THE LATEST IMACS: AIMED AT DESKTOP DIRECTORS

Apple unveiled its lineup of three new iMacs this week. The cheapest new model, which will effectively replace last year's iMac, has been souped up with a faster processor and more memory. This blueberry-hued iMac will cost $999, but customers who agree to sign up for three years with CompuServe as their Internet service provider will be able to pick one up for $599. Showing off its new higher-end lines, Apple declared its intention to make digital video editing the next big thing to hit desktop computing. The iMac DV (it stands for digital video) and the iMac DV Special Edition will both feature DVD drives and include a software application called iMovie, a video-editing program that will supposedly make editing home videos as easy as cutting and pasting in a text document. Digital video cameras will be able to exchange video files with the two iMac DV models with new, high-speed FireWire ports. The $1,299 iMac DV will be available in similar fruit-oriented hues as last year's line, while the $1,499 Special Edition model will come in "graphite." Also new with each of the three lines is a more translucent look, slot-loading CD-ROM or DVD drives (like CD players in car dashboards) and quieter performance--these computers have no fans inside.

PALM PROLIFERATION

It's only getting harder to figure out which Palm Pilot to buy these days. 3Com announced this week that the Palm VII, the $499 model with wireless Web access service, will now be available across the country (this model had previously been sold only in the New York metropolitan area as 3Com perfected the wireless service). 3Com also announced a new model, the Palm Vx, which comes in the same anodized-aluminum case as the V but packs 8 megs of memory--four times that of the Palm V--for an estimated street price of $449. The Palm IIIe, 3Com's cheapest current version of the Palm Pilot, is now available in a clear case and with a new price tag of $179, down from $229. Look for a review of the Palm VII and its Web "clipping" service in next week's Fast Forward.

STORY UPDATES

FFWD reader Terri Benton writes, "Last week ('Patch as Patch Can,' Oct. 1) you made mention of Microsoft's Windows Update but didn't mention ZDNet's wonderful update service (at http://www.updates.com). It will search your hard drive for any software updates or missing bug fixes, then produce a list from which you can download what you need. It takes you to the download site and includes Microsoft and all others. You can hide any updates you don't want to see or download directly from their site so you don't get confused as to what you have or haven't done during the procedure. I usually have several updates going on at one time."

Got tips? Send them to ffwd@washpost.com.

TOP 10 WEB SITES (for the week ending Oct. 2):

1. Yahoo

2. MSN.com

3. AOL Welcome*

4. AOL.com

5. Yahoo GeoCities

6. Microsoft Passport

7. Netscape Netcenter

8. AOL WriteMail*

9. Excite

10. EBay

Source: PC Data

*Available to AOL subscribers only

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