Apple Computer "iCEO" Steve Jobs introduced the company's next generation workstation, the PowerMac G4, during his keynote address at the Seybold Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. The new PowerMacs, which are powered by the new PowerPC G4 microprocessors, will offer 1 MB of Level 2 (L2) cache, three times the memory bandwidth and twice the PCI bus throughput of the previous generation G3, AGP-2 video, and built-in FireWire IEEE-1394 support. First generation G4 systems will be sold in 400, 450, and 500 MHz editions in a silver and white translucent case that otherwise resembles the previous generation G3. Prices range from $1600 for a bare bones system to $3500 and up for the 450 MHz version, though the higher speed versions won't be available for a few months. Comparable Pentium III systems sell for $800 to $2000.

"The Power Mac G4 is not only the fastest Mac ever, it's the fastest personal computer ever," Jobs says. "The revolutionary G4 processor is the first 'supercomputer on a chip.'"

And yet it still comes with that little round mouse! The indignity of it all.

Jobs began his keynote with a report on the financial health of Apple Computer, which has had seven consecutive profitable quarters.

"Apple now has more than $3 billion in cash with very little debt," he told the eager crowd, who ate up just about anything Jobs had to say.

After a couple of boring demonstrations of QuickTime and the largely ignored QuickTime TV, Darwin (Apple's open source "components" of Mac OS X Server), and Mac OS 9 (a Mac user's "Internet co-pilot"), Jobs finally moved onto the hardware segment of the dog and pony act. He noted that Apple has sold 2 million iMac computers since the product's introduction last May and that Apple has logged over 140,000 preorders for the iBook notebook. Then Jobs finally introduced the G4, with typical bombast, comparing it to a "supercomputer on a chip." With its specially written PhotoShop filters, Jobs was able to show the G4 blowing away a 600 MHz Pentium III ("it's twice as fast!"), but isn't this kind of chicanery getting old?

In addition to the G4, Apple also unveiled a cool looking 22-inch LCD flat panel monitor that runs in "letterbox mode" like a movie screen, at 1600 x 1024. This stunning piece of vaporware will be available "in limited quantities" by the end of the year, according to the company. It will be sold for $2500 in a special bundle with a 450 MHz G4 system or for $4000 elsewhere. Ouch