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6/11/2012
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Apple WWDC: New MacBooks, iOS 6, Mountain Lion

At its Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple did not roll out a new iPhone, but unveiled plenty of iOS 6 news plus new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models.

Apple on Monday refreshed its MacBook hardware, announced that OS X Mountain Lion will be available in July for $20, and delivered a beta version of iOS 6 to developers.

Apple's voice-input technology Siri opened the company's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco, ridiculing Google's Android release names Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean. Such lighthearted payback for Google's prior jesting at Apple's expense during Google's developer conferences shouldn't obscure Apple's serious determination to have the last laugh by reducing the scope of Google services in Apple products--a goal exemplified by Apple's iOS 6 Maps app, which no longer relies on Google map technology.

Speaking before an enthusiastic crowd of developers in San Francisco, Apple CEO Tim Cook reviewed the extent of Apple's App Store power, noting that the company has more than 400 million App Store customer accounts and has seen more than 30 billion apps--free and paid--downloaded.

[ For a look at iPad's competition, read Windows 8 Tablets: Computex Sneak Peek. ]

The company also has more than 66 million Mac users, triple the number there were five years ago, according to Craig Federighi, Apple's VP of Mac software engineering.

Apple introduced revised models of its MacBook Air and its MacBook Pro--with a 15" model sporting a version of the high-resolution Retina display added earlier this year to the third-generation iPad tablet.

The company also presented a preview of the next version of its desktop operating system, OS X Mountain Lion, as well as a beta version of iOS 6, the company's mobile operating system. (See our related story: Apple iOS 6: Best New Features.)

Conspicuously absent was any mention of the Mac Pro, Apple's desktop workstation, which hasn't been updated since August 2010, or of apps for Apple TV, which had been predicted by various Apple news websites. Nonetheless, Apple did update its Mac Pro, which at the top end now features two six-core 3.06-GHz Intel Xeon X5675 chips. Apple also updated its AirPort Express with support for 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi.

Apple's innovations tended toward iOS-OS X convergence and cross-pollination. Apple's Safari browser, for example, is now tied to iCloud services. OS X users now have access to the Notifications system introduced previously in iOS. AirPlay and GameCenter, two iOS technologies, have been brought to OS X.

Perhaps most significantly, Apple intensified its competition with Google by introducing its own Google-free Maps app in iOS 6, enabling Facetime videoconferencing over cellular connections to better compete with Google+ Hangouts, adding Siri support in iOS 6 to the new iPad, adding Facebook integration, and continuing to enhance iCloud.

Google last week held a Maps-oriented press conference at its San Francisco office, an event widely seen as an attempt to retain mindshare for its software in advance of Apple's expected rejection of Google's technology.

The MacBook Air has been updated with new Intel Ivy Bridge processors. The two models, 11" ($999 & $1099) and 13" ($1199 & $1499), are available with dual-core i5 and i7 processors ranging from 1.7-GHz to 2.0-GHz (and up to 3.2-GHz through an Intel technology called Turbo Boost), up to 8 GB of 1600-MHz RAM and integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics processing that's 60% faster than previous models.

The revised MacBook Air models can accommodate up to 512 GB of flash storage with a read speed of 500 MBps (2x faster than previous models). And they come with two USB 3.0 ports and a 720p FaceTime HD camera. The screen, however, is not a Retina display; the displays are 1366 x 768 and 1440 x 900 respectively.

The MacBook Pro comes in 13" and 15" models. There's also a 15" model with a Retina display.

The 13" model has a 1280 x 800 display; the 15" model has a 1440 x 900 display, and the 15" Retina model features a 2880 x 1800 display, with a pixel density of 220. The revised MacBook Pro is 0.71-inches thick, a quarter thinner than previous models, and weighs in at 4.46 pounds. However, it no longer includes a built-in optical drive.

The MacBook Pro 15" starts at $2199 for a quad-core 2.3-GHz i7 processor, with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of Flash memory, and NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics chip. It can be configured to accommodate a 3.7-GHz i7 processor with Turbo Boost and 768 GB of flash storage.

iOS 6 is available now as a beta release for developers and is scheduled for general release this fall.

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