Tag Archives | Apple MacBook

The White MacBook, 2006-2011: An Elegy

Among the umpteen things that makes Apple different from other technology companies is this: it makes news by discontinuing products as well as introducing them. Today’s big announcements involve the arrival of OS X 10.7 Lion and updated MacBook Airs. But it’s also decided to stop producing the $999 white MacBook, a machine that had an uncommonly long life as the cheapest general-purpose Mac portable.

As recently as a week ago, the reliably unreliable Apple rumor mill said that an upgraded white MacBook was on its way. Then it decided that no update was imminent. And the truth turns out to be there won’t be an update because the machine is leaving the market.

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An Airier MacBook Air?

When Steve Jobs brandished the MacBook Air onstage at MacWorld Expo 2008, it looked amazing (at least I was amazed as I snapped the photo above). After almost three years, though, it’s just another nicely-designed Mac–and a pricey one. (Toshiba’s Portege R700 may not feel as luxe, but its starting price is $600 less and it manages to pack a DVD burner into a case that matches the Air’s three-pound weight.)

But if the rumors are right (NOT A GIVEN! NOT A GIVEN!) Apple is readying an Air that replaces the current model’s 13.3″ display with an 11.6″ one, and shaves about ten percent of the weight off. Normally, I’d be skeptical about rumors of the company making a product cooler through significant downsizing of the display–but given the new iPod Nano, the idea of a sort of MacBook Air Nano is plausible.


A Bevy of New Macs: More For Less, But No Major Surprises

As expected, Apple has rounded out its computer line with a bunch of new models which follow the traditional Apple pattern: They have better specs, upscale features, and the same prices as the models they replace–and they’re missing some rumored features, too. (Blu-Ray in this case, which is apparently still a bag of hurt.)

The new entry-level MacBook is mostly much what you might guess it would be: A white-plastic model that brings a bunch of features from Apple’s higher-end models, including an LED backlit screen, a multi-touch touchpad with a built-in button, and a Mini DisplayPort connector. It loses the FireWire connector–oh no, not again!–but, strangely, doesn’t seem to gain an SD slot. It’s also got Apple’s sealed “unibody” design (in a curvier-looking form than the old MacBook case) with a built-in battery which Apple says is good for up to seven hours. And it’s 4.7 pounds, down from 5 pounds for its predecessor.

The MacBook didn’t get a price cut: It still starts at $999, which gets you a 2.26GB Core 2 Duo CPU, Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics, 2GB of RAM, and a 250GB hard drive. The mythical $899 Mac portable remains mythical for now.

Apple MacBook

The iMac line also got an upgrade, with new 21.5″ and 27″ models (starting at $1199 and $1699), both of which have 16-by-9 widescreen displays with LED lighting, SD slots, and the ability to connect external video sources such as a game console or Blu-Ray player via an adapter. (Some models of HP’s latest TouchSmart have a similar feature.) Processors now go up to a quad-core Intel Core i7.

The new iMacs come with a new wireless mouse called the Magic Mouse (sorry, Little Roquefort) with a multi-touch surface that lets you perform iPhone-like gestures such as swiping and pinching. It’s also available separately for $69.


Apple also beefed up the specs on the Mac Mini, and introduced an intriguing server version with Snow Leopard Server preinstalled, two hard drives, and no optical drive. It’s not a home server like HP’s MediaSmart, but maybe Apple is tippy-toeing in that direction.


Long Live the Plastic MacBook

Black Apple MacBookAppleInsider is reporting that Apple is working on refreshing the $999 white MacBook that’s its cheapest portable computer–and, AppleInsider, reports, still a best-seller. Makes sense to me. I’m assuming we’ll see one with new (but economical) specs, a better display, a sealed battery with longer battery life, and an SD reader. Timing? Probably early next year, whenever Apple decides to announce the products it’s not going to be rolling out at Macworld Expo.

It’s also only a matter of time until Apple ships a non-Air MacBook with no DVD drive–in part to save money, in part to make the system thinner, and hey, maybe even to encourage consumption of movies and music from the iTunes store. It wouldn’t stun me if the next-generation plastic MacBook were that machine–or if Apple knocked $100 or so off the pricetag to make it into an upscale alternative to a netbook. (No matter how cool an Apple tablet might be, some folks are going to want a traditional portable system at a relatively low price.)

One thing I hope Apple doesn’t do is to give the white MacBook’s replacement an aluminum case. As I wrote recent, I’m not so sure that plastic-clad notebooks don’t preserve their good looks better than their aluminum cousins, at least if you drop computers as often as I do. (Hey, I used to own a Saturn car, in part because of the plastic body.)

And yes, I know I illustrated this post with a photo of the black MacBook, which is already gone. Apple, which invented the idea of selling computers in different colors, doesn’t offer any model in more than one hue at the moment. But if black came back, I’ll bet Apple would once again find people who’d pay a premium for it.


Apple to Fix MacBook Pro Drive Flaw. With Software?

Apple said today that an upcoming software update will correct a problem that Apple MacBook Pro notebooks owners are experiencing with malfunctioning hard drives. I’m not entirely convinced that would fix the problem, and would like Apple to shine some light on the issue.

MacBooks equipped with 7200rpm 500GB hard drives have experienced clicking sounds that are frequently followed by stalling, and customers have been complaining about the issue for months. Apple is working on a software update in response to the complaints, but has not said when the patch will be delivered.

There could very well be a low-level problem that Apple could remedy with a patch. Its systems are very well designed, and usually have high quality drivers and firmware. It’s just hard for me to fathom that the problem is just a software issue.

Call me a cynic, but when hard drives click, it oftentimes means that the drive has bad sectors and is failing. Apple could very well be dealing with a bad batch of hard drives, and all a software update would do is to glaze over the underlying problem to make the delays less noticeable.

If Apple reduces the number of customer returns by even 10 percent, it will save itself a lot of money. I hope that it is not simply putting off dealing with the full scope of the problem. I would like to hear from customers after they install the patch.


FireWire: It’s Baaaaaaaaaaaack!

FireWire HaloOf all the news that came out of Monday’s Apple WWDC keynote, one tidbit that didn’t get much attention is worthy of note: Apple’s refresh of its 13-inch laptop brought back the FireWire port that had been removed when the first 13-inch unibody MacBook shipped last October. In fact, Apple upgraded the connection, giving the new laptop a FireWire-800 port rather than the FireWire-400 one it had done away with last year. The return of FireWire in even beefier form is presumably a big part of why Apple was comfortable in redubbing the laptop that had been known as a mere MacBook as a MacBook Pro. Among Macs, only the MacBook Air, a computer so thin it barely has room for ports at all, lacks FireWire.

It’s a truly surprising development. Apple has historically been aggressive about erring on the side of removing technologies from its computers early, and while it often catches flack at the time, other PC manufacturers tend to fall into line eventually. When it killed FireWire on the 13-inch MacBook last year it made lots of folks very angry, but Steve Jobs himself apparently thought it was not a big deal. And so did I. In fact, I thought that other Macs would begin to lose their FireWire. I was wrong.

I can’t think of another instance in which Apple has moved to retire a technology and then changed its mind. (If there have been any, I know you’ll tell me.) It’s a little as if the second-generation iMac had brought back the floppy drive.

I’m still guessing that the company’s instinct is that FireWire is at the beginning of the end of its useful life, and that we’ll see lower-end Macs without it in the not-too-distant future. But for now, score one for FireWire fans–and for Apple, too, since it showed it was listening.

Me, I’m more excited about the fact that the company is finally shipping laptops with built-in slots for SD cards…


Your WWDC Predictions: Not Perfect, But Not Bad!

Apple WWDC PredictionsQuick, you guys: Quit your jobs, team up with each other, and form a research firm specializing in Apple punditry. As a group, your predictions would likely be significantly closer to being on-target than those of a bunch of well-known analyst firms where serious moolah is made guessing what Steve Jobs and company are working on.

That, at least, is my conclusion after conducting an experiment that I called Technologizer’s WWDC Prediction Challenge. I invited Technologizer community members to take a survey involving WWDC predictions, then tallied the results and considered any prediction to be official if the majority of survey respondents made it. You didn’t get every single data point right–and failed to anticipate the major changes Apple made to its laptop lineup–but your iPhone predictions were very close to perfect (unlike those of many bloggers and analysts). Overall, I’m impressed–and I think I’ll repeat the experiment before future Apple product launches.

After the jump, a full accounting of how your guesses squared with WWDC reality.

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