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Apple Announcements: MacBook Air, iLife '11, FaceTime, and Lion

Guess what? Apple announced some new stuff again, just in time for the holidays. Here's the roundup. First off, Apple is selling approximately 30 billion Macs every thirty seconds. Ok, we're exaggerating, but they're doing really well, opening new stores all over the world, and the sun shines brightly in Cupertino and in the hearts of those of us who support Apple products.

MacBook Air

Yay! Someone at Apple obviously reads our newsletters and decided we were right: it's time to update the MacBook Air. Apple created an entirely new design for their ultraportable laptop. Here's the skinny: it's skinny. Ridiculously so, like the thinnest wedge you can imagine. More importantly, it has faster graphics, and two, count 'em, two USB ports. With no flip door. And the MacBook Air now comes in two sizes: the 13" model which is comparable to the one before, except with higher resolution screen (1440x900) than any previous 13" Mac laptop, including the current MacBook Pro. For this model, Apple claims 7 hours of battery life while web surfing and "standby" time of 30 days, and "instant-on" wake-up from sleep.

But now there's also—finally—a supermini version (don't call it a netbook)! It has an 11.6 high-resolution (1366x768) screen, a 5-hour battery, and weighs only 2.3 lbs, making it rather iPad-like in terms of toteability. The 11" version starts at $999 and the 13" version starts at $1299. We strongly suggest the 4 GB of RAM option for either model, since it's not upgradeable later; storage options also range from 64 GB to 256 GB of solid state storage, which you can choose based on how you use your computer (we'd recommend at least 128 GB). Performance-wise, you still get more bang for your buck with a Pro or even a plain old MacBook, but if you want a superlight, superthin Mac with long battery life and a high-resolution screen, and no moving parts, the new MacBook Air is a much more compelling option than its dated predecessor.

iLife '11

Apple's iSuite (iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, iDVD, iWeb) gets a major update. iPhoto will have better books, slideshows, face recognition, location placement on a map, and FaceBook integration; iMovie lets you easily make trailers of your own movies; GarageBand can fix your timing inaccuracies as you play, has more lessons, and can "groove match" to an existing song. Notably, iWeb and iDVD weren't updated at all; whether they're included in the next release of iLife remains to be seen. iLife '11 is $49, and is included on new Macs as well.

FaceTime

The ooh-ahh feature of iPhone 4—handheld video chat—had the significant limitation of only working with other iPhone 4 owners. Well, now you can install the beta (that is, unfinished) version of FaceTime for Mac and talk to other Mac users (as you already could in iChat) as well as iPhone 4 owners. A major security hole was just discovered in it (though only to someone who has physical access to the computer, not over the internet), so caveat emptor.

Lion

Yes, Mac OS X 10.7 is apparently going to be the biggest cat of all. If Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) represents ten years' refinement of how Mac OS X should look and feel, the Lion sneak preview reveals a peek of what we guessed would come next: that the Mac experience and the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch experience is merging. We'll have full-screen applications; a "launchpad" not unlike the grid of icons you see on an iPhone, and an App Store for Mac applications, which actually will soon be available for Snow Leopard users. We're eager to see how well Apple marries the traditional window-oriented Mac experience to the iOS "app" experience. Coming in summer 2011.

(November 2010)

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