Apple CEO Steve Jobs – one of the personal-computer’s pioneers – pooh-poohed analysts and Windows-PC manufacturers who claim that the PC is dead and buried. Jobs maintains that we are about to enter "the third great age of the PC", which will focus on our digital lifestyles".

"We don’t think the PC is waning," Jobs told the 5,000-strong audience at his Macworld Expo keynote in San Francisco. "We believe that it’s evolving."

Jobs cited Apple as the innovator that created the "first golden age of PC productivity", with spreadsheets and DTP being the killer applications that drove PC sales from 1980-1994. That period was followed by 1995-2000’s "golden age of the Internet", according to the man who co-founded Apple Computer in 1976 and released the iMac in 1998.

Up to its own devices Apple will focus on this new "golden age" in the same way that it did with DTP and the Internet. Jobs pointed out "the explosion of digital devices" in recent years: mobile phones, digital cameras and camcorders, MP3 and DVD players, PDAs, etc. 15 per cent of all cameras sold in the US last year were digital cameras – "that’ll be 50 per cent in a few years," prophesized Jobs.

Personal computers are better all-round machines than these digital devices on their own, claimed Jobs. PCs can run more complex applications, have bigger screens and therefore better user interfaces (Jobs called the rest "brain dead"), can burn CDs and DVDs, feature large, inexpensive storage, and connect to the Internet at faster speeds.

"The Mac can be the ‘digital hub’ of our emerging digital lifestyle," said Jobs, who went on to launch several products to spur this vision on – including iTunes and iDVD.

"Apple is uniquely situated to handle this market as we are the only company that can do all this stuff under one roof," said Jobs.

The Mac would serve as a "hub" interconnecting the devices, and offering "breakthrough" software to make them "ten times more valuable". Jobs cited Apple’s successful iMovie digital video-editing program as adding "tremendous value" to digital camcorders.

iTunes for audio Following digital video, Apple’s next focus will be audio, said Jobs. After explaining how the music industry has been revolutionized by digital technologies, Jobs attacked today’s "complicated" means of gathering MP3 files and burning audio CDs. He then unveiled iTunes software that lets Macintosh users import songs from their favourite CDs; compress them into the popular MP3 format and store them on their computer’s hard drive. Users can then organize their music using powerful iTunes’ searching, browsing and play-list features; watch visualizations on their computer screen; and burn their own audio CDs - all in one "easy-to-use" application.

iDVD for burning Jobs said he was proud to announce another new piece of Apple software – iDVD.

At present, Jobs claimed that there are three hurdles to jump when burning DVD discs. First, burning DVD disks that will play in consumer DVD players is not cheap. Second, MPEG2 encoding the data for DVDs is "fierce", according to Jobs. And finally, the whole process is very slow – taking 25-times as long as the source material.

Apple claims that its SuperDrive flattens the first hurdle, and its iDVD software the second. Jobs then told the audience that Apple scientists had beaten the speed factor, taking the 25-x process down to just two-times the length of the source material. Instead of taking over a day, an hour’s DVD could be produced in just two hours.

Jobs claimed that iDVD had "huge" implications for the educational markets, and pointed out that DVD technology is being widely adopted by the corporate markets.

"We think this is revolutionary", said Jobs, who claimed that iDVD "adds dramatic value" to consumer DVD players.

Apple’s visionary software direction "iMovie, iDVD and iTunes are our passport to digital lifestyles," said Jobs, who also revealed that Apple is currently working on other related software projects.

"This is where we’re going," Jobs announced as he finished expounding his vision of the "third golden age of the personal computer".