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Apple Extravaganza

June 15, 2009
By Dave Hecei, dhecei@post-journal.com
Apple recently held its annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) at the Moscone West center in San Francisco. This was one of the biggest Apple events so far this year. The 2009 WWDC started off with a keynote from Apple Senior Vice President Philip Schiller standing in for Steve Jobs, still off on a medical leave. The keynote lasted for just over two hours with plenty of Apple announcements covering new notebooks, a new Mac OS and other software, new iPhone OS, iPhone applications and of course, a whole new iPhone. The keynote started with all new notebooks. The entire notebook line was updated with faster processors, larger hard drives, non-removable longer-life batteries, better displays, an SD card slot and the ability to use more RAM. The 17-inch MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air were the only models with a non-removable Lithium-Polymer battery. Now the entire line uses this battery technology. Apple touts that this new battery expands the current 5-hour running time to 7 and has a 1,000 recharge cycle before it degrades. Most notebook batteries have a recharge cycle of about 300. This makes Apple’s new battery more “green” by keeping old batteries out of our landfills by over 3 to 1. The new MacBook Pros have newer LCD displays with a much larger color gamut, 60 percent better. This gives the new notebooks a more vibrant display and hopefully more accurate too. There is also a new SD memory card slot. SD seems to be the standard on most digital cameras and camcorders. SD cards have high capacity and speed while still being small. The 17-inch MacBook Pro has both the ExpressCard slot and an SD slot, while the 15-inch has only the SD slot. Apple claims that owners of the 15-inch Pro who use the ExpressCard slot are a single-digit percentage so they decided to drop it. One of the big surprises in the new notebook announcements was with the aluminum MacBook, which was considered a consumer line. This model has now been incorporated into the Pro line. The white polycarbonate model is still available (it was updated just a few weeks ago) and will still be named MacBook. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro has the new battery, screen, SD slot, and backlit keyboard as the other new Pro models. It also has the 60 percent improved LCD screen, larger hard drive, and up to 8 gigs of RAM. The big addition, even though it’s small in size, is a Firewire 800 port, something many Mac followers complained about the aluminum MacBook when it was released last fall. This makes the 13-inch MacBook Pro a great deal. To top all this, Apple has lowered the prices across the board on the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. The 13-inch starts at $1,199, that’s $100 less than the previous model. The 15-inch Pro starts at $1,699, that’s $300 less, but it does not have a discrete video system, just the integrated nVidia 9400M. To get the dual video system, as before, the price starts at $1,999. However, this gets you a faster processor, much more RAM and hard drive. The 17-inch model is $2,499, a $300 price drop. The MacBook Air got a slight bump in speed and a $300 price drop. It too has the new improved LCD panel. The SSD model, the one with the solid-state device hard drive, is now only $1,799, a whopping $700 less than the previous model. After the new notebook announcement came Bertrand Serlet, senior vice president of Software Engineering. Serlet described the upcoming OS X version 10.6, codenamed Snow Leopard. Apple is very proud of Leopard, especially when compared to Windows Vista. The new OS X will not be as big of a version change as Leopard was to Tiger. Snow Leopard will have only a few new features, while the bulk of the update is to be refinements of existing components. Snow Leopard will be fully 64-bit capable. The OS team has also decided to refine 90 percent of the hundreds of components in Leopard. These are applications such as Mail, Preview, Finder, etc. Most have been rewritten using Apple’s modern software tools making them fully OS X native, or what they call “Cocoa.” There are multiple benefits from all this. The two main benefits are speed improvements and smaller application sizes. They load faster and run faster. Another major update is with Quicktime. This new version will be called Quicktime X, the current version is Quicktime 7, and will have some major new features and look. The big news was the price. For upgrading from Leopard it’s $29 and $49 for the Family Pack upgrade. Unfortunately it looks like Snow Leopard will only be for Intel Macs, no PPC version. A few months back, Apple released a beta of their Safari browser for Macs and PCs. During the show, Apple announced that Safari is now done and version 4 will be part of Snow Leopard when it ships. Apple also announced that it is available now for Tiger, Leopard, and Windows XP or Vista as a free download or through Apple Software Update. Next, the keynote went into iPhone mode. The iPhone App Store is, of course, a huge hit. Apple iPhone OS 3 will be released on June 17. This will be a free update to iPhone users, but will also be available for the iPod touch for $10. Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone software, came on stage to show off the many new features in iPhone OS 3. There were too many to list here, but the best-of-the-best would be landscape keyboard, cut and paste, MMS messaging, Spotlight search, tethering, and turn-by-turn GPS navigation. Apple also showed a very cool feature they call “find my iPhone.” This lets you use your Mobile Me account to show you on a map where your phone is. If you have really lost it, you can send a signal to it to completely erase all your data, keeping your identity secure. To end the show, Apple then showed a new iPhone, the 3G S (the S is for speed). This new iPhone will have a much faster processor, and will be ready for AT&T’s new high speed network they call HSDPA (which is said to have speeds up to 7.2Mbps). The new iPhone will have a new 3 megapixel camera with autofocus and video capabilities (you can even edit and upload videos right from the iPhone). Also available is a digital compass and voice control. The new iPhone will be available later this month in a 16GB and 32GB version in white or black. Pricing will be the same as the previous model, $199 and $299. Apple will keep the original 3G iPhone, which is now priced at only $99 for the 8GB model. This was one of the best keynotes from Apple in a long time, even if Steve Jobs didn’t make a cameo appearance. While many were also expecting a tablet or netbook type device, I think most were amazed at the amount of new hardware and software shown at this Apple Extravaganza.

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