by Mark H. Anbinder -- TidBITS Contributing Editor
Apple recently addressed some of the biggest complaints about their PowerBook line of notebook computers by introducing several new configurations of the existing computers and by reducing prices on the existing items. The new configurations include PowerBooks with 80 MB internal hard drives and high-end PowerBooks without an internal modem or extra memory.
Few people complained too loudly about PowerBook prices, which have been quite reasonable compared to comparable DOS notebook offerings. However, they were a little pricey when compared with comparable desktop Macs, and Apple's goal was theoretically to shoehorn its way into new markets with these units. As a result, Apple has reduced the prices on most of the existing PowerBook configurations.
The theoretically-discontinued PowerBook 100 2/20 is back on the price lists at a dramatically reduced price: its retail price is $1499, down from $1999. The same unit with an external floppy drive included is now $1599, down from $2199. Each of the PowerBook 100 4/40 configurations (with and without floppy drive) was reduced in price by $200 to $2199 and $2399 respectively, and the PowerBook 140 2/40 and 4/40 configurations were each reduced in price $500, to $2699 and $2999 respectively. At the same time, Apple has made price adjustments within its reseller channels for the entire Quadra line, so while the Quadras' retail prices won't change, they should become less expensive to purchase.
The new configurations of PowerBook include three new versions of the PowerBook 170, all with no internal modem. Many PowerBook customers complained that Apple was saddling their top-of-the-line notebook with an underpowered modem, and Apple has responded by unbundling the modem from most of the 170 configurations. As a result, 170 buyers will be able to purchase more-powerful third-party modems for their PowerBooks, such as the snazzy PowerPort V.32 internal send/receive/fax/data modem from Global Village Communications. The new modem-less 170 configurations are a 4/40 (to match the existing 4/40 with internal modem, which stays in the lineup), a 2/80, and a 4/80, with retail prices of $4299, $4299, and $4599 respectively.
Those 80 MB internal hard drives will cause many a Mac user to breathe a sigh of relief. Since the PowerBook's introduction in October, users have been hoping for larger internal hard drive larger than Apple's original 20 MB or 40 MB options. Now that drive manufacturers have finally ramped up production on 80 MB 2.5" hard drive mechanisms, Apple and third-party vendors can offer the 80 MB drives to end users. In addition to the two 80 MB configurations of PowerBook 170 mentioned above, Apple is introducing two PowerBook 140 configurations, a 2/80 and 4/80, with retail prices of $2999 and $3299.
As with Apple's internal modems, many PowerBook users have complained about the 2 MB memory expansion card that's installed in all of the 4 MB PowerBook configurations. This card takes up the one memory slot in the PowerBooks, so users wanting to upgrade have to remove the card and either set it aside or try to sell it. As shown by the configurations described above, Apple is now offering 2 MB configurations of each PowerBook. No one is likely to want to leave their PowerBook thusly crippled; the intention is to allow users to add third-party memory expansion cards to the one memory expansion slot. Most will want to put in a 6 MB card, to go up to the maximum 8 MB that the PowerBooks support.
These new configurations are good news on more than one level. In addition to the obvious enhancements to customer satisfaction with the PowerBooks, Apple's quick introduction of several new PowerBook models means that they really are listening to what the users ask for.
Global Village -- 800/736-4821 -- 415/329-0700