Monday, October 27, 2008

Apple's New Notebooks

I know it's been a while, which is why I'm reporting on Apple's event, an event that happened nearly two weeks ago. There wasn't a whole lot of exciting news this week though, or last week, so I thought I'd talk about it some.

The MacBook Refresh

It's funny listening to podcasts after Apple's events to hear a consensus on an incorrect prediction. Apple announced a few new laptops (get all the details here), but not at the $800 price point people were speculating. Also weird, in my opinion, is that none of them support HDMI output yet (though you can get a converter to HDMI for what they do support, DVI) or Blu-ray (which is more of a licensing issue). You'd think that with dismal sales projections that Sony would be begging computer manufacturers to support it. Anyway, the new MacBooks are pretty slick:

The $1600 model has 2 GB of RAM (on a 1066 MHz FSB, but no idea what you'd do with one that fast), a 250 GB hard drive, a 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo processor with a 3 MB L2 cache, a backlit keyboard, a 13.3" screen, and an nVidia GeForce 9400M. Yeah, it's real beefy. The $1300 model processor has 400 less MHz and its hard drive is 160 GB. Also nice is the aluminum body and glass, multi-touch trackpad (so you can do iPhone-like stuff on your computer). The MacBook really starts at $1000 though (slightly slower processor, half the RAM, and a 120 GB hard drive), but only comes in white. There are pricier Pro models though: $2000 will get you a 15.4" screen with the same specs as the $1600 one and $2400 will you a slightly faster processor, a 320 GB hard drive, and double the RAM. If you need a larger monitor though, $2800 will get you 17" and a marginally faster processor (and will cause your friends to question the size of your junk, most likely - I'm sorry, but it's true). Oh, and these all have superdives inside to play CDs and DVDs, iSights, mini display ports (supports DVI), 5 hour battery life, ExpressCard slots, digital input, firewire ports, ethernet ports, and Bluetooth. But wait, there's more! They're releasing a new Air in November with the same nVidia card, 2GB of RAM, and gorgeous screen, but a 120 GB hard drive instead and a 1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo with a SIX freaking MB L2 cache. As you would expect, all models are thinner than before, but I don't think anyone was bothered by their current thickness. They also have an upgrade on their supernaturally beautiful 24" CinemaDisplay monitors, which has a MagSafe power port (for your laptop), a USB port, and (of course) a dispaly port for $900 (that's more than the computer I'm writing this on costs).

He ended the presentation bragging about why Macs are doing well and razzing Microsoft, as always, but I thought that it was a strong lineup. They machines are cooler than I had predicted a couple of weeks ago, and I wouldn't say that they're really exciting but I do think they're well-built, well-designed, high-end computers. They're still a little over-priced, but I can't argue with the quality of this hardware. I think everyone was a little disappointed that they're not coping with the economy by releasing a netbook or even a $900 laptop. Can college students really afford these things? They're definitely targeting students with their marketing, but they're still not cheap. Why not drop the price on the current MacBook Air and keep it out there? Or heck, drop their MacBook Pro to be a cheap MacBook. Are they just trying to keep their image as a high-end computer manufacturer?

Samsung's Air Competitor

I love my Samsung TV, so I had to be a little excited by their entry into the ultra portable laptop market with the X360. It looks beautiful, it has an antibacterial keyboard (we've all seen how dirty our keyboards get), 10 freaking hours of battery life, it supports Bluetooth and Gigabit LAN, it has a great selection of ports (including HDMI and 3 USB and memory card), and the display is incredible. I really want one of these, and at $800 it's really not a bad deal. Now we just have to wait for it to actually be released! I think this may be one of Samsung's first laptops because I haven't heard of them being in the market before, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Joost's Grand Re-opening

I talked about Joost when it launches as I got into the public beta rather early, and while I had high hopes for it I was ultimately disappointed by its heavy software and un-intuitive interface, though the video quality was superb. Well, one of those things changed: all its content is now available straight from your web browser. The interface for browsing the site still is not as good as Hulu, and its content selection could use some help, but it has a pretty decent number of movies (including The Fifth Element) and it's still snappy, which is impressive considering the video quality. I hope its content base grows bigger, and I wouldn't be dissatisfied if it just showed a large number of ad-supported movies and left television to Hulu.

Speaking of Hulu though, they've been showing the season premiere of 30 Rock a week in advance of its actual premiere on network television. I thought that was really awesome and bodes well for old media adapting to new media, in my opinion.

Firefox 3.1 Beta 1 is Out

The Mozilla Foundation released Beta 1 of Firefox 3.1, and it looks to have some nice improvements. At the top of the improvement list is the TraceMonkey Javascript engine, which makes it easier for it to process Javascript-laden websites (which is pretty common in this post Web 2.0 era). It also has improved tab switching behavior and a visual tab switcher with graphical thumbnails, which I'm guessing is an upgrade from what's at the far right in the tabs row. I'm really looking forward to the smart session restore though, which allows you to micro-manage what it will restore better on boot-up or after a crash. For being a 0.1 version change, I think it has some pretty solid improvements - possibly the best of any 0.1 version change they've previously released. I can't wait till its ready for prime time!

Closing Notes

It's past my bedtime and I'm on call this week so it would be wise for me to get my rest. Here's just a few final items real quick:

Oprah has endorsed the Kindle! My confidence was never low for our performance in Q4, but with Oprah's army turned on to the Kindle
I feel even better about it. Maybe Amazon will have a section for Oprah's book club? That's not insider information, I have no idea what the Kindle team is working on (I don't think they're even in Seattle).

CNet has a sobering list of tech layoffs if you want to see how this economy has affected techies. It's not pretty, but it could be much worse so I think we should definitely be thankful that we still have work out there and many of us still have our jobs.

The Android platform is now fully open source! I think that's pretty cool, and literally the exact opposite of Apple's stance with the iPhone, it seems.

Lastly, Gizmodo has a list of gadgets that give infinite pleasure (get your mind out of the gutter, not that kind of pleasure), and it's just really fascinating. I could totally get into the one of bubble wrap that you can just keep popping forever.

Have a great week everyone, and pray that I survive my first week of on call!

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