SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple Computer Inc.'s shift to Intel Corp. microprocessors came months earlier than expected Tuesday as CEO Steve Jobs unveiled desktop and notebook computers based on new two-brained chips.
The first Macs to deploy Intel's Core Duo processors will be the latest iMac desktop, whose circuitry is all built into the display, and the MacBook Pro laptop.
When it announced the switch in June, Apple said it expected to begin making the transition by mid-2006.
On Tuesday, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs was joined at the Macworld expo by Intel CEO Paul Otellini to unveil the new jointly designed computers.
Otellini came onstage wearing a clean room suit that the chip company has famously used in its ad campaigns -- and that Apple once lampooned in its ads of its own.
For years, Apple shunned Intel, which has provided chips that power a majority of the world's PCs, along with Windows software from Microsoft Corp.
In the late 1990s, Apple even ran TV ads with a Pentium II glued to a snail and others with a toasted clean room suit.
But Apple, looking for faster, more energy-efficient chips, became increasingly frustrated in recent years as its chip suppliers, IBM Corp. and Motorola Corp.'s spinoff, Freescale Semiconductor Inc., failed to meet its needs.
Of particular concern was IBM's apparent inability to develop a G5 chip that would work well in notebook computers.
Intel, on the other hand, has been focusing on developing chips specifically tailored for notebooks. In 2003, it launched its Centrino notebook technology with a processor that boosted a longer battery life by minimizing its power demand without a major hit to performance.
During last week's International Consumer Electronics Show, Intel unveiled the latest generation, the Core Duo, which features two computing engines on a single piece of silicon.
It was that chip that the Apple decided to fit into the new iMac.
The new iMacs will have the same all-in-one design as previous models and will be available with 17-inch and 20-inch screens for $1,299 and $1,699. Jobs claimed the new models are two to three times faster than the iMac G5, based on an IBM chip.
"With (the) Mac OS X (operating system) plus Intel's latest dual-core processor under the hood, the new iMac delivers performance that will knock our customers' socks off," said Jobs.
The MacBooks Pros start at $1,999.
The Core Duo chip's low energy requirements are expected to enable ever-smaller computers, including some built right into television sets as the industry gears its machines more toward multimedia use.