The Mac mini targets current Windows users, Jobs told delegates at the annual gathering in San Francisco. "We priced this so that people who were thinking of switching have no more excuses," he said during his two-hour keynote presentation.
The device is also designed to appeal to current Apple users looking to get a second system. The Mac mini features a 1.25GHz processor with a 40Gb hard drive at £339. A model with a 1.4GHz processor and 80Gb hard drive will be sold for £389.99. It comes without a keyboard, mouse or monitor.
Apple has started taking orders for the newly unveiled computers, but will not ship them until the official UK launch date of 29 January.
The Mac mini is an attempt to leverage the popularity of the iPod with Windows users, according to Joe Wilcox, a senior research analyst with Jupiter Research. The low price makes it "a what-the-hell purchase" for users who like the iPod and hope to get a similar ease of use from a Mac mini.
Because of its low price the device will also appeal to "long-time Windows users who think of life on the other side", Wilcox told vnunet.com.
The analyst does not expect the appliance to affect sales of current Apple computers, suggesting that existing Mac users prefer to buy high-end hardware. Current iMac and PowerMac computers ship with more powerful G5 processors.
Jobs also used the stage at MacWorld to unveil the widely anticipated flash memory-based iPod Shuffle. The device comes in two models, a 512Mb version at £69 and 1Gb at £99. It is available in stores immediately.
The iPod Shuffle will attract a new group of users to the digital music player who previously could not afford it, expects Wilcox.
The player has only five buttons for pause/play, volume control and file navigation, but lacks a screen. By setting the device to a shuffle play mode, Apple is betting that users won't mind not having a screen.
"It's a risky bet that can have a big payoff," said Wilcox. "It comes down to whether the iPod has reached iconic status."
If it has, consumers are going to want to buy an iPod because they consider it to be the only authentic digital music player. "Apple now offers a low cost alternative for people looking for the real thing," said Wilcox.
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