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Apple Computer on Tuesday replaced the last of its titanium PowerBooks with aluminum versions, as it updated its entire line of high-end portables. The new PowerBooks were unveiled by CEO Steve Jobs during a keynote speech at Apple Expo Paris.

Apple kept the same dimensions for the new models, which come with 12-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch screens. The biggest change was to the 15-inch version, which, in addition to a new aluminum case, gains options such as AirPort Extreme wireless networking and the backlit keyboard that had been reserved for the 17-inch version.

The 15-inch model comes in two flavors. A 1GHz model sells for $1,999 and includes 256MB of Double Data Rate (DDR) memory, a 60GB hard drive and a combination drive that can play DVDs and burn CDs. A 1.25GHz version priced at $2,599 adds AirPort Extreme and the backlit keyboard and comes with 512MB of DDR memory, an 80GB hard drive and a drive that can burn both DVDs and CDs.

"With its speed, widescreen display, connectivity and ultralight aluminum enclosure, the new 15-inch PowerBook G4 sets the bar for professional notebooks even higher," Jobs said in a statement. Apple has been selling various versions of the 15-inch Titanium PowerBook G4 since January 2001.

Apple also updated its 12-inch and 17-inch laptops. The 17-inch model sells for $2,999 and sports a 1.33GHz processor, 512MB of DDR memory, an 80GB hard drive, Airport Extreme and the backlit keyboard. That's a $300 drop from the original 17-inch PowerBook. Apple introduced the original 12-inch and 17-inch aluminum PowerBooks in January.

The new 12-inch model sells for $1,599 with a 1GHz G4 processor, 256MB of DDR memory, a 40GB hard drive and a combo drive for playing DVDs and burning CDs. For $200 more, the combo drive is replaced with a SuperDrive that can burn both DVDs and CDs.

Apple said that the 15-inch and 17-inch models are available immediately, with the updated 12-inch model to be available by the end of the month.

Jobs has referred to 2003 as the year of the notebook for Apple, with sales of laptops fast approaching those of desktop models.

"We are outpacing the market by a country mile," Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of hardware marketing, said in an interview. Joswiak noted that in the most recent market share statistics from research firm IDC, Apple had 7 percent of the U.S. notebook market, up sharply from a year earlier. Apple still trails Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Toshiba and IBM.

"Building notebooks is something we are ideally suited for," Joswiak said. "It takes a lot of engineering."

Joswiak said that other PC makers don't do as much in-house design work as Apple does. "They go to Taiwan and say, 'Here is how much we are willing to spend on our bill of materials.'"

Separately, Apple also introduced a new wireless keyboard and mouse at the Paris trade show. The Bluetooth-based keyboard and mouse will each sell for $69 and will be available in two weeks, Apple said.

The company has made Bluetooth wireless standard on all PowerBooks. "It's an ideal (combination), especially when you consider how many people are using their PowerBooks as desktops," Joswiak said. By pairing the laptop with a wireless keyboard and mouse, people need only to plug in a network cable and display to use their PowerBook in an office or home.

In a question-and-answer session with reporters in Paris, Jobs said that Apple hopes to have a European version of its iTunes music store sometime next year. Jobs reiterated that the company intends to have a version for Windows PC owners in the United States later this year. However, Apple representatives would not comment on reports from Newsweek and others that the Windows version will launch in the United States next month. Last week, Apple introduced higher-capacity versions of its iPod digital music player.

The Paris event has frequently been a launching point for new Apple gear. Apple introduced iCal and iSync at last year's event and unveiled new iBooks in 2000. The 2001 event was cancelled after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

 

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