The High-Tech Texan Blog

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Small Slice of Apple

Thinnovation is how Apple describes its latest product and biggest announcement at this year's Macworld. The MacBook Air is, according to Apple, the world's thinnest notebook.

That's all well and good. I want to be thinner, too. But is being thinner gonna make things better? The market will tell soon. (Speaking of market, the market didn't seem too impressed with Steve Jobs' keynote speech this year as AAPL stock was down almost 5 1/2% as of late afternoon)

The MBA weighs a mere 3 lbs and is 0.76 inches at it widest, tapering down in a wedge to an incredibly small 0.16 inches. It has a full-size back-lit keyboard, a back-lit LED 13.3-inch monitor and a sizeable track-pad. The MacBook Air will retail for $1799, fitting it in between Apple's MacBook and MacBook Pro lines.

It has some guts, too. A 1.8 inch 80 GB hard drive, which the company has "shipped in tens of millions of iPods and we know them well," Jobs said. A 64 GB SSD hard drive is also available. The motherboard, which has a 1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, which can be upgraded to 1.8 GHz, is shorter than a No. 2 pencil with chips that are 60 percent the size of Intel's run-of-the-mill Core 2 Duo processors.

Kind of like they put a MacBook in a vice.

My first concern is battery life. I'm used to big batteries. Thicker and heavier should mean longer. But Apple says you'll get up to 5 hours of batt life.

As I pointed out from my CES reports, green seems to be the "in" thing in 2008 and Apple is hopping on the hybrid bandwagon. The casing is aluminum, which Jobs called "highly recyclable," and the display is Apple's first to use glass that is both mercury and arsenic free. It's small form also reduces packaging to 56 percent of that which encases a regular MacBook.

Jobs also unveiled the Time Capsule remote backup appliance. Time Capsule is designed to sync using Time Machine, the backup software contained in its Mac OS X Leopard operating system and can be set to create automatic hourly backups. Time Capsule connects to any Mac notebook or PC in a network using Wi-Fi and comes with either 500 GB or 1 TB of storage space for $299 and $499 respectively.

iTunes Movie Rentals

iTunes has sold 4 billion songs and 7 million movies so why not make it easier to download more, asks Jobs. And here's another revenue opp to make that AAPL stock go up...most all major movie studios have signed on to deliver movies that can be viewed on a Mac, iPhone or a TV, using a new version of Apple TV (wait for it...).

In February, Apple will launch this new library with 1,000 films. You can watch them instantly; they download as you start watching. You have 30 days to watch the movie after you download it, but only 24 hours to watch it after you start the movie. Library titles: $2.99. New release: $3.99.

Not bad but you could see movies earlier by renting the DVD. The company had to make a concession with the studios - Apple won't get them until 30 days after the DVD release.

Apple TV Take 2

Last year's "oh-by-the-way-we're-releasing-this-in-addition-to-the-iPhone" product was Apple TV. A $299 device that allowed iTunes movies to be delivered to a TV. Wasn't a huge hit. Back to the drawing board with upgraded features and a lower price ($229).

No computer is required to work with this new version so you can now rent movies directly on your widescreen TV in both DVD and HD quality with Dolby 5.1. I do like the fact that photos from Picasa and Flickr can also be shown on your TV via the new device.

[as Jobs tried to demo this feature in his presentation the inevitable glitch occured and nothing happened. If a SNAFU like this can happen to Bill Gates then Steve Jobs is fair game, too]

New iPhone Features

According to Jobs, Apple sold almost 20,000 iPhones a day since its release in June 2007. That's 4 million iPhones. He didn't talk about a new iPhone (that will probably be around holiday time this year) but he did show off some new features for the current models.

The smart phones are now capable of leveraging Google Maps to allow users to pinpoint their location on a map. While the iPhone contains no GPS device, using Google cellular capabilities and a Wi-Fi hotspot tracking company called Skyhook, the device can locate itself.

The new iPhone software also allows users to conduct multiple SMS conversations at once, create Web links and embed them in the home screen or doc, and to search videos by chapter and watch with subtitles or in foreign languages.

For the iPod Touch (which is pretty much an iPhone without the phone) these updates to the mail, maps, stocks, notes and weather apps can be had for $20 via iTunes. That is ludicrous to me. Just give updates away, we just shelled out $399 for a 16GB iTouch. C'mon bro!

One More Thing

That's it? After last year's iPhone announcement we expect so much from Apple during Macworld. Not that the world's thinnest notebook and customizable home screens on iPhones aren't impressive. But Jobs created a PR monster that must keep growing to maintain buzz, grow market share and keep his shareholders happy.

Apple got a ton of pub today but it remains to be seen about those other goals.

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