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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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By CubicleDilbert on 6/11/2012 8:23:41 PM , Rating: 3
It seems you just didn't understand my arguments.
I know the iPad 3 very well and I did mention the calculations.
The ultra-high resolutions does not make sense, because the human eye can only distinguish a certain amount of different pixels per arcsecond. It is pure physics. The human eye limit with 20/20 vision at 40cm distance is around 140dpi. Even Apple has this in their white paper when they explain retina. Physicists know that better and have different names for this. The limiting factor is the human retina and its low resolution. Eagles have much better vision than humans. They would look at the new Macbook and would see an ocean of individual pixels. But not humans.

Physically speaking, any resolution higher than the human eye can distinguish is a complete waste.

And yes, the more pixels the better and sharper the image. Think at laser printer and needle printer. Big difference.

But you will definitely not see a difference between a laser printer with 1200dpi and 2400dpi when looking at the printout.

So in conclusion anything beyond 145dpi on notebooks is a waste and adds only to marketing hype.
Working at 145dpi and Windows 7 or Ubuntu with standard text 100% resolution is next to impossible for a full 10h working day. You would have to enlarge fonts, icons and everything. I do this all the time and Windows does it almost perfectly.

And your argument, that with ultra-high resolution you can edit 3 videos at the same time is not valid, because then you would have to run tiny fonts and menues, which is not feasible for a 10h/7d working professional. That's why you have the 30" Apple display.

By integr8d on 6/11/2012 9:03:10 PM , Rating: 4
Agreed. Res is overhyped. Give me 100% AdobeRGB, 10-bit (wishful thinking) and decent viewing angles and then we'll talk.

By CyCl0n3 on 6/13/2012 4:58:20 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. Totaly unnecessary to have anything above 140dpi.
The eye cant see difference, it needs more graphic power and rescources, thus it needs more energy, means worse battery life. Also Full HD Movies loose quality and gaming will be close to impossible on modern games on that resolution. What a waste on a mobile (Notebook) device.
So basically the usage gets hugely limited.

By inperfectdarkness on 6/13/2012 7:09:25 AM , Rating: 2
again. 1080p. 15.6" screen. i can see the aliasing on my desktop icons. guess what? that's > 140 ppi.

your logic is fatally flawed.

By inperfectdarkness on 6/13/2012 6:50:06 AM , Rating: 2

you want to move backwards in technology. thanks for playing.

By inperfectdarkness on 6/13/2012 7:18:32 AM , Rating: 2
Has it ever occured to you that how the human eye perceives an image may be different from how a display renders it? That is to say (assuming 40cm viewing distance) that the human eye may not be able to detect higher ppi, but a display at 140ppi may still render anomalies visible to the human eye (aliasing, etc).

Perhaps this is a function of rendering abnormalities...but it still doesn't change the fact that if these anomalies can be perceived by human eyes--ANY human eyes--that it is sufficient cause to increase the resolution.

There MUST be a reason why printed pictures have different effective "dpi" than a computer monitor--while displaying the same image at equal quality. It is a function of the media. 140ppi for a human eye != 140ppi from a TN panel display.

As far as I'm concerned, until games can be played in resolutions where AA is a feature no longer requiring support--then I'll take any resolution boost I can get.

By testerguy on 6/14/2012 7:46:26 AM , Rating: 2
Guys, lets try and stop the complete disinformation on this site, OK?

Let me take you through some maths/science:

The accepted capability of an eye with 20/20 vision, is denoted as an ANGLE. That angle is the smallest viewing angle between two objects (in our case, pixels) at which the human eye can discern the two separate pixels. If the angle is too small, the pixels blur into one when processed by our brains.

That angle has a commonly accepted scientific value. That value is one arcminute, or 1/60th of a degree.

Due to the laws of trigonometry, as an object becomes closer, the top and the bottom of that object, as perceived by our eyes, become separated by a greater angle. Thus, our ability to perceive individual objects (or pixels) is inversely proportional to the distance. Or, in plain English, if things are closer we can see the detail more easily.

It is possible, therefore, using the above two facts, to calculate the necessary PPI a device would need for the pixels to not be discernible, taking a single parameter of the distance the device is held away. Since PPI is measured in Inches, the distance must be too.

Lets take an example of the iPhone 4S - which Apple claim is held 12 inches away (or 'around 1 foot').

Apply an angle of 1/60 degrees over a distance of 12 inches, gives you 1/(Tan(1/60)*12) which is 286 PPI.

If we assume a distance of 11 inches, this gives you 1/(Tan(1/60)*11) which is 312.5 PPI.

Thus, if you agree that the iPhone 4S is held 11 inches away or more, it qualifies as a 'retina' display - where 'retina' display means a device that someone with 20/20 eyesight can't distinguish pixels on from normal viewing distance.

Now, lets apply this to two other examples. Firstly - the new iPad. The new iPad has a PPI of 264. Lets reverse engineer the distance at which this qualifies as a 'retina' display:

Distance = (1/264)/Tan(1/60) which gives us 13.0 (to 1 dp). Therefore, if you believe that the iPad is held (on average) at 13 inches or more away from your eyes, the iPad 2 also qualifies as a retina display.

Now, finally, lets address the claim in the post to which I'm replying that 40cm distance requires 140dpi. 40cm is 15.75 inches.

Applying 15.75 inches into the above formula gives us: 218.27 PPI. Not the 140 DPI which is claimed .

By inperfectdarkness on 6/15/2012 5:03:30 AM , Rating: 2

It's been "clear" to me from the get-go that 200ppi+ is where the 15" laptop segment needs to have its screens. I applaud you for mathematically proving it.

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