Tag Archives | MacBook

MacBooks Now in 15-Inch Flavors, Now Pros

The first announcement from WWDC is in, and its a 15-inch MacBook. Like the MacBook Air, the device sports a sealed battery, however it will provide up to 7 hours of charge, about 2 hours more than previous models. Apple is claiming the battery should be good for about 1,000 recharge cycles, equaling about 5 years of life for average use.

Interestingly enough, Apple has done away with the ExpressCard slot, instead opting to include an SD slot. This puppy will also be blazing fast, with a 3.06GHz option and capability for 8GB of RAM, the most ever for a Mac portable. Hard drive capacities of 500GB in standard drives and 256GB in SSD would be offered.

The 15-inch models would start at $1,699.

13-inch models are also being updated with an improved screen, sealed battery, and SD card slots. It’s also been upgraded to a MacBook Pro… hmm one begins to wonder…


Congratulations Michelle, It’s A Mac.

macmondayI got a phone call from my good friend Michelle the other day. She was genuinely excited. Normally these “I’m excited” calls have something to do with what she heard or saw that would remind us of our long-since-passed youth, but this call was different.

“What are you so excited about?” I asked.

She went into a long spiel about how she didn’t have the money right this second, but that she was getting the funds together for a big purchase. “I was in the Apple Store yesterday, and I started playing around with the laptops. They’re so cool! I’m getting a Mac!”

I laughed, but at the same time was genuinely pleased that Cupertino had won yet another convert. “Why’s this?”

Her reasons were much like the argument that us Mac enthusiasts put forth when comparing the platform to the PC. Its ease of use, the feature set, the asthetics. She also figured out on her own that her brand new iPod Touch 32GB would work a whole lot easier when paired with a shiny new MacBook.

(Maybe it was also the 4th Gen iPod that I gave her that opened her eyes to Apple, but I do digress.)

Michelle’s story is special for one reason. She does not fit the Mac user stereotype at all. She lives in a rural area, and is certainly as middle class as most of us. Her computer knowledge (and this is no knock against her) is certainly not technical — she’s no geek. Yet the Mac has appealed to her.

This got me to wonder — has the Mac community overreacted to the Laptop Hunters ads? Have we let Microsoft get under our skin with a PR campaign that in the end is really preaching to the choir?

I think so. Michelle’s a bargain hunter (I’ve been with her on shopping trips). Yes she could have just as easily gone for the cheap plastic Windows-based laptop, but she has decided not to.

Microsoft has overplayed its hand on price. If stories like Michelle’s are more common, could it just be even in a recessionary environment that consumers aren’t going to go cheap?

I’d argue yes. Through none of the Laptop Hunters ads did we hear anything about the value as it had to do with the system itself: instead we’re beaten over the head with the stigma that price is everything when it comes to computer shopping.

A simplistic view of the average computer consumer? Yes. Computers have become such a commodity these days where the public is actually more informed. Years ago, price played a big part in decisions. Consumers did not care what they got as long as it was a good deal.

In a more technical society, we now know what to look for. Many of these cheap PCs Microsoft has decided to hawk are exactly that — low-cost because the manufacturer decided to skimp in an effort to lower the price.

Plus, consumers know what they need. Apple has always decided to put its features first: this is their philosophy in their ads too. Take notice that price is never mentioned. Instead, the ad always seems to revolve around a feature set, which in the end drives home a argument of functionality as value vis a vis price as value.

No doubt Michelle has seen these ads. I haven’t asked her specifically, but I wonder if Apple’s campaigns are more successful because they sell the functionality first? Apparently even the average PC user is getting the message.

Maybe us Mac users need to step back, let Microsoft make a fool of itself in its ads and never mention the platform itself, and watch as PC users still decide that the package overall is more important than the price. Apple tax be damned.

Congratulations Michelle, it’s a Mac.


Two Possible Apple Responses to the Netbook

Mac NetBookIn normal times, it’s standard operating procedure for Apple watchers to listen to Steve Jobs dismiss a product category, then come to the conclusion that his negativity simply means that Apple isn’t ready to enter it yet. At the moment, it’s acting CEO Tim Cook whose comments get parsed. As Jason Snell notes over at Macworld, Cook was pretty darn harsh about the downsides of netbooks during yesterday’s Apple financial conference call:

For us, it’s about doing great products. And when I look at what is being sold in the netbook space today, I see cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens, and just not a consumer experience… that we would put the Mac brand on, quite frankly. And so it’s not a space, as it exists today, that we’re interested in, nor do we believe that customers in the long term would be interested in.

But Cook didn’t say that Apple wouldn’t make a netbook, or something sort of like a netbook. Actually, he said that it might well do so:

That said, we do look at the space and are interested to see how customers respond to it. People that want a small computer (so to speak) that does browsing and e-mail might want to buy an iPod touch or an iPhone. So we have other products to accomplish some of what people buy netbooks for. So in that way we play in an indirect basis.

And if we can find a way to deliver an innovative product that really makes a contribution, then we’ll do that. We have some interesting ideas in this space. The product pipeline is fantastic for the Mac. If you look at the past, in 17 of the last 18 quarters we’ve exceeded the market rate of growth, and to exceed it in this horrendous economy is quite an accomplishment, especially if you look at these very low-cost netbooks that I think is a stretch to call it a personal computer, that are really propping up unit numbers as a whole.

Deconstructing all this, Cook seems to be saying that Apple won’t make a product with:

1) a cramped keyboard

2) terrible software

3) junky hardware

4) a very small screen

That would seem to rule out anything that’s an exact counterpart to today’s netbooks. But it does leave room for two other products that Apple could make:

1) The widely-rumored tablet--which, I’m thinking, would more logically run the iPhone OS than the Mac OS. No keyboard, and an interface tailored to work well on a small screen. (I like my Asus Eee PC 1000HE, but there’s no question that Windows XP is a poor match for its screen resolution–I’m reminded of that every time I press the Start button and get a warning that it can’t display all the times.)

2) A computer which I still think there’s a good chance Apple will introduce–a replacement for today’s $999 white MacBook that’s a pretty traditional Mac notebook that costs more than a netbook ($800, maybe?) but is also posher than one, with a 13-inch screen and a full-sized keyboard.

Of course, there’s no reason why Apple couldn’t release both of these products, since they’d be complementary more than competitive.

I have no inside info; I try to steer clear of assuming that Apple will make products because they seem logical to me; I know that the fact that the company’s public statements suggest that it might go in a particular direction doesn’t mean it will. But if Apple were to make either or both of these products, I think it would at least be consistent with both Cook’s comments yesterday and the company’s overall philosophies.


New MacBooks Have Issues, Sleep Deprivation

Apple MacBookPosts to both Apple’s support forums (as well as several news outlets) indicate that the newest MacBooks are suffering from a few personality disorders that are sure to drive their users insane until Cupertino can come out with a fix.

The most annoying problem (and expensive, too) is the laptop’s apparent dislike for third-party memory. After installation, users are reporting on Apple’s support forums that the laptops become quite unstable.

The laptops will freeze and/or crash frequently, and the only fix is to remove the memory chip. If users wish to add memory, the only stable option apparently is to buy the new memory chips from Apple itself.

That option is costly — RAM is sold at quite the premium through the company’s online store.

Another issue is problems with putting the computer to sleep, or awaking from sleep. Gizmodo reports that this problem is manifesting itself in three different ways:

  • After the MacBook is put to sleep, it awakens on its own 30-60 seconds later, then goe back to sleep, and repeats. This happens until the battery dies;
  • The MacBook appears to be asleep, but its not. Users find their battery dead even though it had a full charge;
  • Problems awakening from sleep mode.

All in all, these are annoying problems. Luckily, I have a 1st gen MacBook Pro. But this thing has been a nightmare too: after not having a single problem with my PowerBook G4 (which was through 2 owners before me and hell and high water), I’ve had this unit in twice for problems, once where the motherboard and HDD had to be replaced.

Guess Apple’s just not making ’em like they used to.


First Take: MacBook

Let me let you down softly before we even start: no, there is no $899 MacBook. A shame, because I think this is what Apple needs in order to really start chipping marketshare away from Microsoft. The biggest change here is the new manufacturing process.

There are some other noteable changes however. Apple has stepped up its game and made its entry-level notebook more attractive. Gone is the plastic enclosure – it now shares the same design as the MacBook Pro. It will also get a graphical boost with the NVidia GeForce 9400M, and LED-backlit display.

The glass trackpad from the MBP is also making it to the MacBook line, which is another nice touch.

I think this is super smart. The previous MacBooks when compared side by side with the Pro line looked (for lack of a better word) cheap. The new model is much more classier looking, and includes a better feature set than its predecessor.

Again, a Mini DisplayPort and larger hard drive capacity also round out the feature set here. Altogether a nice system for the price.

Oh, by the way, the old style MacBook would still be available as an entry-level model, and that would retail for $999, that would include a 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 1GB RAM, 120GB HDD and 8x SuperDrive

Feature set and price listing below the fold.

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Why Apple Shouldn’t (and Probably Won’t) Release a Touch-Screen Mac

Over at CNet’s The Digital Home blog, Don Reisinger has posted a plea for Apple to release a touch-screen Mac computer. The meme isn’t new–in part because Apple patent filings have suggested for years that the company has at least thought about making such a beast.

I disagree with Don, though, that Apple should release a…well, let’s call it a Mac Touch…”as soon as possible.” And while it’s completely true that predicting what Apple will or won’t do is dangerous, I kind of doubt that a Mac Touch is imminent. Here’s why.

–The Tablet PC has been a miserable failure. It’s been almost six years since Microsoft rolled out Windows-based tablets. I remember asking a Microsoft exec at the time how he thought the platform would do; he told me that he thought that most laptops would be tablets within a few years. Instead, it seems more likely that Tablet PC might just disappear, except for vertical business applications.

(Side note: The Tablet PC rollout featured Rob Lowe–yet another oddball Microsoft celebrity endorsement.)

I was skeptical about Tablet PC at the time, and was therefore not the least bit surprised that it failed to catch fire. You can’t build a good general-purpose Windows laptop that doesn’t have a physical keyboard, and if you do provide a physical keyboard, touch becomes a lot less compelling. And to this day, Microsoft’s answers to basic questions about touch-based interfaces remain unsatisfying.

It’s likely that a Mac Touch would be substantially different from a Tablet PC–for one thing, it would likely involve multi-touch and fingertip control rather than a stylus–and Apple would likely offer a much more refined approach than Microsoft. But I think that the failure of Tablet PCs shows that consumer interest in touch interfaces on standard computers is lukewarm, to put it mildly. And while Apple often enters nascent markets before anyone’s had a big hit, it’s rare to see it do anything where other companies have experienced nothing but failure.

–Keyboards and touch don’t mesh that well. Don says that a Mac Touch should have a physical keyboard. But if it’s essentially a normal MacBook with a multi-touch screen, there are all kinds of usability issues. Do you really want to reach over the keyboard to touch the screen? Can you design a MacBook with a hinge that stands up to lots of finger-pointing? Would people be able to deal with finger-smudging? And if the design is more like a Tablet PC convertible, with a screen that rotates around to conceal the keyboard, would Apple be able to provide enough functionality with a touch-only interface to make the experience worthwhile? (Folks are willing to deal with the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard because it has clear upsides in terms of device and screen size; I’m not sure that the same would be true of a Mac Touch.) If the Mac Touch was a desktop–Don doesn’t explicitly say he thinks it should be a portable–would it have more potential than HP’s interesting but nichey TouchSmart PC?

–What could you do with a touch-screen Mac, anyhow? Don doesn’t really address this. Presumably, it might offer some features similar to the iPhone’s touch-driven photo viewer, media player, and so forth. It might even use a touch-screen as a replacement for a standard touchpad (or an alternative–a Mac Touch might sport both). But it’s not clear that a touch-driven interface on an otherwise typical Mac would provide any compelling benefits.

–Apple is so dang busy with other stuff. Even Steve Jobs said that the glitchy rollout of Mobile Me was evidence that the company had bitten off more than it could chew in one big gulp. Doing touch well would be a major undertaking, and I wonder whether Apple would see it as having enough potential payoff to be worth the work involved.

I’m completely willing to be proven wrong here. Maybe Apple has figured out how to make touch make sense. (If it has, I woudn’t be surprised if its device looks less like a touch-screen Mac and more like a hybrid device that’s sort of like a Mac and sort of like an iPhone, and sized in between.) Maybe it hasn’t figured out touch, but is going to try anyhow, just because the idea sounds theoretically cool.

Actually, I’m not just willing to be proven wrong–I’d love to see a Mac Touch that makes sense. One thing’s for sure: Steve Jobs has more vision when it comes to this stuff than I do…


Are Macs More Expensive? Round Two: Survival of the Cheapest

On Thursday, I began my multiple-part look at the cost of Macintoshes by comparing a mid-range MacBook to some Windows laptops which I’d configured to be as similar to the MacBook as possible. Compared to those machine, I concluded that the MacBook was in the zone in terms of price and power, or, in other words, “not expensive.”

I also managed to stir up lots of controversy, in the form of dozens of comments and discussion elsewhere on the Web. So as promised, I’m back with another round of price comparisons, and based in part on comments to my original post by a reader named Michael, I’ve decided to stick with the MacBook and compare it to Windows laptops that happen to be on sale at Best Buy at the moment.

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Are Macs More Expensive? Let’s Do the Math Once and For All

[UPDATE: This is one of the most popular stories we’ve ever published, but with the arrival of the new MacBook on October 14th, it’s also obsolete. Read it if you like–but this new article compares the new MacBook to comparable Windows computers.]

It’s of those eternal questions of the computing world that never seems to get answered definitively: Does the “Mac Tax” really exist? Some folks are positive that Macs are overpriced compared to Windows computers; others deny it steadfastly. Almost nobody, however, bothers to do the math in any serious detail.

So that’s what I’m going to do. And since Apple manufactures multiple models, I’m going to do it one computer at a time, starting with the MacBook, the company’s consumer notebook.

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