Apple unveils new products for home
By May Wong
By May Wong
CUPERTINO, Calif. — Reaching further into living rooms, Apple Computer Inc. yesterday introduced a speaker system for its iPod music players and a revamped Mac Mini computer that will let users access music, video and photos across their home networks.
The new Mac Mini includes Apple's Front Row software, already found on the newest iMacs, so users can connect the computer to their televisions and control their music, videos or photos with a remote control.
An added feature of the Front Row software will let users locate and share media content from other computers within a local wireless network. This means a user can play songs or stored TV shows that are pulled off a computer in another room in the house.
The new Mac Mini looks much like its previous incarnations but is the first to include Intel Corp. chips. Apple said the $599 model that has a single-core chip operates up to three times faster than its predecessor.
A higher-end, $799 model that has two computing engines in one processor runs about five times faster, Apple said.
Hoping to broaden its share of the PC market, Apple is in the process of switching its computers away from Power PC chips made by IBM Corp. and Freescale Semiconductor Inc. The new Intel-powered Mac Mini — the third Macintosh computer to make the switch in less than 60 days — puts Apple halfway through the historic migration.
The petite, almost book-sized computer with the Front Row media features more closely competes now against Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Center PCs, which are similarly designed to act as a digital media hub for homes.
But, unlike Media Centers PCs, Apple's Mini lacks a TV tuner and digital video recording capabilities.
Still, analysts say Apple's latest moves show the Cupertino-based company is continuing to dip its toes deeper in the consumer electronics arena.
"Both these products are a way to get more people slowly hooked into the Apple brand in the living room, sort of like what Sony did in its heyday," said Sam Bhavnani, an analyst at Current Analysis.
With the $349 iPod Hi-Fi system, users can dock their portable players into the speakers and use a remote control to operate it from afar. That means there's no longer a need for a cabinet full of CDs, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said during a presentation at company headquarters.
"It's home stereo reinvented for the iPod age," he said.
All the products are available now.
The iconic iPod player has fueled Apple's growth in recent years and led to a booming industry of accessories ranging from speakers to clothing, as well as an increasing number of cars that come equipped with iPod-ready stereo systems.
Apple's new boombox-like speaker system will compete with its accessory partners, but senior vice president Phil Schiller said Apple will continue to support members of the "iPod economy."
He said there's enough room in the market for a range of products.