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Macworld Apple is shipping its first Intel-based Mac six months early and debuting its first Intel-based laptops. However, it seems that Intel technology does not herald Intel pricing.

CEO Steve Jobs opened Macworld in San Francisco by previewing the MacBook Pro, a machine that supersedes the PowerBook G4 and introduces 4-5x performance gains with the insertion of Intel's Core Duo processor.

Intel's dual-core chip delivers the extra performance without an increase in power consumption or heat - two issues Apple struggled with when contemplating the use of IBM's G5-class PowerPC chip in laptops.

Explaining the IBM-to-Intel switch, Jobs told whooping Macworld delegates: "We are kinda done with Power, and we want Mac in the name of our products." Orders for the MacBookPro are being taken now, and shipment is due next month.

"If you want one, I suggest you get your order in early," Jobs advised attendees.

Jobs, the consummate showman, also announced immediate availability of Apple's first Intel-based desktop machine, which the CEO had previously said wouldn't ship by June 2006. His forecast remains correct, but many Apple watchers had assumed it would take until that time to ship the new machines. Jobs and Intel's CEO Paul Otellini, dressed in Intel lab-engineer's white 'bunny suit', announced the Intel-based iMac desktop together.

Jobs claimed the iMac is 2-3 times faster than the PowerPC-based iMac G5 thanks to the 2GHz Intel dual-core chip formerly known as the Pentium M.

While Intel's dual-core processor will speed performance, it will not bring with it lower prices for Apple gear. Many Apple fans hoped the company would bring its pricing more in line with standard PCs after adopting the Intel engines.

Jobs boasted that the 17in and 20in iMacs feature the same familiar design, exterior features, iSight camera, Front Row and Apple remote software for the same price as today's iMac. Prices for the iMac start at $1299.

Pricing for the MacBook Pro also seems destined to remain unchanged. The planned 1.67GHz, 80GB and 512MB machine will kick-in at $1999 - the same price as today's 15in PowerBook - while the 1.83GHz, 1GB and 100GB MacBookPro will be priced $2499 - matching today's 17inch PowerBook G4. Full specs are available here.

Customers, thankfully, will be getting the addition of some new tweaks and features. The MacBookPro will feature an integrated camera above the screen that replaces the need for a separate iSight camera. The new machine also incorporates the latest ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics chip, an ExpressCard slot - the PCI Express-based successor to PC Card/PCMCIA - and MagSafe, a magnetically attached power lead that snaps out safely if somebody accidentally walks into the lead.

"If the chord is yanked, it's pulled out. This is going to save us all a lot of hassle. Everything get yanked out. Nothing gets damaged," Jobs cooed.

Summing up the move to Intel, Jobs said the iMac and MacBook Pro are ushering in a "new generation of Macs based on Intel's latest and greatest technology". He re-committed Apple to transitioning all its products to Intel by the end of 2006. ®

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