Apple introduces expensive new MacBook and MacBook Pros with a new case design including glass trackpad and dual GPUs.
It's been a busy couple of months for Apple. First the release of all new iPods in September, and now today, much bigger news for Apple fans with the release of completely redesigned MacBook and MacBook Pros.
First a quick history lesson.
The MacBook Pro that was available up until yesterday was essentially the same design as the late model 15" PowerBook G4 that began shipping in 2004. Sure, Apple made some tweaks, jammed in an Intel chip and slowly improved the internal architecture, but truth be told, customers had been dreaming of a redesigned MacBook Pro since Apple made the move to Intel processors in 2006.
The lessons are not quite the same for the MacBook which did get a complete makeover with the shift to Intel. Still, 2 years of white and black plastic is more than enough.
As per Apple style, it seems that rather than just releasing 'new products' with a different set of features, the biggest news, and potentially the one that will provide Apple with the biggest long term competitive advantage is the new construction process that they've engineered to build the new family of laptops.
Remember the 'Brick' rumor
that was circling around for the last couple of weeks? First, it had to do with updates to Apple TV, but once that failed to eventuate pundits speculated that the 'Brick' actually referred to a new manufacturing technique Apple had come up with to craft the main casing of the new MacBook
and MacBook Pro
from a single block of aluminum. It turns out, that rumor was spot on.
According to Jony Ives, Apple's Senior VP of design, 'we discovered if we started with a thick piece of aluminum we could make a lighter and stronger part. Through each stage (of the manufacturing process), we're cleaning, collecting, and recycling the material. We started with a 2.5lbs piece of metal and end up with a piece that weighs a quarter of a pound.'
But it's not just the construction of the new MacBooks that will leave customers salivating.
Apple are first in the industry to use the new Nvidia GeForce 9400 in a laptop. According to Steve Jobs, the standard 9400M is 'an amazing chip with the Chipset and GPU on one die - 70% is the GPU, 16 parallel graphic cores, 54gflops of graphics performance' and delivers up to 5-6x faster graphics than the 8600M.
Apple also created a new style of trackpad for the next generation MacBook that's made from glass. It supports multi-touch (including some new four-finger movements), has a 39 percent larger area for tracking, and completely does away with any dedicated buttons - the whole device (a la BlackBerry Storm) is a button that can be clicked anywhere. For power users a 'right-click' is also available as an option in the System Preference.
Other new features include LED backlit displays (sorry matte screen fans -- all displays are now glossy), a new mini Display Port connector (which can drive screens all the way up to the 30" Cinema Display) and both the MacBook and MacBook Pro have been built with the environment in mind (all materials are highly recyclable, smaller packaging, Arsenic-free, BFR and Mercury-free).
All the ports on both the new MacBook and MacBook Pro are now on the left hand side. The new MacBook Pro comes with a Firewire 800 port instead of offering both a 400 and 800 option. There are 2 x USB, 1 x Mini Display Port and Ethernet and dual GPUs (the 9400M plus the 9600M GT). The MacBook loses the Firewire port altogether and comes with a 13" LED display and single GPU - it's otherwise identical to the MacBook Pro. RAM across the board has been upgraded to DDR3 too.
Fans of the 17" MacBook Pro will be disappointed to learn that the new MacBook Pro only comes in one size, 15". Apple did revise the specs on the older style 17" machine but didn't say whether it would receive the same treatment as the 15". Historically, Apple have introduced new designs on the 15" model first, but I wouldn't be surprised if the 17" gets canned in the future.
Like we suggested
, Apple also disappointed the Bluray fans by not including the feature as an option. In a Q&A session after the event Jobs said 'Blu-ray is just a bag of hurt. It's great to watch the movies, but the licensing of the tech is so complex, we're waiting till things settle down and Bluray takes off in the marketplace.'
Unfortunately, with our sliding dollar, pricing on the new laptops has risen.
The entry level MacBook (still the older white version is now $1649 (up from $1499) while the mid-level MacBook (dressed in Aluminum) with a slower 2.0GHz processor (but with faster graphics) now starts at $2099. The high-end MacBook with a 250GB hard drive and a 2.4GHz processor will set you back $2549 - about $100 less than the old 15" MacBook Pro.
To get into a MacBook Pro you'll need to pony up $3199 (up from $2699) for the 2.4GHz version with 250GB hard drive and dual graphics including a Nvidia GeForce 9400M + 9600M GT with 256MB, or $3999 for the 2.53GHz model with 320GB hard drive, 4GB RAM and dual graphics includes a Nvidia 9600M GT with 512MB.
Apple has included some new build to order options on all new laptops including a 128MB SSD drive for an extra $800 (MacBook Pro) to $960 (MacBook) and a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo option for the MacBook Pro.
Both new models are shipping this week.
The MacBook Air has also been upgrade and now includes the newer Nvidia GeForec 9400M GPU and comes standard with a larger 120GB hard drive and a 128GB SSD option but pricing has increased from $2499 to $2899 for the standard model.
Apple also introduced their first new Cinema Display since 2004 - called the LED Cinema Display. It's a 24" display encased in a black frame and comes with a Mini Display Port connector, 2 x USB ports and a Magsafe connector to power your laptop. It's also got built in iSight camera, mic and speakers. I want one.
The new models are likely to put yet more cash in Apple's coffers. According to Tim Cook, Apple COO, Apple's market share is growing at 2-3 times the rest of the PC industry and has outgrown the market 14 of the last 15 quarters. Cook also said that Apple had 17.6 percent of retail market share in the US and noted that 1 out of every 3 computing dollars in retail is spent on a Mac.