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Wed, Jan 11, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Market watchers eagerly await Jobs' Macworld speech


Apple Computer Inc had no booth of its own at last week's massive annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It didn't need one.

Apple's iPods were everywhere, the name of the company on myriad lips.

CEO Steve Jobs prefers to be the star of his own show and that was the plan for yesterday when he was to take center stage at the Macworld Expo. Apple observers will be amazed if Jobs doesn't announce a riveting new product to keep up his company's steamrolling momentum.

Last year, Jobs used his keynote at the annual San Francisco conference to unveil the iPod shuffle -- the company's first flash memory-based audio player -- and the Mac mini, Apple's first foray in the affordable PC market.

On the eve of this year's Macworld, speculation revolved around Apple's planned move to microprocessors made by Intel Corp. The two companies announced a partnership in June, and many analysts expect Apple to consummate the deal with a product as early as yesterday -- six months ahead of schedule.

Whether the union delivers a more powerful Macintosh laptop or a Mac mini geared to fit more comfortably in the living room to display music, photos, video through a television remains to be seen.

But any new product could help buttress the rising fortunes of Apple, which has been on a revenue and stock market tear.

In October, the Cupertino, California-based company posted record revenue of nearly US$14 billion for its full fiscal year. Fourth-quarter income more than quadrupled on sizzling sales of iPods and strong computer shipments.

Apple stock, which closed on Monday at US$76.05, down US$0.25, has more than doubled from a year ago.

"We view this keynote as a milestone and catalyst as it could set the tone for Apple and technology in 2006," American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu wrote in a note on Monday, reiterating his "buy" rating.

At last week's show in Las Vegas, vendors displayed dozens of iPod-compatible devices and showcased gadgets and software that echoed Apple's trademark simplicity and ease of use.

A slew of new machines introduced at the show aimed to give consumers an easier way of accessing the media stored on computers, via their televisions.

Many anticipate Apple will also seek to stake out a spot in the so-called digital living room, where the worlds of computing and home entertainment centers converge.

Apple seemed to lay the foundation for such a move last fall when it incorporated a new application called "Front Row" in its new iMac G5 computers that allows users to access music, movies or photos from across a room using a remote control.

The company also jumpstarted the video-on-the-go movement with its introduction of a video-playing iPod and announcements of the online sale of hit TV shows and music videos for US$1.99 each.

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