Monday, January 28, 2008

Apple Launches 13-Inch Ultralight MacBook Air

Steve Jobs took the stage to kick off the annual Macworld Expo today. As usual, he brought with him a crushing amount of buzz and a pile of new product announcements. Here's what we'll be seeing from Apple, starting today!

MacBook Air

As widely expected, Apple is launching an ultra-thin notebook called the MacBook Air. At 0.76" thick at its widest point, the three-pound Air has a wedgelike shape that tapers down to 0.16" thick at the front base. LED backlighting on its 13.3-inch screen, multi-touch trackpad (which offers some nifty features like rotating photos, all in the touchpad), and a backlit keyboard. Specs are decent: 1.6 or 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (on a cleverly shrunken socket), 2GB of RAM, and an 80GB hard drive (or 64GB SSD option). No optical drive (of course), and just one USB port. It'll set you back $1,799, which is on the inexpensive side for ultralight notebooks with specs like this. Ships in two weeks.

(By the way, as great as the MacBook Air sounds, calling this the "world's thinnest notebook" is hyperbole: The Sony X505 was 0.75" thick... and it was released in 2003.) 

iPhone Software Upgrades

Apple isn't resting on its cell phone laurels; after selling 4 million iPhones, it's adding new features to the existing software package (including webclips, which will bookmark not just a web page but a specific zoom and pan and then let you place them on your home screen; multiple recipient SMS; and lyrics support for iTunes). Nothing major, but some nice, incremental upgrades to the existing software. iPod Touch gets the same upgrades as the iPhone, but it will cost you $20.

NOT announced: iPhone 2! 

iTunes Movie Rentals

As widely rumored, Apple is launching a movie rental service to complement its TV and movie sales service as part of iTunes. All major studios are on board. Titles will be available 30 days after their DVD release and can be viewed on a PC or your iPod/iPhone. You have 30 days to start watching and 24 hours after that to finish. The price: $3.99 for new releases, $2.99 for old titles. Launches today. (Hey, that Netflix deal is looking pretty good!)

Also: The flagging Apple TV will get the same rental features, without the need for a computer. You'll also be able to get photos from Flickr and .Mac, podcasts, and YouTube videos via Apple TV. It will still sync with your computer via iTunes, but that isn't required if you just want to use it to watch web content. It also does high-definition... but rentals will run you a whopping $4.99 each. The Apple TV features will be a free software update to existing boxes (available in two weeks). New boxes drop in price to $229 from $299.

Time Capsule Wireless Hard Drive

Also announced: A wireless external hard drive designed to be used as a backup solution (with Apple's Time Machine backup software). $299 (500GB) and $499 (1TB).