Apple Unveils MacBook Air, Annouces App Store for Mac

Steve Jobs has unveiled an app store for its Mac range of computers, as well as a new MacBook Air and a first glimpse at new OS X Lion.

Steve Jobs unveiled the Mac App Store, as well as two new MacBook Airs, iLife, and a glimpse of Mac OS X 10.7, known as Lion. Photo: Apple

Apple Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs unveiled a lighter MacBook Air laptop and a new version of the Mac operating system called Lion, adding features that make the company’s computers more like its mobile devices.

Mac range of desktop and laptop computers will soon have an online application store, similar to the one for the iPhone and iPad, Steve Jobs said today at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.

New computers also will take better advantage of multitouch gestures on track pads, mimicking Apple’s mobile iOS software. The app store will open within 90 days, and Lion will be released in the summer of 2011. Jobs said: “We’ve been inspired by some of the work we’ve done on iOS, and want to bring them back to the Mac.”

Apple is using the popularity of its iPhone and iPad tablet to bolster demand for its oldest product, the Macs. Sales of the computers rose 22,7% to $4.87 billion last quarter, making up 24 percent of revenue. More than half of Mac purchases in the company’s retail stores in the most recent period were from first-time buyers.

Apple said: "We learned a lot from iPad. The new MacBook Air is proof. It’s designed around all-flash storage for better responsiveness and reliability. It features a trackpad with full Multi-Touch support. And though it’s incredibly thin and light, its large battery gives you portable power that lasts for hours.". Photo: Apple

The new MacBook Air, which is 0.68 of an inch (less than 2 centimeters) at its thickest point, combines features of the iPad with a notebook, Jobs said. The computer’s battery lets users surf the Web wirelessly for seven hours.

In standby mode, the battery can last 30 days. Like the iPad, there’s no hard- disk drive or CD-ROM, just flash memory. It weighs 2.3 to 2.9 pounds, depending on the model.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up?’ Well, this is the result,” Steve Jobs said. “We think it’s the future of notebooks.”

The new Air is on sale now in two versions: a 13.3-inch model costs $1,299 to $1,599, depending on the amount of memory (128Gb or 256Gb), while the 11.6-inch product starts at $999 (64GB).

The new products could present problems for PC rivals such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc., since the Apple’s Air could appeal to laptop owners seeking iPad-like simplicity, said Van Baker, an analyst at Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner Inc.

"A truly mobile device needs to be light, thin, and strong enough to take with you wherever you go. It also needs to perform quickly, spring to life instantly, and have enough battery power to keep up with you. It should have no spinning hard drive, no optical drive, and no unnecessary parts. All of that is true of iPad. And now, it’s true of Apple’s most mobile notebook ever," says Apple. Photo: Apple

The new Macintosh app store also could shake up how software is sold. Just as the iPhone version led to an explosion of new product development, the Mac store will make it easier to reach the almost 50 million Mac owners, Jobs said.

“If you want to get Microsoft Word, now you don’t have drive anywhere to pick up a box,” Jobs said. “You can buy on impulse.”

Apple sold a record 3.89 million Macs in the fiscal fourth quarter, which ended in September, a 27 percent increase from last year. The Mac is Apple’s second- best-selling product, behind the iPhone.

The Mac has gained market share for 18 straight quarters, Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said at the event. “It’s incredible momentum,” he said.

The company says in a statement: "MacBook Air continues its legacy of firsts with something entirely new for any Mac: flash storage. Standard. In fact, the new MacBook Air is designed completely around flash storage. But in a totally different way." Photo: Apple

The company also introduced a new version of its media software, iLife 11. The update adds features for handling video, photos and music, and is more tightly integrated with Facebook. The collection of programs includes iPhoto, which now makes it easier to e-mail photos and turn pictures into books and cards.

Jobs also showed off a new version of Mac operating software, which the company will release next summer. Nicknamed “Lion,” it includes an improved “iLife” multimedia suite and incorporates FaceTime video chat, which the company recently launched on the iPhone.

FaceTime will allow for video calls between iPhones, iPod touches and Macs. Over 19 million Apple devices are already equipped with FaceTime, Jobs said. It released a test version of FaceTime for the Mac on Wednesday.

The original App Store debuted in 2008 and helped spur sales of the iPhone by providing a wealth of fun, useful or merely diverting programs for sale, at the touch of a button.

Apple says: "No one knows Multi-Touch technology better than Apple. Introduced with the very first iPhone and taken even further with iPad, Multi-Touch is now part of practically every Apple device. It’s simply the best and most personal way to interact with your software." Photo: Apple

It houses more than 250,000 apps and has generated over 7 billion downloads. In addition, more than 30,000 apps have been specifically made for the iPad.

Apple typically upgrades its computer line in October. At last year’s Mac event, the company introduced larger-screen versions of its iMac and updated its MacBook notebook. Apple’s last version of its operating system, called Snow Leopard, was unveiled in June 2009 and shipped two months later.

The influence of smartphones and tablet computers on traditional PCs will be lasting, Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research Inc.

“The next wave of PC design will be inspired by mobile devices,” she said in an e-mail. “New Macs give the devices the nearly instant-on, long battery life that consumers have come to expect in mobile devices.” [Apple via PCMag, Reuters and Engadget]

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