As you may have heard, MacWorld Expo 2008 just concluded, and, as always, Steve Jobs made several major announcements. Here’s the rundown.
The announcement which received the most attention is the MacBook Air, joining the MacBook and MacBook Pro in Apple’s portable line. It’s really, really, really thin — 3/4 of an inch at its thickest point. At 3 lbs, it’s easily Apple’s lightest laptop ever. Its two standard configurations are $1,800 and $3,100 — the latter has faster performance, and more importantly, no moving parts. That means you don’t need to worry about the nightmare of hard drive failure.
Price aside, you really pay for sleek with the MacBook Air. Its size comes at the expense of features — its hard drive is small, you cannot attach a FireWire device, and you can’t expand its memory or buy a spare battery. And you can use Ethernet (wired internet) or CD’s only with optional accessories. But if you’ve always dreamed of a lightweight Mac, and your needs are straightforward — that is, web, email, word processing, small iTunes and iPhoto libraries — you should definitely go take a look. But if you’re anything like me, and need a big disk and multiple ways to attach things to your Mac, you might want to admire from a distance and keep schlepping what you’ve got.
Another announcement received much less fanfare, but I think Apple should be shouting from the mountaintops about it. Apple is releasing a new version of their AirPort wireless router called Time Capsule. It has a hard drive in it, and it seamlessly, silently, wirelessly backs up every computer in your home or (small) office, provided those computers are running Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard”. I think the Time Machine backup feature of Leopard — which is similar, but for an attached USB or FireWire drive — is the most important thing to happen to personal computers in 15 years. This is even better. At $300 for 500 GB or $500 for 1,000 GB (1 TB), peace of mind has never come so cheap. I haven’t tried it yet but I can’t wait to get my hands on one — it ships in Februrary.
iPhone and iPod Touch updates
Both the iPhone and iPod Touch (or, as everyone seems to call it, iTouch) have acquired some new capabilities. For the iPhone, Google Maps now figures out wherever you are at any moment. It’s like having GPS without buying a special GPS device. The iPhone can also now send a text message to multiple people, and has various other new capabilities. These new features can be installed, for free, the next time you use iTunes. The iPod Touch also has learned some new tricks, including email, weather, notes, and stocks — but you have to pay $20 (also in iTunes) to get them.
iTunes movie rentals and new AppleTV
You can now rent movies on iTunes for between $3 and $5, including in High Def. This makes the new AppleTV a much more relevant product than before — it’s a small box you plug into your TV, which gives you full access to the iTunes store, as well as a way of getting all those pictures on your Mac on to your TV without fussing with wires. It’s $229, or $329 for the deluxe model with a bigger hard drive. I’m eager to play with this.
Microsoft Office 2008
Microsoft has finally updated their Office suite (that is, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage). If you have an Intel Mac, it will run much faster than Office 2004 does. The cost for the “Home and Student Edition” is $150 for 3 licenses. (However, if you want to use Entourage with an Exchange server, you will now need the $400, single-license “Standard Edition.” You will also be disappointed to find that notes, tasks, and other frequently requested Exchange features are still not supported.) Upgrade prices are also available.