05:06 PM

Apple Introduces Smaller MacBook Air, OS X Lion

Steve Jobs called the new and updated Air laptops MacBook, iPad "hook-ups" at the "Back To The Mac" event, which also introduced Lion OS X and a FaceTime for the Mac beta.

MacBook Air
(click image for larger view)
MacBook Air
Apple launched on Wednesday an 11.6-inch MacBook Air, adding a smaller version of the company's thinnest and lightest notebook.

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs introduced the new Air, along with a refresh of the 13.6-inch version, during a news conference at the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. Along with the new laptops, Apple also introduced the next version of Mac OS X, called Lion.

Apple's latest laptops are a marriage between the iPad and a notebook. In coming up with the new MacBook Airs, engineers and execs asked themselves, "What would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up," Jobs said.

The two models are similar in look, in that both have aluminum unibody designs and are 0.68 of an inch at their thickest point, tapering down to 0.11 of an inch. Neither MacBook has a hard disk drive, but rather use solid-state drives, which provide instant-on capabilities, faster performance and longer battery life. Both systems have full-size keyboard and come with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and Nvidia GeForce 320m graphics. However, the 11.6-inch model is lighter, 2.3 pounds versus 2.9 pounds, while the larger model has a higher resolution LED backlit display: 1440 x 900 pixels versus 1366 x 768 pixels. The resolutions on the new MacBook Airs are greater than on the 15-inch and 13-inch MacBook Pros, respectively. In addition, the battery life on the larger Air is longer, seven hours versus five hours, but both have a standby time of 30 hours.

Apple made both models available as of Wednesday. the 11.6-inch MacBook Air starts at $999 with a 1.4 GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 2 GB of system memory and 64 GB of flash storage. The 13.6-inch model starts at $1,299 with a 1.86 GHz Core 2 Duo, 2 GB of memory and 128 GB of flash storage.

Many industry observers expected Apple to introduce an 11.6-inch Air to compete at the high-end of thin-and-light laptops offered by Windows PC makers. In a hint of what Apple has planned for the rest of the MacBook line, Jobs said the Air represented the future in notebooks. "We see these as the next generation of MacBooks," he said.

Introducing Lion, Job said Apple had brought features from the iPhone and iPad into the new version of the Mac OS X. For example, the company introduced the Mac App Store, where people can download apps for free or a fee set by developers. Payment will be the same as for Apple's other devices. Developers get to keep 70% of the revenue and Apple keeps the rest.

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