Apple unveils new MacBook Airs, previews Lion

Steve Jobs introduces new, thinner and lighter versions of the ultraportable, while previewing a new version of Mac OS X due next summer and showing off the latest iLife.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs presents new MacBook Airs among other things at a Mac event today at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Josh Lowensohn./CNET
CUPERTINO, Calif.--With both an update to its operating system due next summer and new laptops available now, Apple is trying to infuse the Mac with some of the best qualities of the iPhone and iPad.

The new line of MacBook Airs are thinner and lighter than the prior model, while aiming to offer the kind of instant-on and ultra-long battery life found in the iPad. Available in both 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch models, the machines range from $999 to $1,599 depending on the combination of screen, processor, and storage. All use flash memory rather than a hard drive, boasting anywhere from five to seven hours of battery life in "wireless Web use," Apple said.

Fresh Air

At its "Back to the Mac" event, Apple unveiled a pair of new MacBook Airs. Interested?


Speaking to reporters, Apple CEO Steve Jobs likened the new products, which range from 2.3 pounds to 2.9 pounds, to what might result if a MacBook and an iPad "hooked up."

Longer term, Apple wants to bring more of the iOS to the Mac, adding broader support for multitouch and an App Store. Those and other features will find their way into the next Mac OS X, dubbed Lion, which is due out in Summer 2011.

Apple intends to bring the App Store to the Mac sooner though, with plans to launch a version for Snow Leopard within 90 days. Developers can start submitting apps next month. Although the App Store won't be the only way to get Mac apps, it will be "the best" way, Jobs said.

Finally, the company announced a new version of iLife, available today. It will sell for $49 for existing Mac owners and will come free on new Macs.

So, to summarize:

Available now
• New MacBook Airs: The 11.6-inch, 2.3-pound model has a 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo chip and costs $999 for the model with 64GB of memory, while $1,199 gets you 128GB of storage. The 13.3-inch model has a faster Core 2 Duo processor and sells for $1,299 with a 128GB solid-state drive. The 13.3-inch model with 256GB of storage costs $1,599.

• iLife 11 hits stores as well, selling for $49 and including new versions of iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand.

• FaceTime comes to the Mac in beta form as a free download.

Coming within 90 days
• An App Store for Snow Leopard. Developers can start submitting apps next month. Apple takes a 30 percent cut. Software bought from the App Store can be installed on all a user's Macs (up to 5 machines).

Summer 2011
• Mac OS X Lion: The next installment of the Mac OS is designed to take some of the things like multitouch gestures from iOS and bring them back to the Mac. (See video and end of post.) However, Jobs said he still doesn't think putting the touch input on the display is the way to go.

The lowdown on Apple's new line of MacBook Airs. Josh Lowensohn/CNET
Specs on the larger of the two new MacBook Air models. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

 

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