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Apple 'Thinks Different' With New Announcements

By Joshua Dean

Apple Computer Inc. recently unleashed a string of new product offerings, many geared toward computer lab clusters of users and workgroups. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company made it clear on a recent product tour that Apple will hawk the new wares to one of its most important set of customers-the education market.

Students and school administrators have long been mainstay Apple users. The company has kept the needs of the education market-particularly school computer labs-in mind while configuring Power Mac servers for optimal productivity for networks at the workgroup size. Apple recently demonstrated its strategy for lab-size workgroups using its Mac Server G3, which employs the newly announced Mac OS X and multiple iMacs. "We think this is a really good solution for the classroom and the lab," said Ken Bereskin, director of OS technology at Apple.

All applications, including multiple high-definition video streams, resided on the server and were pushed from the server to the iMacs. The iMacs then used their own processing power to run the programs at the end-user level. This configuration model effectively kept all end-user information off the iMacs and in personal directories on the Mac OS X server. Still, Apple representatives cringed when the term 'network computer' was raised because they don't like the term.

Mac OS X is based on Mach 2.5 and Berkeley Software Design Inc.'s BSDI 4.4 Unix core technology, Mac OS X is designed to give users the power and open design of a Unix core operating system and the flexibility and ease of use of a Mac interface. Apple includes the Apache Group's Apache 1.3 HTTP World Wide Web server in the Mac OS X bundle along with Apple's WebObjects 4 application server and, for network management, Apple File Services and Apple's NetBoot. Apple expects the software to cost about $1,000.

For those who don't need the robustness of Mac OSX there are new G3-based servers running Mac OS 8.5, AppleShare IP 6.1, Apple Network Assistant 3.5 and Apple SoftRAID 2.1.5. Apple has multiple and custom configurations of their servers which run from $3,299 to $4,999 and up.

Apple also proves it is 'thinking different' by speeding up its iMac, which has been updated with a 266 MHz PowerPC G3 processor, a 6G hard drive and Mac OS 8.51. And Apple has "flavored" the iMac with five new colors, including tangerine and grape. Apple has also reduced iMac's price by $100 to $1,199.

Capitalizing on the success of the colorized iMacs, the G3 Power Mac also has been given a facelift. The translucent blue face of the Power Mac covers the company's fastest chip yet, a 400 MHz PowerPC chip with 1M of Level 2 cache and a 100 MHz system bus. But the Power Mac G3's most interesting new feature is the system design. The left side of the machine folds down from the main body to reveal the processor, memory and graphics card. The Power Mac G3 relies upon two FireWire and two Universal Serial Bus ports for peripheral connectivity. New Power Macs range in price from $1,599 to $2,999.

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IBM's Small Biz Series Targets State, Local Market

By Jennifer Jones

Don't be misled by the name. IBM Corp. officials said the new 300GL Small Business Series of desktop PCs is targeted at local governments or state agency enterprises that deploy equipment more like smaller organizations.

The series builds upon IBM's 36-month effort developing its GL line, which aimed to scale back prices while allowing maximum capability for office and Internet applications. "Although we have dubbed this the Small Business Series, the line clearly has a place in government, whether that be a small or local government or selectively in federal or state agencies," said Brad Westphall, marketing executive for IBM Public Sector, Americas.

The 300GL series starts at $800 and runs to about $1,600 for machines outfitted with Microsoft Corp.'s Office software suite. The PCs are pre-loaded with Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator, Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Cambridge Mass.-based Artisoft Inc.'s i.Share software, which allows multiple vendors to simultaneously access e-mail accounts and connect to the Internet through a single connection. The 300GL desktops come with IBM's ViaVoice speech recognition software. While this feature is expected to boost sales in the medical sector, some government buyers may be interested in it as well.

IBM representatives dispel the notion that the 300GL is just a stripped-down PC. "Some folks have taken the position that small businesses want the lowest price. The point we are making is they want the best value, not just the lowest price point for services, software and systems integration," said Tom Tobul, IBM's worldwide marketing manager for desktop systems.

IBM is contacting its state and local resellers about adding the 300GL series to contracts and product offerings.

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Compaq, Micron PCs shine with Pentium III

Written by Joshua Dean

Testing by Ania Bernat and Andreas Uiterwijk

In a review of two revved-up Pentium III PCs - Compaq Computer Corp.'s Deskpro EP 6500X and Micron Electronics Inc.'s ClientPro 500 CS - our test center clocked system performance gains of 10 percent and 16 percent over identically configured 450 MHz Pentium II systems on standard business applications.

And when we ran a benchmark designed to show off the Pentium III's 70 new multimedia instructions, we saw a performance boost of more than 30 percent.

ClientPro 500 CS

The Micron ClientPro 500 CS gave us the best estimate of how much faster the 500 MHz Pentium III is than the 450 MHz Pentium II. The ClientPro 500 CS scored a 217 on Business Applications Performance Corp.'s SYSmark/98 benchmark, 16.6 percent faster than the 450 MHz ClientPro CP.

We also tested the ClientPro 500 CS with an Intel benchmark designed to take advantage of the Pentium III's Streaming SIMD Extensions for multimedia. When the benchmark ran Dragon Systems Inc.'s Naturally Speaking 3.52 voice-recognition software, the Pentium III machine managed commands in 330.22 seconds, 35.8 percent faster than the 514.07 seconds it took a 450 MHz Pentium II to run through the program.

The Pentium III system also executed commands faster in Photoshop, Adobe Systems Inc.'s high-end graphics manipulation program. It performed Photoshop commands in 207.37 seconds, 95.5 seconds or 31.6 percent faster than the Pentium II. In regard to streaming media software, the Pentium III system executed Microsoft Corp.'s Netshow commands in 141 seconds, a reduction of 37.1 percent from the 224.1 seconds it took the Pentium II to execute the same commands.

Keep in mind, however, that the benchmark was provided for our use by Intel and has been optimized for the Pentium III processor.

The ClientPro 500 CS came configured with a Diamond Multimedia Systems Inc. Viper 550 TnT graphics card with 16M of VRAM, 128M of RAM and a 13G hard drive, and it ran Microsoft's Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4 loaded. Micron expects the ClientPro 500 CS to cost $2,675 including a 17-inch monitor.

Overall, the ClientPro 500 CS is a solid PC with very good features and support, however, it could be more expandable. For more information on the Micron ClientPro CS, see how it fared in our recent desktop comparison [civic.com, January, 1999].

Deskpro EP 6500X

For now, the Deskpro EP 6500X is the fastest PC we've ever tested. It is based on a chassis that can change from a desktop to a minitower with a flip of a switch. And, as always with systems from Compaq, the chassis is sturdy, the unit is quiet and no stray wires were found.

The 500 MHz Deskpro EP 6500X scored a 220 on SYSmark/98 and is 10 percent faster than its 450 MHz predecessor. We were not able to run Intel's benchmark on the Deskpro EP 6500X because of technical difficulties.

The 500 MHz Deskpro EP 6500X came configured with a Matrox Graphics Inc. G200 graphics card with 8M of SDRAM, 128M of RAM and a 14.4G hard drive, and it ran Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4 loaded. Compaq expects the unit to cost $2,779 including a 17-inch monitor.

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Free Y2K-Compliant Financial Software Online For Schools

By Meg Misenti

FreeBalance Inc., a developer of administrative software for the public sector, has released FreeBalance School, a version of its core financial software targeted to school administrators working against the clock to bring their financial systems into Year 2000 compliance.

The core package is available for free from the Internet because the company banks on users purchasing add-on modules. Users who download the software get a five-user copy of FreeBalance School, which has the budget, expense control, payment and fund accounting functionality of the company's core financial software as well as educational features that include multiple-fund accounting and the ability to import vouchers and payroll information from different schools.

The company said about 75 potential users downloaded the software the first two days it was available online at www.freebalance.com. "The fundamental problem throughout the public sector is time," said FreeBalance president and chief executive officer Kevin Higgins. "This provides an immediate solution with no strings attached."

FreeBalance School is the company's sixth and newest financial software solution for the public-sector market. Add-ons include handle purchasing, revenues and assets modules. FreeBalance Foundation, the core component of FreeBalance Financials, has appropriation, budget, general ledger and expenditure control functionality. The company says that by offering its core software for free, it provides an "accelerated avenue to systems renewal," offering users minimal setup time and with "no procurement delay."

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