Jobs walks on Air with thinner-than-thin notebook

16 Jan 2008

LONDON: As Randy Newman sang and played piano in the background, Apple fans were left stunned following the introduction of the new MacBook Air. Thin notebooks were predicted, but not this thin.

Leaving the best until last, as per usual, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced ‘the world’s thinnest notebook’ after revealing updates for the iPhone, iTunes and a companion product for the Time Machine backup feature on the Mac OSX Tiger.

The Macbook Air is 0.76 inches thin at its thickest and a mere 0.16 inches at its very thinnest. As Jobs himself said, “The thickest part of the MacBook Air is still thinner than the thinnest part of the Sony TZ (currently slimmest notebook on the market).”

Unlike the TZ series and other ultra-thin notebooks, the Air, which will go on sale in two weeks’ time, will have a full-sized backlight keyboard and a 13.3-inch widescreen.

It will have the built-in iSight camera like its sister notebooks, the MacBook and MacBook Pro, but will be instant-on and the touchpad will have revolutionary multi-touch gestures.

Using a combination of one-, two- and three-finger gestures, with fingers moved together over the pad or around in different directions, users will be able to scroll through, zoom and rotate photos.

Bringing Intel CEO Paul Otellini on stage, Jobs let him explain how the world’s thinnest notebook was able to fit in a large screen and keyboard along with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 80GB hard drive.

Otellini explained that the Intel chip was developed specially for the MacBook Air to have the same power but at 60pc smaller chip size. “This is awesome technology,” enthused Jobs as Otellini gave him a chip as a souvenir.

Then Jobs dropped the bombshell – the Air will not have an optical disk drive. No DVD drive, no Blu-ray drive. This, said Jobs, is where the previous three announcements came in.

Mac users can watch movies through the new iTunes update instead of from DVDs. The big news from iTunes is that for the first time ever movie rentals will be available.

“We never offered a rental model in music because you listen to your favourite song a thousand times in your life, but it’s a great way to look at movies,” said Jobs.

With Mirimax, Touchstone, MGM, Lionsgate and New Line Cinema along for the ride, Jobs also added in an offhand way: “Oh and by the way these six too – Walt Disney, 20th Century Fox, Warner, Paramount, Universal, Sony Pictures – we have every major studio supporting us.”

As Apple likes to chart its success Jobs also stated that last week iTunes sold its four billionth song, while on Christmas Day it sold 20m songs alone – a new one-day record.

As many had predicted, Apple updated the Apple TV but with some major amendments that may very well help it fly off the shelves – it no longer requires a laptop or desktop to watch and download content on your TV – as many critics had demanded. Apple conceded and now movies, music, TV shows and podcasts can be downloaded straight to the TV via a Wi-Fi broadband connection.

“We tried with Apple TV; we designed it to be an accessory for iTunes and the computer, but it was not what people wanted. What they did want was movies, movies, movies, and so we’re back with Apple TV 2.0,” said Jobs.

With an entirely new, more simplified user interface, the Apple TV 2.0 will be available as a free software upgrade to existing customers and for future customers Apple is bringing the price down to US$299 in two weeks’ time.

In addition, TV viewers will be able to look at the .Mac and Flickr photos streaming live from the web as well as content from YouTube.

While the Apple TV got a complete makeover the iPhone did not escape either. Apple has added new applications for the smartphone including a sat nav feature, although there is no GPS inside the device.

With Google Maps and a US firm Skyhook Wireless, both the iPhone and the iPod Touch will use nearby Wi-Fi hotspots to navigate their positions and tell the user exactly where he or she is. While this feature is coming out right now in the US, it will roll-out shortly in Asia and Europe, promised Jobs.

Despite a lack of 3G and no 3G announcement imminent, the iPhone has been doing well: it has been 200 days since it went on sale and 4m have been sold to date, adding up to 20,000 sold per day on average.

In terms of the overall smartphone market share the BlackBerry is leading with 39pc. Howeve, after such a short time on the market Apple has already cornered 19.5pc, more than the three manufacturers – Palm, Nokia and Motorola – combined.

“We think we’re going to have done even better when figures come out for the next quarter,” added Jobs.

The first announcement at MacWorld, which is never the biggest but always a sensible bet, is the Time Capsule – a companion product to the Time Machine feature in Leopard.

This is a backup appliance with Airport Extreme Basestation for wireless transfer plus a 500GB drive for US$299 and a whopping 1TB for US$499. This ships in February and will bring server grade backup to the Mac.

“All of this in the first two weeks of 2008 and we still have 50 weeks to go,” promised Jobs as he ended Macworld 2008.

The MacBook Air will retail for €1,699 in Ireland, the 55GB Time Capsule for €299 and the 1TB for €499.

By Marie Boran