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Apple Unveils New Intel Mac Mini; Microsoft Readies Origami

Reaching further into living rooms, Apple Computer Inc. on Tuesday introduced a revamped Mac Mini computer that will let users access music, video and photos across their home networks.

The new Mac Mini includes Apple's Front Row software, already found on the newest iMacs, so users can connect the computer to their televisions and control their music, videos, or photos with a remote control.

An added feature of the Front Row software will let users locate and share media content from other computers within a local wireless network. This means a user can play songs or stored TV shows that are pulled off a computer in another room in the house.

The new Mac Mini looks much like its previous incarnations but is the first to include Intel Corp. chips. Apple said the $599 model that has a single-core chip operates up to three times faster than its predecessor. A higher-end, $799 model that has two computing engines in one processor runs about five times faster, Apple said.

Both are available now.

The iconic iPod player has fueled Apple's growth in recent years and led to a booming industry of accessories ranging from speakers to clothing, as well as an increasing number of cars that come equipped with iPod-ready stereo systems.

Indeed, Apple has become the pacesetter for digital media products, and the company's shares have more than doubled in the last year amid lofty expectations for ever more innovative products and services.

Apple has sold more than 42 million iPods since the original product debuted in 2001, and the online iTunes Music Store sold its billionth download last week.

As some rivals were unable to gain any traction and pulled out of the portable media player market, Apple saw its share in the U.S. grow to more than 72 percent in 2005, up from 56 percent in 2004, according to the NPD Group.

But a key competitor, Microsoft Corp., isn't backing down.

Microsoft confirms that it is planning an "ultra-mobile PC device," code-named Origami. The company plans to release information incrementally through the Web site here, with the next tidbit expected Thursday.

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