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Apple battles Intel with new high-speed PC

THE APPARENT new lease of life for Apple Computer has gained further fanfare with the introduction of a new family of advanced Macintosh computers that are the first desktop PCs capable of executing 1 billion instructions per second.

Steve Jobs, still clinging to the title of interim chief executive a year after returning to the company he co-founded, billed the G4 as "the first desktop supercomputer" and threw down the gauntlet for a head-on challenge to Intel's Pentium III chip, the world's top selling high-performance micro-processor.

The new computers, called the G4, will replace the existing G3 line, and are designed to bolster Apple's presence in the world of high-end publishing and design. They feature translucent cases in shades of graphite and silver in contrast to the bright candy colours that Apple uses in its G3 models and its entry level iMac PCs.

The 400 megahertz (Mhz) Power Mac G4 will be priced from pounds 1,099 when it becomes available around mid-month. However, most users with memory intensive multi-media needs are likely to configure the machine with additional random access memory and bigger hard drives.

Apple, late next month, will introduce a higher performance 500 Mhz G4 with 256 megabytes of internal memory that will retail for pounds 2,399. The top end model will also be bundled with an extra-large 22" flat-panel- display screen for a combined price starting at around pounds 4,200.

Although Apple has seen global market share slip from a high of 15 per cent a decade ago to 3 per cent today, publishers, designers and Internet specialists have remained fiercely loyal to the brand.

The new G4 work stations follow Apple's success with the iMac family of computers. Later this month, it will begin shipping the iBook, its latest lap-top model, which has received advance orders for 140,000 units since being unveiled last month.

Mr Jobs' flair for showmanship has Apple bragging in a new television ad that the new Mac is so advanced it cannot be exported to much of the world owing to US government restrictions on shipping advanced technology to unfriendly countries. Of course, no such restrictions apply to machines that use Intel's Pentium chips.

Hype or not, industry watchers continue to praise Mr Jobs' turnaround of Apple. Its stock traded yesterday at around $66, more than double its price just a year ago.