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Cutting Edge

Apple's New Crop

Christmas comes twice a year for Mac lovers -- with Steve Jobs playing Santa Claus. Since returning to Apple in 1998, Jobs has made a tradition of dishing out new goodies every July at the Macworld expo in New York. Here's what was in this year's stocking:

Computer Cubed
A fter daubing the iMac with a painterly splash of color, Apple turns cubist with the PowerMac G4 Cube, a silver box just 20-cm wide and deep, suspended in a clear case. Right-side up it's a minimalist triumph. DVDs slot into the drive like pop tarts into a toaster and a touch-responsive sensor ensures there is no on/off button to spoil the smooth lines. Upend the machine and its innards slide out to reveal a blazing 450 MHz G4 chip and roomy 20 GB hard disk. But no noisy fan. The Cube's shape allows it to cool using simple convection. Price: $1,799, without monitor.

This Year's Model
The iMac was the re-hired Jobs's first gift to the Mac faithful, two years ago. Then it cost $1,299 and came with a 233 MHz G3 processor. This year's entry level iMac is 50% faster but costs $500 less, while the top model clocks 500 MHz and costs $1,499. New, muted shades (Indigo, Ruby, Sage, Graphite and Snow) should appeal to those who found last season's fruity colors too gaudy.

No Squeaking
Apple's one design failure since its creative rebirth was a round mouse that seldom went where you willed it. The misbehaving rodent is history. All new Macs will come with an optical mouse that has a more traditional shape and also does away with the usual, gunk-attracting track ball. Jobs also unveiled a bigger keyboard and spherical Harman Kardon speakers to complete the range of elegant peripherals.


EMI Gets Down and Digital
EMI has become the first major record label to wade waist-high into the music download market, making hundreds of songs available for sale as digital files over the Internet. Sony and BMG have carried out limited Net trials, but EMI has gone further, making 200 singles and 100 full-length albums available for purchase through over 50 online retailers. EMI says if all goes well it will gradually release its entire library online. You won't find any songs in MP3 format, though. EMI prefers piracy-proof Windows Media and Liquid Audio files. Currently on offer are titles by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Joe Cocker and Pat Benetar. That should tear the college kids away from stealing pirate MP3s on Napster.

From the Web

A Website for Peeping Toms
It has not been the easiest of months for Li Ka-shing-backed Uberportal On July 19, shortly after the website officially launched in Hong Kong and China, its CEO abruptly upped and left -- after five months of hyping as a future "Time Warner of China." On the same day the remaining tommies had to take action against an imitator, -- a pornographic portal that copied the original site's look but added some indecent embellishments to's dancing, asterisk-shaped logo.

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