by Mark H. Anbinder, TidBITS Contributing Editor
Continuing in its plan for a major set of product introductions every six months, Apple today announced several new hardware products, including one new Mac. The Macintosh LC II, a 68030 version of the popular Mac LC, leads the pack, followed by a spiffy new LaserWriter, a new CD-ROM drive, and a version of the Apple OneScanner for Windows users (which we'll talk more about in a future issue).
The new Macintosh LC II is, plain and simple, a replacement for the original LC. The new computer offers a 16 MHz 68030 processor in place of the 16 MHz 68020 in the LC. The '030 doesn't offer a tremendous speed advantage over the 68020, but it does provide a small improvement... and more importantly, provides virtual memory capability to the smallest member of the modular Mac line. The LC II also sports a newer '030 processor direct slot (PDS) for expansion purposes, allowing users to add '030 PDS cards while supporting most '020 PDS cards created for the LC (software upgrades may be necessary for such cards). [Adam: I certainly hope that the new '030 PDS slot is compatible with the current SE/30 and IIsi PDS slots. The last thing we need is yet another slot format.] The LC II joins Apple's product line at the same retail price level as the LC ($1700 for a 4 MB RAM, 40 MB hard drive machine), making it an extremely affordable path to '030 computing. An upgrade from the LC will be available in several months, but we don't have a price on that yet.
One long-rumoured addition to Apple's printer line-up is the Personal LaserWriter NTR with a 16 MHz AMD Am29005 RISC processor and Adobe PostScript Level 2 at its heart. Otherwise, this printer uses the same engine as and is similar to the Personal LaserWriter NT, which will remain in the product line. The high-speed RISC processor allows this printer to work about three to five times faster than the Personal LaserWriter NT, a welcome speed increase. The NTR has the same built-in multi-purpose paper tray as the Personal LaserWriter LS, and you can add an optional 250-sheet paper feeder base. Like its competition, the QMS-PS 410, the NTR uses "intelligent" port and protocol switching, so it can be used with Macs, PCs, and mixed networks at the same time.
One new product that I hadn't even heard about in the rumour mill is the AppleCD 150, a new CD-ROM drive that replaces the Apple CD SC Plus, which shipped just last year. The new unit has basically the same performance as the old drive at about 380 millisecond access time, but more importantly it has a new, trim case design for those of you who are picky about peripheral aesthetics, and is about $200 less expensive than the older drive, so it will fit better in the checkbook as well as on the desktop. It's not technically interesting, but the lower price will help to make some of those interesting new CD-ROM products accessible to a lot more people.
Apple also announced that it is removing the PowerBook 140 2/20 and the 21" monochrome Two Page Display from the product line (a delicate way of saying those products have been "terminated"). No replacements are planned for these products. Of course, Apple is also removing the existing Macintosh LC products and the Apple CD SC Plus. It's not surprising that the PowerBook 140 2/20 is disappearing - 2 MB of RAM and a 20 MB hard drive is ludicrous for that machine running System 7, but it is curious that the 21" monochrome monitor is going away.
Still missing is the faster Macintosh IIsi that we're hoping to see some time this year. A 25 MHz IIsi would help differentiate that machine from the new '030 LC II, which is only slightly slower than the 20 MHz IIsi, especially when the IIsi is bogged down with internal video. The main gap in the product line, though, is a machine to replace the SE/30, which had the excellent combination of small size, good speed, and some expandability. Apple seems to be relegating the compact Mac line to the pokey Classic and the moribund Classic II, ignoring the fact that power users might want a compact Mac too.