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Apple powers ahead;Hardware

Despite the ubiquity of Windows PCs, Apple's nimble footing is keeping it one technological step ahead of the Wintel (WindowsIntel) giant. At a press briefing last month, a new, superfast PowerBook laptop was just one reason why Apple aficionados will be reassured for keeping faith with the Macintosh platform.

The new PowerBook G3 is faster, thinner and lighter and, priced from pound;1,599 (ex VAT), is likely to find favour among advisers, executives and teachers needing extra power and sophistication - for example, for presentations and manipulating media.

It augurs well for the educationconsumer PowerBook expected in autumn. Speculation about this machine is rife as a lot rides on it. If it is as popular as the iMac, it will be very good news for Apple and its customers. There are even websites outlining what is expected (see list at end).

Battery life for these new PowerBooks (and for older ones) has been optimised by the latest tweak to the Mac operating system, MacOS 8.6, now available by free Internet download for existing OS 8.5 users or by ordering a pound;14 CD-Rom from the Apple UK website.

Mac OS 8.6 is said to increase battery life by up to 25 per cent. So the new laptop, with its two-battery capability, is theoretically capable of up to 10 hours' use away from the mains. OS 8.6 also gives greater stability, better printing and searching, support for DVD and enhanced games support.

In some ways, software improvements were the most interesting message for the Macintosh community. By mid-May, more than three million upgrades to QuickTime 4 Public Beta had been downloaded from the Apple website. This multimedia software now handles a massive range of media, is Internet-savvy and is at the heart of a product which would be a boon to any school or college interested in video editing - Final Cut Pro.

Already released in the US, Final Cut should be available here in September. This media editing program, coupled with Apple's new G3 computers with their high-speed FireWire connections, is said to have reduced the cost of broadcasting-standard video editing by nine tenths to S10,000 in the US. The program costs just under $1,000, but is available to education at half price.

FireWire, although still relatively new, is already being taken up by hardware companies. Apple showed a FirePower hard drive (14.4Gb, pound;599) that copied a huge amount of data (25Mb) in less than a minute Finally, for any school with multiple users for its machines - ie most of them - Apple's next operating system, codenamed Sonata, has new advantages. It allows Macs to be set up for different users, each with a password, so that individual students can have their own access with different software and facilities if required.

What remains to be seen is whether this will be a moonlight Sonata for Apple or sheer moonshine (the expected Windows response), but the previews are impressive.

Merlin John

Apple Computer UK -

Quicktime 4 Public Beta -

Apple news and gossip -

FirePower -

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