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Apple is looking to make its ultrathin product line the models to beat amid tougher competition

It's that time a year again.  Love it or hate it, Apple, Inc. (AAPL) no industry player is perhaps as much of a showman as this Cupertino company.  P.T. Barnum once remarked, "Without promotion something terrible happens... Nothing!"

Apple tirelessly promotes itself year-round. But, of all the events on Apple's yearly calendar, one name has come to dominate in recent years -- the Worldwide Developer Convention.

While much of the attention, as always if fixated on the company's iPhone/iOS announcements, at this year's WWDC 2012 keynote address Apple also announced a slew of new additions to its personal computer line, including the release of its new version of OS X, OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion", new MacBook Pros/Airs (and maybe even new iMacs...waiting on that).

Here's a taste of what new Apple CEO Tim Cook offered up:

I. Laptops

i. MacBook Airs (11-/13-inch)

Of all categories laptops are a place where Apple is most competitive in terms of cost versus deliverables versus its rivals.  While Apple has delivered on certain fronts (e.g. small form factors with the Mac Mini), it's hard to deny that there's a big "Apple Tax" on Mac Pro desktops.

Laptops are a place where that "Apple Tax" is largely a case of you get what you pay for.  Apple has long competed with another pricey player -- Sony Corp. (TYO:6758) to deliver the thinnest, lightest, most full-featured ultrathins.  Now with ultrabooks coming from a slew of other companies, Apple has to put on its 'A' game.

At the 2012 WWDC keynote Apple announced new 11- and 13-inch MacBook Airs.  The new designs pack a new dual-core 1.7 GHz (11-inch) or 1.8 GHz (13-inch) Ivy Bridge third-gen Core i-Series CPU from Intel Corp. (INTC), up to 8 GB of DRAM, and up to 512 GB of NAND flash storage in the SSD-driven designs.  

The base configuration comes with a 64 GB (11-inch)/128 GB (13-inch) SSD and 4 GB DRAM (both).

The new Airs also add USB 3.0 support to the two onboard ports that grace either side of the laptop (legacy USB 2.0 support is also maintained).  The USB 3.0 inclusion isn't exactly glamorous, but it at least fills in a long criticized lack in Apple's line.  A 720p FaceTime camera is also added, for those who use Apple's video-chat service.

The bad news for those Apple fans who have been blasting laptop makers for their "garbage" "low-resolution" displays, is that Apple is sticking with its low-resolution 1440x900 pixel LCD units in the MBA line (but wait, there is a silver lining, read on) -- not even bleeding edge by its own standards.  Unlike many upcoming Windows 8 designs, there's still no touch on the screen -- for better or worse.

There's also no discrete graphics, MBA owners will have to make due with integrated HD 4000 graphics from Intel.  The 11-inch starts at $999 USD (filling the slot once occupied by the defunct MacBook) and the 13-inch starts at $1199 USD.

ii. MacBook Pros (13-/15-inch)

Next up is the MacBook Pro refresh.  

Apple first unveiled a 13- and 15-inch models -- relatively ho-hum designs, with 1280x800 and 1440x900 pixel (respectively) displays and new Ivy Bridge CPUs.  The pair start at $1199 and $1799 a pop, respectively.  The 13-inch has 2.5 and 2.9 GHz dual-core CPU options, while the 15-inch model's processor options are bumped to 2.3 and 2.6 GHz quad-core chips. 

The base configurations comes with 4 GB DRAM and a 500 GB HDD.  The new Pros are 0.95-in. thick and weigh 4.5 and 5.6 lb, respectively.

An upgraded 17-inch model was not mentioned, it's possible Apple is eliminating that SKU.

iii. "Next Generation" MacBook Pro (15.4-inch)

But wait -- Apple packed a surprise -- a much more impressive single new entrant into the MacBook Pro line.  Tim Cook teased, "With the MBA, the team did something bold. There were aggressive in embracing new tech. They also got rid of stuff that was trending out. That enabled them to do something bold. So we've been asking the team to think about what would make the next gen MBP?"

"Want to know the answer?  You want it to have a killer new display. You want an architecture built for the future, you want it to be light. You want it unlike anything else.  Want to see it? Let's show it now.  The most beautfiul computer we have ever made."

Remember those dashed "Retina Display" hopes with the Air?  Well Apple is including an incredible 15.4-inch 2880x1800 pixel display on its high-end laptops.  So MBP gets double the resolution, while the MBA gets a miniscule bump.

MacBook Pro's flagship model indeed received a Retina display. 

Tim Cook remarks of the new screen on the 'Pro, "The pixels are so small that your retina cannot discern them."

Among the apps promised to make good use of that impressive resolution are Apple's own Mail, Safari (browser), iMovie, iPhoto, Aperture, and Final Cut Pro.  Apple's frienemy Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE) is also offering HD Photoshop, while AutoDesk, Inc. (ADSK) is giving the high-resolution treament to its AutoCAD app.

For the gamers out their Activision Blizzard, Inc. (ATVI) Retina display Diablo III was briefly demoed.

The new "Next Generation" 15-inch MacBook Pros are also as thin as the Air (0.71 in.) and only weigh 4.46 lb.  What's more they also feature GeForce GT 650M graphics (1 GB GDDR5) from NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) (Kepler chip).

This new super-ultrathin packs up to a 768 GB SSD (yes, you read that right).  It gets the same 7 hour battery life as its lesser 'Pro brethren, despite its 220 ppi screen.  The discrete graphics remain unchanged, but it supports an upgrade to a 2.7 GHz CPU and support for up to 16 GB of DRAM.  Bluetooth 4.0 is onboard.

The base configurations comes with 8 GB of DRAM, a 256 GB NAND SSD, and a 2.3 GHz quad-core chip.  That variant costs $2199 USD, a cost Apple promises is due to all its custom components like "asymmetrical fans" and other ultrathin oddiities.

All the new laptops are available immediately to ship, according to Tim Cook

II. OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion"

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) has received much criticism (including from Apple) for boldly importing pieces of its mobile operating system du jour (namely the Metro UI bits) into its upcoming Windows 8.  In many ways Apple is following a similar approach, bring onboard more iOS-like features, after first opening up the App Store expansion Mac App Store.

That said Mountain Lion's new features mark slightly less of an extreme makeover than Microsoft's arguably, and thus should be a bit less of a system shock to veteran users (though on the flip side potentially passing on the benefits of a more extreme redesign).

Mountain Lion
[Image Source: HD Wallpapers]

i. Yay Cloud

Craig Federighi previewed the new OS.

Apple claims that there are 65 million Macs in the wild, with 26 million of those on OS X 10.7 Lion.  Humorously Apple bragged that its own OS outsold Windows 7.  Of course it's talking about percent adoption within its drastically smaller user base, but in Apple's world it's the "fastest"* selling operating system in history (*=some restrictions may apply).  So take that, reports of slowing OS X Lion adoption.

Mountain Lion brings iCloud integration.  Apple has added "Documents in the Cloud" to iCloud, which allows you to use Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Preview, and TextEdit options to present or edit your content on the go.

The new OS also supports cloud data backup (AirPlay mirroring) when its in "sleep" mode.  The process is done silently and power-efficiently, according to Apple. 

iCloud backup
Airplay mirroring [Image Source: The Verge]

ii. New Apps

The new OS introduces 3 new apps -- messages, reminders, and notes -- whose purposes are pretty self-explanatory.  Apple also has integrated dictation with a Siri-like icon into Mountain Lion.  It even works, as Apple humorously notes in Microsoft Word.  

Mountain Lion new apps
OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion also introduces 3 new core apps. [Image Source: The Verge]

Then there's the notifications -- a feature some disliked in preview builds. (Apple has added the ability to turn them off at least.)  Sharing has also been made easier with Apple's GUI offering many options such as Twitter, Facebook, AirDrop, or Message.

A new build of the Safari browser is also onboard with unified search (like Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Chrome).  Apple claims Safari is faster than Firefox 13, Chrome 19, and Internet Explorer 9 in JavaScript.  There's a couple new additions to the browser like iCloud tabs (syncs your mobile tabs) and Tabview, which allows easy zooming in and out.

Other new features include the "Gatekeeper" security app, offline reading lists, Mail VIPs, LaunchPad Search, and more -- 200 in all by Apple's estimation.  Apple is also looking to woo Chinese buyers with freshly added, Inc. (BIDU) support and an improved Chinese dictionary.

iii. Availability

Apple is releasing Mountain Lion next month for $19.99 USD.  The license is good for installing on any supported existed (Apple) system.  For those buying the aforementioned fancy new laptop designs, they will receive a free bump to Mountain Lion, so early adopters won't be burned (not that $20 USD is a big deal after you've ponied up $2200 USD for that new MBP).

Sources: Apple, The Verge

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This can't possibly be right.....
By Cheesew1z69 on 6/11/2012 2:05:08 PM , Rating: 1
This new super-ultrathin packs up to a 768 GB SSD

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By hemmy on 6/11/2012 1:58:05 PM , Rating: 2
"Up to"

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By aliasfox on 6/11/2012 1:58:14 PM , Rating: 2
why not?

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By Cheesew1z69 on 6/11/12, Rating: 0
RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By retrospooty on 6/11/2012 2:25:41 PM , Rating: 5
It's an option, not at the price listed. I am sure you pay for it, but if you want a large SSD, it can be done.

2880x1800 at 15 inches is just incredible. Probably overkill, but in contrast to the vast "underkill" of 1366x768, i'll take it.

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By Solandri on 6/11/2012 2:51:23 PM , Rating: 2
I'm still wary of do-it-yourself HDD/SSD upgrades on a Mac. On the iMac, they introduced an extra data pinout on the HDD. It was linked to the fan, and if you replaced it with a generic HDD without the pinout, your fan would run at max speed all the time. So far that's the only time the issue has surfaced, but I still won't buy a Mac with intent to upgrade the HDD/SSD until I read that someone else has done so first without problems.

I like the display. About time laptops started pushing beyond 1920x1080. The nice thing IMHO is that you can run games at half-res (1440x900) to get decent performance while still having a sharp image at a decent resolution. On the 1080p screens half-res was a pathetic 960x540, so you ended up with a soft image due to resampling 1280x720 up to 1920x1080. I was actually thinking of getting a Dell 30" (2560x1600) to get around this problem (half-res 1280x800).

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By corduroygt on 6/11/2012 3:26:52 PM , Rating: 2
Get a 27" 2560x1440 monitor instead, they're half the price of the 30" ones with slightly lower resolution, and you still get 720p gaming.

By retrospooty on 6/11/2012 4:49:59 PM , Rating: 2
I got to play with a 27 inch iMac for a few days last year. A really great screen.

I wonder if they will ever do larger retina screens at the 27-30 inch range.

Drooling just thinking about it.

By Solandri on 6/12/2012 2:39:13 AM , Rating: 2
I looked at those too. I actually prefer the smaller 27" size to 30". But all the 27" seem to be 16:9, while 30" is 16:10. And I like 16:10 more than I like 27".

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By FaaR on 6/11/2012 7:44:38 PM , Rating: 2
I'm still wary of do-it-yourself HDD/SSD upgrades on a Mac.

No need to be wary anymore, not with this Mac anyway.

Why? Well, quite simply, because the RAM's soldered in, and the flash for the SSD is also soldered in... That's how Apple can fit such a large battery in such a small case. Sockets and modular circuit boards as used in SO-DIMMs and mini-SATA and PCIe boards take up space inside the chassis, so it'd either be smaller battery or a thicker, heavier chassis to fit the same size battery.

Of course, you can't upgrade your computer either, but I'm fairly certain most users don't ever actually do that, and the baseline spec is 4GB RAM which is more than sufficient for most people...

Extra storage if you need that can be added through either USB3 which is really fast, or thunderbolt, which is ludicrous fast, in the eyes of 99.9% of all users anyway.

By TakinYourPoints on 6/11/2012 7:51:37 PM , Rating: 2
The baseline spec is 8GB, fortunately. 4GB with an upgrade option to 8GB would have sucked given that everything on the logic board is soldered on.

The standard 15" MBP make less sense at this point. Upgrade to an SSD either through Apple or with your own parts and it comes out to about the same price as a baseline retina display MBP. The baseline spec is surprisingly decent, I would have guessed something more expensive.

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By TakinYourPoints on 6/11/2012 2:45:06 PM , Rating: 3
Not anymore, its down to about $1 a gig for customers now. You can actually get a Crucial 512GB SSD for $400 now, prices have been plummeting this year.

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By Mitch101 on 6/11/2012 4:52:54 PM , Rating: 3
Not on Apple. Unicorn dust is expensive.
Crucial 512GB SSD for PC $400 now
Crucial 512GB SSD for Apple $800 now

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By Souka on 6/11/2012 5:52:53 PM , Rating: 2
per comment above, the pinout on the HDD is different for Mac. Wrong drive = full fan speed on mac... FAIL!


By TakinYourPoints on 6/11/2012 6:28:40 PM , Rating: 2
Crucial 512GB SSD for Apple $800 now

This is BS, the $400 Crucial SSD plugs into a MBP. I made the upgrade myself a few weeks ago.

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By Cheesew1z69 on 6/11/2012 7:25:11 PM , Rating: 2
RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By TakinYourPoints on 6/11/2012 7:55:46 PM , Rating: 2
$400 512GB SSD:

If you want an Intel 480GB you'll be spending around $700. Either way, who cares? You get hit like that from any PC vendor, it is one reason why aftermarket upgrades exist.

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By StevoLincolnite on 6/12/2012 1:07:47 AM , Rating: 2
If you want an Intel 480GB you'll be spending around $700. Either way, who cares?

Are you saying "Who cares" to having to pay more? Seriously?

In that case... I'll charge you $1,000 for making me write this message, I mean... Who cares right? right?

Higher prices is never a good thing, you should care; otherwise prices will never come down on goods that become cheaper to manufacture.
That would mean we would still be paying $1000 for a DVD drive for a PC and not $20.

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By TakinYourPoints on 6/12/2012 2:43:46 AM , Rating: 2
No, I'm saying who cares about what Apple charges, you can get less expensive SSDs from numerous other sources.

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By StevoLincolnite on 6/13/2012 1:04:20 PM , Rating: 2
Nope. I care. I want everything as cheap as possible, who give a rats what company is driving the products.
I'm a consumer, lower prices on everything is great.

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By TakinYourPoints on 6/13/2012 3:11:29 PM , Rating: 2
Again, who cares what Apple charges when you can buy cheaper parts from other places. The same applies to Dell, HP, or any other company. Who cares what they charge for RAM or storage upgrades when you can buy a part from Newegg or Amazon for half the price.

I don't see what the big deal is.

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By StevoLincolnite on 6/13/2012 4:03:46 PM , Rating: 2
The big deal is, if a big company undercuts another, then everyone else will drop prices and the cycle will continue.

By testerguy on 6/14/2012 7:58:07 AM , Rating: 2
Steve you are completely and absolutely missing the point.

TakinYourPoints isn't trying to suggest that consumers don't care about price.

He's making the point that with an Apple you can get an SSD upgrade at the SAME COST as it costs for the raw components - literally by simply buying them.

That price isn't controlled by Apple, it's controlled by the SSD manufacturers. While obviously consumers would prefer SSD's to be cheaper, the point is that you can get them for your Apple at at least as cheap as you can in a custom build.

By Brandon Hill on 6/11/2012 1:58:51 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, it is correct.

RE: This can't possibly be right.....
By GotThumbs on 6/11/2012 8:04:39 PM , Rating: 1
The REAL question is....what kind of performance does it have compared to retail SSD's that one can install in most any PC laptop. Check NewEgg for the 1T SSD. Apple will NOT be giving you the fastest options. Most Apple users wouldn't know how to tell the difference anyway.

At 2200.00, its not that big a deal. Its more of a joke. We want to see who the first sucker will be.

I'll never by an Apple product. There are too many other options I can choose.

By ritualm on 6/12/2012 9:57:55 PM , Rating: 2
Who in their bright mind would buy a 1TB SSD? The price per GB does not even make sense, and the performance isn't any better.

Regardless. I went ahead and ordered the BTO version, 2.7 and 16gb but kept the SSD stock. Guess I'm one of those guys who overspent for an inferior product, huh.

By NellyFromMA on 6/12/2012 7:56:27 AM , Rating: 2
I predict the MBP to be in the range of 10K. Don't worry, the more careless people spend on this tech, the more it will drive prices down to consumers. Right... ?

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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