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Apple ‘WebMate’ portable to follow iMac

Like a four pound, mobile iMac -- it's the publicity, stoopid...

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Apple's next portable will be a sub-$1,500 bracket machine with iMac styling and sold under the name WebMate, according to US reports. The machine, which is due out early next year, will weigh around four pounds, have iMac-style translucent casing and a 300 MHz PowerPC processor. It will also follow the iMac (and Steve Jobs' personal prejudices) by using USB for peripheral connections and having a built-in Ethernet adapter. But although creating a big bang in the mobile computing arena is vitally important to Apple's come-back, the company isn't expected to show it at MacWorld next month. There Apple is more likely to be concentrating on the next rev of the G3 desktop line, product that was virtually ready to roll when Jobs took over, and which he milked mercilessly with the "Pentium Toaster" tag-line. There's little question that Apple could go with a new portable now if it wanted to, but although the company is now widely thought of as being 'cured,' its position is still precarious. It has had a couple of successful products, but it's in the difficult position of having to make every one of its next few launches a big hit. It needs to bounce back in the mobile business, to produce a credible product in the Newton/eMate replacement bracket (see Apple and Palm alliance emerges), and to reinforce its iMac-based consumer market presence. And it needs to do this with relatively limited resources. So expect carefully scheduled rollouts, each one accompanied by massive amounts of hype -- some of it maybe even justified. ®

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