Apple Computer is trying to persuade the US government to lift restrictions on exports of the new PowerPC G4 processor-based Power Mac systems, Steve Jobs said yesterday.

"The Power Mac G4 is so fast that it is classified as a supercomputer by the US government, and we are prohibited from exporting it to over 50 nations worldwide," said Jobs, Apple's interim chief executive officer.

Apple, however, is working toward getting the US authorities to lift the export restrictions to the listed countries, he said. "And fortunately this isn't one of them," quipped Jobs, addressing a crowd of European Macintosh faithful on the first day of the Apple Expo trade show held annually in Paris - see our story yesterday.

The new G4 systems were unveiled by Jobs late last month, and feature a new series of fast PowerPC processors running at clock speeds of 400MHz, 450MHz and 500MHz.

Aimed at graphics professionals, Apple today only ships Power Macs featuring the slowest 400MHz G4, starting at £1,099 here in Europe, but Jobs promised the audience that a faster 450MHz system would be available by October, followed by 500MHz systems in November.

The forthcoming 450MHz Power Mac G4 will feature 128MB of memory, a 20GB hard drive and a DVD-ROM drive, said Jobs. It will carry a retail price of £1,699, he added.

Buyers willing to fork out the £2,399 it will cost to acquire the 500MHz version, meanwhile, will get 256MB of memory, a 27GB hard drive and a DVD-RAM drive for up to 5GB of removable and rewritable storage, said Jobs.

To demonstrate how fast the new G4 systems are, Jobs staged a series of demos featuring a 500MHz G4 system battling a PC powered by a 600MHz Intel Pentium III processor. Jobs claimed that the live demos proved that the G4 on the average is 2.94 times faster than the Pentium III. "Using Intel's own tests," he added.

In related news, Jobs also announced that the new iBook series of portable consumer computers has started shipping today, as promised earlier.