Apple's Hip New Chip

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After years of bad-mouthing the world’s biggest chip maker for being too slow, Apple Computer surprised techies yesterday by unveiling its first products based on Intel microprocessors several months ahead of schedule. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who last June announced a change in microprocessor suppliers because the old ones were not meeting speed and energy-efficiency needs, had told consumers to expect faster, Intel-powered Macintoshes by the middle of 2006. Hence the hubbub at this week's MacWorld Expo in San Francisco when Jobs introduced an Intel-powered iMac. “We’ve worked nights, weekends to make this happen in record time,” he told the expo crowd.

The new iMac received moderate applause while the MacBook Pro, a high-end laptop, generated far more enthusiasm. They are among the first systems from any manufacturer to ship with Intel’s new Duo Core systems — the “two brained” microprocessor, officially launched last week, that essentially delivers double the computer power. That makes these computers two to three times faster than the last generation of IBM-powered Macs, according to Apple.   

The roof of the Apple booth proclaimed, “It’s here. It’s real. It’s amazing. Mac OS X on Intel.” How times have changed. Back in the 1990s, Apple ran ads mocking Intel. One showed a Pentium II chip glued to a snail. Another, called “Toasted Bunnies,” was a riff on Intel lab technicians in clean-room "bunny" suits – used in the chip maker's own ads – getting flamed by Apple.

Jobs, dressed in his trademark jeans and black turtleneck, was joined yesterday on stage by Intel CEO Paul Otellini, who was wearing—tada!—a white "bunny" suit. “Steve, I want to report that Intel is ready,” Otellini said as he handed over a silicon wafer. The gag just goes to show that while things may change quickly in the world of computing, you need a long memory to get all the jokes.

Other highlights from Jobs’ keynote address:

· Last quarter sales hit a record of $5.7 billion.

· 32 million iPods were sold in 2005, 14 million of them in the last quarter. “That is over a hundred every minute, 24/7 throughout the quarter,” Jobs said.

· 850 million songs have been sold so far on iTunes, at a current pace of 3 million per day.

· iTunes, which has an 83% market share, will soon offer 1 billion songs for download.

· Over 40% of the Chryslers sold in 2006 will offer iPod integration.