Steve Jobs's Macworld Keynote: An In-Depth Look - InformationWeek

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1/15/2008
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Steve Jobs's Macworld Keynote: An In-Depth Look

The presentation lacked the revolutionary fervor of previous years, but the Apple CEO did introduce a slew of useful and sexy products.

The MacBook Air

The tiny MacBook Air was the big gun at the keynote. Jobs said the device is the world's thinnest notebook computer.

He compared it with most ultrathin notebooks, which, he said, weigh about 3 pounds, with 11-12" displays, miniature keyboards, and 1.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processors.

The MacBook air also weighs about 3 pounds, but other than that, it's different from and more advanced than other ultrathins, Jobs said. He compared it to the ultrathin Sony Vaio, which, he said, is a wedge-shaped notebook that's 1.2" at the thickest and 0.8" at the thinnest. In contrast, the MacBook Air is 0.76" at the thickest, and 0.16" at the thinnest. In other words, the thickest part of the MacBook Air is thinner than the thinnest part of the Vaio. It fits inside a big manila envelope -- the kind that closes by looping red thread around buttons. Jobs showed a TV commercial demonstrating just that, and removed the MacBook Air from a manila envelope onstage.

The notebook has a magnetic latch, a 13.3" instant-on wireless display with LED backing, built-in iSight camera, and full-size keyboard with backlight that automatically switches on when ambient lighting dims. "This is possibly the best notebook keyboard we've ever shipped," Jobs said.

The notebook has a large trackpad, which supports multitouch gestures similar to the iPhone. Jobs demonstrated a few gestures using iPhoto: Double-tap and drag to move a window, pan a large photo by dragging with two fingers, rotate the photo by rotating two fingers, flick through photos by swiping a finger, and pinch in and out to zoom on a photo.

The notebook comes with an 80 Gbyte hard disk drive standard and optional 60 Gbyte solid state disk option. The spinning drive is a 1.8" hard drive, same as on an iPod. The processor is a 1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, with option to go to 1.8 GHz, same as in other notebooks and Macs. The processor was built specially by Intel to make it 60% smaller than the standard Core 2 processor.

The notebook has a magsafe connector and 45 watt power adapter. A latching door on one side of the unit accesses a USB 2.0 port, MicroDIV connection, headphone jack. The unit supports 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1.

Missing from the notebook: A hard Ethernet connection.

Also missing: An internal optical drive. Eleven years ago, Apple attracted criticism when it shipped the candy-colored iMac without a floppy disk drive built in, now it's shipping a notebook without an internal optical drive. Apple will sell a detachable USB optical drive for $99. "But you know what, we don't think most users will miss the optical drive. We don't think most users will need that optical drive," Jobs said.

Users use optical drives for movies, to burn backup disks, burn CDs for their cars, and install software, Jobs said. But iTunes will provide movies, Time Machine and Time Capsule will provide backup, and users can listen to music in their cars using iPods.

And for software installation, Apple is introducing technology to allow the MacBook Air to borrow optical drives from nearby PCs or Macs over a network. Users install special software on the remote machine, and the Air can address the remote machine's optical drive as though it was the Air's own. The Windows version of the software will allow PCs to run Mac installation programs on the Air's behalf.

The unit has a five-hour battery life. Many ultrathin notebooks only have enough juice for an hour and a half.

The price will start at $1,799.

Jobs said the MacBook Air is designed to minimize harm to the environment. The aluminum case is fully recyclable. "As a matter of fact, it is an extra desirable recyclable material," he said. It uses the first display that's free of mercury and uses arsenic-free glass. And retail packaging is 50% less volume than previous MacBooks. Apple has been taking heat from Greenpeace, which claims the company's environment practices are unsound.

The keynote concluded with music from Oscar-winning singer/songwriter Randy Newman, who wrote and sang for the soundtracks of Toy Story, A Bug's Life, and other Pixar movies.

He sang a satirical song about the end of the American empire. It was kind of a downer, actually, and added a political tone to the keynote that I thought was inappropriate.

But Newman saved the day by singing "You've Got a Friend In Me," which, he explained, he wrote for Toy Story. "I actually wrote a great love theme, but they cut the Buzz-Woody love scene," he said.

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