Apple looks to iPhone, iPad for Mac inspiration

CUPERTINO (California): Apple Inc’s iPhone and iPads have been such hits that the company is now looking for ways to bring some of their cachet to its laptops and desktops.

Its CEO, Steve Jobs, drew laughs when he introduced two new versions of the MacBook Air ultralight laptops by saying, “We asked ourselves: What would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up?”

Apple also offered glimpses of an updated Mac operating system, called Mac OS X Lion. The company highlighted features that borrow from the lighter-weight iOS that runs on its mobile gadgets.

Lion — Apple uses names of big cats to differentiate between versions — is expected to arrive next summer. Lion will include a built-in store selling Mac software, similar to the iTunes store that sells apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Those devices have been successful in part because of the tens of thousands of games and other programs available as free or paid downloads in the app store.

Apple may be looking to a Mac app store to boost interest in its computers, which make up a tiny but growing percentage of the PC market. In the second quarter, Macs accounted for about 4% of PC shipments worldwide, according to the research group IDC.

Apple plans to vet Mac programs before they’ll be sold in the store. Software developers will be able to submit apps for review starting in November, and the Mac store will be open for business in the next 90 days.

Lion also mimics the iPhone and iPad user interface in a few ways. Mac users will be able to move from the main desktop to a “dashboard,” or screen with a clock, weather report, calculator and other widgets, by swiping a multitouch mouse or trackpad.

People will also be able to drag one program icon on top of another to create a new folder, which smartly names itself based on the type of applications that are inside.

Before the event, rumours swirled that Apple would add a touchscreen to its Mac laptops. But the company stuck to its stated belief that it doesn’t make ergonomic sense to make people reach out and touch a vertical surface.

Apple’s new MacBook Air laptops have something else in common with iPhones and iPads, however: They store all their information in Flash memory. Apple did away with a CD and DVD drive in its first MacBook Air, and it ditches the hard disk drive in this edition, too. That will speed up the time it takes to boot up the laptops or wake them from a sleep state.

The laptops are 0.68in thick at the back and taper down to 0.11in at the front edge. They come in two sizes, one with a screen that’s 13.3in diagonally and another with an 11.6in screen.

The larger one clocks in at 2.9lbs and can be used for seven hours, thanks in part to a low-voltage processor from Intel Corp that consumes less power than ones running in standard laptops. The smaller one weighs 2.3lbs and is rated to last five hours. Both can sit on standby for 30 days.

Prices range from US$999 (RM3,200) for a smaller one with 64GB of Flash memory storage to US$1,599 (RM5,100) for the larger model with 256GB of Flash memory.

Apple is also bringing FaceTime video-chatting to Macs. The feature made its debut this summer on the iPhone 4 and has since been added to the iPad. A test version is available now on Apple’s website.

The company is also releasing a new version of iLife, its set of programs for managing photos, editing videos and music and doing other tasks.

It added more ties between its iPhoto program and the popular social networking site Facebook. When people look at pictures they’ve published on Facebook, for example, iPhoto displays comments friends made on that site.

Other new features include a full-screen view for managing photos, slick new slideshow templates and the ability to e-mail customised photo-postcards straight from iPhoto.

In iMovie, Apple improved audio editing and the ability to easily piece together movie trailers.

iLife ‘11 will come installed on new Macs and can be purchased as an upgrade for US$49 (RM157) starting immediately. The previous 2009 version cost US$30 (RM100) more. — AP

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