the name suggests, has 2 megabytes of system memory and a 40-megabyte hard disk. The suggested list price is $1,899. The Classic II 4/80 comes with 4 megabytes of memory and an 80-megabyte drive, for a suggested price of $2,399.
The Classic II's are expected to appeal to people who want a small, friendly computer that is tough enough to handle most business software. System memory on both machines can be expanded to 10 megabytes by adding extra chips. More memory allows the user to work with bigger applications, and to keep several applications running at the same time.
The original Classic, which is still offered, is ideal for people who want an inexpensive computer for home or school use, but it lacks the power needed to run serious business applications.
People who own a Classic equipped with a hard disk can upgrade their machines to Classic II status by buying an Apple upgrade package, consisting of extra memory, a microphone and new system software. The list price is $699.
For those who want to see software in color, on a bigger screen, a better choice would be the Mac LC computer introduced last year.
At the other end of the power spectrum, the Quadra 700 and 900 models are completely new designs.
Both are "tower" machines, in that they stand up vertically on the desk or floor instead of horizontally. These are definitely business-oriented machines.
The Quadra computers are built around the 25-megahertz Motorola 68040 chip, the most powerful microprocessor in the Macintosh lineup. In general, the Quadras run business applications at about twice the speed of Apple's previous power leader, the Mac IIfx.
The smaller tower is the Quadra 700, which has a base list price of $5,699, comes with four megabytes of system memory, expandable to 20 megabytes.
It has two internal expansion slots for adding special capabilities and nine backside ports for attaching peripheral devices like scanners, printers and CD ROM drives.
The Quadra computers work with any Apple color or black and white monitors. This is certain to become the new machine of choice for individuals who consider themselves "power users."
The real power machine, however, is the larger Quadra 900. It is a brute. It is the first Mac to come with a lock and key.
The Quadra 900 can be jacked up to 64 megabytes of system memory, which is of use primarily to people who have to manipulate complex color images and gigantic business applications. It can be attached to as many as four storage devices, including big hard drives and CD-ROM drives. It also has five internal expansion slots and one "processor direct" slot that gives the add-in card direct access to the 68040 chip for maximum performance. Its base list price is $7,199.
Macintosh computers have always come with built-in Appletalk networking, but the mainstream business community views Appletalk as too slow and has standardized on a faster wiring scheme called Ethernet.
To show that it is very serious about joining the mainstream, Apple has added Ethernet connectors as standard equipment on both Quadra machines, in addition to Appletalk.
With the Classic II, Apple has come up with a machine that is
roughly equivalent to a 386SX-level PC, except with better software and without color. With the Quadra machines, Apple is countering the new crop of i486-based computers.
In that sense they are trailing the market, but the superiority of the Mac software makes them worth the wait.