Apple has announced new server and storage products to be officially launched at the Macworld conference this week.

They include: an upgrade to its rack-mountable Xserve G5 server, featuring dual 64-bit, PowerPC G5 processors running at speeds up to 2.3GHz. With configurations starting at $2,999, the server may appeal to a wider audience.

Apple will also unwrap its Xsan file system for storage devices. Xsan costs $999 per client and per server and allows multiple machines to access information simultaneously from a storage system, including its Xserve RAID.

Apple believes the server will have wide appeal. Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, said: "With 64-bit processing power coupled with Apple's ease of use, Xserve G5 delivers unbeatable price performance and manageability. Xserve G5 ships with an unlimited client access license of Mac OS X Server that allows users to connect an unlimited number of Mac, Windows, or Linux clients to the server without additional software licensing fees."

Apple is also examining the possibility of an alternative to Microsoft Office for its lower-end desktop machines. Although bundling such a productivity suite would help Apple eliminate the licensing fees to Microsoft, it could also damage it by pushing people to PCs to ensure company-wide compatibility.

Microsoft officials say they remain committed to producing its "Office for Mac" suite. "Our relationship with Apple remains productive and strong," said Scott Erickson, group product manager for Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit.