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Apple discovers Bluetooth, hikes Mac prices

iPod, LCDs refreshed

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Apple announced a slew of product refreshes at MacWorld Japan overnight, but the news that will be greeted with most relief, we suspect, is that it's finally announced Bluetooth support.

Bluetooth-equipped phones are becoming ubiquitious at the high-end in Europe, and although interoperability concerns have dogged the technology, it's a no-brain replacement for proprietary cables and infra red. Forget PDA syncs or wireless headphones - nice though they are - the ability to go online from your TitBook or iBook while keeping your phone in your pocket is the single biggest selling factor for Bluetooth, and now Mac owners can join the party.

There isn't actually a Bluetooth phone officially available on the US market today, but a significant number of our American readers - we know this because you tell us - re-route around the prehistoric Stateside carriers and buy direct from grey importers to use on the GSM networks here, with the Ericsson T68 being a particular favorite.

Apple will support the D-Link USB Bluetooth adapter (a $49 purchase from the Apple Store) to begin with, and the USB drivers will be available for download in April.

"You might say we’re living up to our reputation for being first to market with innovative technology you can actually use," beams Apple.

Or you might not. Once you're out of range of the Reality Distortion Field ™ you'll recall that Toshiba and IBM have been selling similar Bluetooth capable notebooks for fifteen months, and Tosh sells models with Bluetooth integrated into the PC itself, which is where it should be. How long we have to wait for iBooks and PowerBooks with integrated with Bluetooth transceivers, we can't say.

But it will be intriguing to see the latest camera-equipped communicators - such as the Nokia 7650, and the Ericsson P800 - integrate with Apple's slick iPhoto product, which is comfortably the most consumer-friendly imaging software on the market.

Don't blame us - blame them

Apple hiked prices for its new iMac by $100 for each of the three models, and announced a revamped, 10GB iPod which is $100 dearer than the old model. The memory price hike in the New Year - DRAM prices have trebled - bears the blame, said Apple, and flat panel LCDs have also gotten more expensive.

Despite $4 billion in cash in the bank, however, Apple feels comfortable about passing the component price increases onto its customers.

Apple introduced a 23 inch LCD display, $1000 dearer than the 22 inch model, which displays at the 1920 x 1200 expected by high-end graphics pros. ®

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