By the time Steve Jobs took the stage Tuesday morning to announce new Mac products, everyone knew that new iMacs were on the agenda. Because Steve had invited the media to Apple's campus, a rarity he usually reserves for such momentous occasions as the debut of the iPod, expectations were high.
Sure enough, Jobs introduced a revamped line of iMacs just minutes after he began his presentation. The new iMacs now have glossy screens, aluminum cases, are significantly thinner and feature an optional wireless keyboard.
The 17-inch model is no more; Apple now offers two 20-inch models and one 24-inch model. Perhaps the most notable news here is the pricing: At $1,799 the 24-inch model is $200 cheaper than its predecessor; the midrange 20-inch price remains the same at $1,499 (and as usual offers the best balance of price and features). The low-end 20-inch iMac is $200 more than the cheapest 17-inch had been, but the same as a beefier 17-inch offering.
Overall, you're getting more iMac for the money, and that's always a good thing.
Still, the new iMacs are hardly a huge leap forward. But things got much more interesting once Jobs moved on to the software: updates to both the iWork and iLife suites, which many had not expected until later this year or at the Macworld show in January.
The biggest surprise was the addition of a spreadsheet, called Numbers, to iWork. That makes the suite capable of replacing Microsoft Office.
If you throw in Apple's free Mail program, iWork now has an answer for all four Office for the Mac components - Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage. And each of iWork's components can read and save in Office's file formats.
And despite the addition of a third component, the price of iWork remains a mere $79, far less than the $399 list price for the full retail version of Office 2004 for the Mac. While businesses may continue to need Microsoft's package, most home users will find iWork a more than adequate substitute and far easier on their budgets.
Jobs also announced an update to the Apple's iLife suite - iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, GarageBand and iWeb. He demonstrated several nifty new features, particularly the Events in iPhoto, which allows better organization of thousands of images, and a completely revamped iMovie that makes it much easier to browse video files and create movies faster than before.
Dave Zeiler blogs about Macs and other Apple products at baltimoresun.com/apple.