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OS X Lion Launchpad

The latest MacBook Airs feature OS X Lion, a Thunderbolt port, and backlit keyboards
Apple shifts its focus to its Mac platform

Apple yesterday announced another blowout quarter, raking in $28.57B in revenue and $7.31B in profit. The company also sold over 20 million iPhones, over 9 million iPads, and just shy of 4 million Macs. While Apple has spent the bulk of its resources grooming its iOS-based products and accompanying software, Apple is turning its attention to the Mac side of things today with the official release of OS X 10.7 Lion and new Mac computers.

I. OS X Lion roars onto the scene

Apple first gave us a glimpse of OS X Lion at its "Back to the Mac" event in October 2010, but today is the big day when customers can finally download the operating system. Apple's goal when revamping the OS was to take some of the lessons and design principals from the iPhone/iPad touch and iPad and bring the to the larger screens of Mac Pros, Mac Minis, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs. 

As a result, OS X Lion supports a number of features that are commonly found in iOS including: 

  • Multi-touch gestures
  • App Store
  • App Home screens
  • Full screen apps
  • Autosave
  • App resume when launched 

Other new features include Air Drop which quickly allows OS X Lion users to share files over Wi-Fi, improved Time Machine functionality (local snapshots of files, encrypted backups via USB 2.0/Firewire), Screen Sharing, and a revamped Mail app. Apple claims that there are over 250 new features in OS X Lion. For a full rundown on what you'll find in OS X Lion, you can check out our article here. 

As expected, Apple is furthering its push into digital distribution with the launch of OS Lion -- the operating system will be available as a download from the App Store. Using this method, customers will already need to have Snow Leopard installed (with App Store functionality installed/enabled) in order to perform the upgrade.

“Lion is the best version of OS X yet, and we’re thrilled that users around the world can download it starting today,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “Lion makes upgrading a Mac easier than ever before; just launch the Mac App Store, buy Lion with your iTunes account, and the download and install process will begin automatically.”

The OS X Lion upgrade costs $29.99 via the App Store. If you prefer to have physical media, you can purchase a USB thumb drive with OS X Lion on it for $69.

II. New MacBook Airs

Apple last did a full revamp of its MacBook Air in October. The MacBook Airs (available in 11" and 13" varieties) went to an all-SSD configuration, shaved off some weight/bulk, and the ultraportable went from a sales zero to sales hero.

However, the new MacBook Airs weren't without their faults. For one thing, Apple inexplicably ditched the backlit keyboard (what’s even more bizarre is the first generation MacBook Air design had a backlit keyboard).  Another head scratcher was the fact that Apple only provided base systems with 2GB of RAM -- customer has to use a $100 BTO option to get a more palatable 4GB of memory in their systems (11” and 13” models). And while the $999 price of entry is quite low for those used to purchasing new Mac systems, that price only got you 64GB of storage space on the 11" MacBook Air.

Apple is addressing a few, but not all of these issues with its 2011-spec MacBook Airs. The $999 11" MacBook Air still only comes with 2GB of memory and a 64GB SSD. However, the processor has now been bumped up to a 1.6GHz Core i5 processor instead of the decrepit Core 2 Duo process in the previous model. Also, NVIDIA graphics have been tossed aside for an Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU. Coughing up an extra $200 will get you 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. 

In addition, the new 13" MacBook Air gains a 1.7GHz Core i5 processor in its standard configuration ($1299). Base storage remains at 128GB, but 4GB of RAM is now standard. Stepping up to 256GB of storage space will cost you an extra $300 (head scratcher). Customers can order a 1.8GHz Core i7 processor ($100 extra) with configure-to-order options.

“Portable, affordable and powerful, MacBook Air is the ultimate everyday notebook,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “MacBook Air features our most advanced technology and is an ideal match for Lion, especially with its new Multi-Touch gestures, full-screen apps, Mission Control and Mac App Store.”

All of the new MacBook Airs will be getting backlit keyboards and a single Thunderbolt port. 

III. A new Mac mini has also arrived

Although it's not quite as high-profile as the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or even the iMac, Apple has taken the time to update its tiny Mac mini. The new Mac mini, which is just under 8" square and 1.4" thin, can now be configured with Core i5 or Core i7 processors. A  new AMD Radeon HD 6630M discrete GPU has been added to the mix for added performance.

In an interesting move, Apple has decided to remove the optical drive from the Mac mini, which follows the similar move for the MacBook Air family.

“Mac mini delivers the speed and expandability that makes it perfect for the desktop, living room or office,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “With faster processors, more powerful graphics and Thunderbolt in an incredibly compact, aluminum design, the new Mac mini is more versatile than ever.”

Pricing starts at $599 for the Mac mini.

IV. The $999 MacBook: "So long, farewell!"

As a final note. We can all have a moment of silence for the lowly, plasticy, and overpriced MacBook. Apple has dropped the entry-level notebook completely from its lineup, so that means that the $999 11.1" MacBook Air will now take its place.



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RE: HA!
By Manch on 7/20/2011 9:59:15 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
(OS X is fine for fun and games,


That's the only part of your statement I disagree with. Intel graphics prevent fun and games!

Of course somebody on here will probably get bent out of shape and tell me I'm enjoying it wrong....


RE: HA!
By corduroygt on 7/20/2011 11:15:01 AM , Rating: 2
The "games" part in OSX mostly refers to Angry Birds and Facebook games though, so the Intel is just fine.


RE: HA!
By Manch on 7/20/2011 12:15:52 PM , Rating: 2
Great, I can play those on my phone, or my netbook both which cost me far less than a mac so meh...


RE: HA!
By TakinYourPoints on 7/20/2011 2:55:16 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree with it too, mainly because my Mac is a work machine (Final Cut Studio, encoding, portfolio website dev, work email) while my PC with SLI and everything is basically a machine/hobby kit. Basically a big toy that the output from my Mac pays for. I like em both, so whatever.


RE: HA!
By TakinYourPoints on 7/20/2011 2:59:42 PM , Rating: 2
Whoops, it should say "basically a gaming machine/hobby kit".

I also have it outputting to my 27" iMac as a display. Switching between sources works out nicely and is surprisingly cost effective given that a standalone 2560x1440 IPS 27" is $1000 from Apple, $1100 from Dell, and $1400 from NEC.


RE: HA!
By Manch on 7/20/2011 3:18:42 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, not talking about an iMac, talking about their overpriced ultraportables.


RE: HA!
By Manch on 7/20/2011 3:45:46 PM , Rating: 4
Then again , all of their machines are overpriced


RE: HA!
By TakinYourPoints on 7/20/2011 4:05:52 PM , Rating: 2
A comparable Lenovo x220 or Samsung ultraslim is priced about in line with the MBA. My only issue is the x220's 16:9 display, but otherwise it is also a good machine. The same can be said for the VAIO Z which actually costs more, but you're getting a worse keyboard and trackpad than either the Lenovo or the MBA.

Ultraslims with SSDs and an emphasis on battery life are going to cost a certain amount either way. They may not be for you or me, but laptops of any kind are a balance between size, weight, performance, display/trackpad/keyboard quality, and price. Compromise on several of these things and the price reduces. Compromise on fewer of those things and the price increases. Do not compromise on small size and thermal and space constraints have an effect on the type of CPUs and GPUs you can put in there.

People have this conspiratorial tone about ultraslims being overpriced but there are actual legit reasons, and the fact that so many people want such light and slim notebooks with good performance (SSD + OS X = nearly instant cold boot) means that the market can actually bear that price. If you want a 8+ pound behemoth with a fast GPU and 90 minutes of battery life that costs about the same, then go for it, and there are a whole range of laptops in between.

Evaluating laptops isn't as one-dimensional as it is with desktops, given that form factor is such an important component.


RE: HA!
By Manch on 7/20/2011 6:16:59 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not impressed much with those machines either. At their current price point I find them all underwhelming. I dont think it's too much to ask for a decent amount of ram, a slightly bigger hdd. Yeah I know, you can get them as options for an arm and a leg. They need to beef up the min specs a bit. I hate when they gouge the hell out of you for what amounts to very little cost to them. I understand the need to make a profit, but I'd be more inclined to pick one up if two simple upgrades didnt add to the price by a third. While I would love a ultra thin form factor since I travel a lot, until they can offer more, I'll bare the extra burden of an extra pound or two. Most people I know that actually buy these damn things end up buying extra hardware to stuff in their bags, which to me defeats the purpose.

I realize an ultra portables are not intended as a gaming machine but thanks for pointing out that laptops come in multiple designs, styles and performance. I never knew that before today! Wait whats that? Oh hell, my friend just told me ice cream comes in more than one flavor! GTFO!


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