Mac World: Apple and Macintosh New Releases

By Graham K. Rogers

The rumour machines had been in top gear for weeks. Most favoured new Mac minis, new laptops, another iPod update, plus software, more about the next version of OS X, oh, and one more thing. Those five, brief words, are almost a trademark of a Steve Jobs keynote speech at a Mac World conference.

By Wednesday morning (Bangkok time) there were new Intel-equipped computers; an iPod FM radio attachment; a new version of iLife; and updates to OS X (10.4.4), iTunes (6.0.2) and QuickTime (7.0.4). Third party suppliers were out in force, with several new programs developed for the platform. Microsoft has also announced a long-term commitment to OS X.

Although Intel-equippped Macs were promised for June, Apple and Intel got their acts together and the first machines are now released. Early advertising carries the tongue-in-cheek caption: "What's an Intel chip doing in a Mac? A whole lot more than it's ever done in a PC." It may be possible to load Windows on the new Macs, but Apple will not offer such a configuration.

The laptop, now the MacBook Pro (perhaps the iBook will evolve into MacBook), is released solely with a 15.4" screen currently. Intel Core Duo chips come with 1.67 or 1.83GHz processors. For the latter, Apple claims a fourfold increase in processing speed.

The MacBook Pro has an 667MHz frontside bus. It has one Firewire 400 port as well as two USB 2.0 ports. It has 10/100/1000 Gigabit BASE-T Ethernet. A slot-loading superdrive is standard along with Bluetooth and Airport (802.11g). The iSight camera is included.

The MacBook Pro is priced from $1,999. The bundled software includes iLife '06 (see below), Photo Booth and Front Row (with the Apple remote). With these there is also Comic Life. 512 MB Ram is standard and the MacBook Pro can use up to 2G. New quick-release power adapter cords are magnetized to avoid spills if you catch your feet in the cable.

The iMac was a surprise. It also is powered by the Intel Core Duo and Apple are claiming 2 to 3 times faster processing speeds when compared to the current 2.0GHz G5 iMac. Intel iMacs come with two screen sizes, 17" and 20" ($1299 and $1699 respectively) with either a 160G or 250G hard disk. As well as the standard OS X bundled software, this has Life 06, Big Bang Board Games, Comic Life and Omni Outliner.

iMacs have superdrive, Bluetooth and Airport. There is built-in 10/100/1000 Gigabit BASE-T Ethernet. The system bus is 667MHz. As before, Front Row (plus the remote) and Photo Booth are included. As with current iMacs, iSight is built-in. 512MB of RAM is standard and this can be expanded to 2G.

There is no confirmed information as to when these computers arrive in Bangkok.

In the last quarter of 2005, Apple sold 17 million iPods. There was no update of the range as had been anticipated, but Apple did announce the Radio Remote, a $49 FM radio attachment for the iPod and an iPod software update later in the day. Apple also released information of a deal with Chrysler to include iPod integration in the vehicles. As well as the many accessories on show outside the keynote area, Levis announced RedWire LX jeans with an iPod docking cradle and a retractable headphone unit built into the jeans.

iLife 06 is a package that includes iPhoto 06, iMovieHD 6, iDVD 6, GarageBand 3 and a new application: iWeb. The original iLife applications have updates to the interface and improvements to the way data is handled. iPhoto, iMovie and Garageband also integrate with iWeb to provide direct web publishing of photos, podcasts and video podcasts via the .Mac hosting service. Garageband adds several features directly related to creating podcasts including an "engineer" feature.

As well as enhancements to the way iMovie creates movies, it now allows several projects to be open at the same time. This feature was much appreciated by those at the keynote. iDVD, which integrates perfectly with iMovie has added widescreen capability. It supports several formats for disk burning and a wide range of third party DVD burners.

It was iWeb that was most appreciated. Apple has lacked a proper web-page writing tool for too long. The application comes with a dozen themes from which to create pages. Making the page is copy and paste, click and drag, while iWeb includes blogging, podcasting and site-management tools and automatic creation of RSS feeds.

The update of OS X to 10.4.4 had been expected. It included improvements to the way networking, Bluetooth and graphics are handled. There were also some additions and improvements to widgets. The Address and Calendar widgets were redesigned. New widgets were from Google and ESPN as well as a ski report widget and a "People" search widget.

Updates and new computers were well-received both inside and outside the Mac World conference. Expect more new Intel-fitted Macs in the coming weeks and months. On a positive note, the share price leapt to $86 before settling back at a figure some thought significant for the new Intel Macs: $80.86.

Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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