Slimmed-down Mac a lightweight
By Martin J Young
Following all the hype of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week,
Apple aficionados had their turn at the Macworld Conference and Expo in San
Francisco this week. The world's most comprehensive Macintosh OS event was
expected to draw over the 40,000 attendees that turned up for last year's
event. Naturally the highlight was the appearance of chief executive Steve
Jobs, whose keynote address featured a number of new Apple releases, including
an impressively thin MacBook Air notebook.
The ultra-slim computer, only 0.16 inches at its thinnest point, and 0.76
inches at its thickest, boasts 2GB of RAM, a 13.3 inch
LED-backlit widescreen and a custom-built 65 nanometer mobile Intel 1.8 GHz
Core 2 Duo CPU. It will retail at US$1,800 when it ships in two weeks. As
impressive as the new laptop looks its specifications, screen size and lack of
optical drives slot it into the mediocre category when compared with high-end
PC notebooks, it's a shame the price tag isn't mediocre too.
There were also a number of updates to the iPhone and iPod. ITouch software
updates will improve mapping features, offer more-customizable home screens,
and better Gmail integration. The iPod updates enable it to display Adobe PDF
and Microsoft Word and Excel files, Google Maps and a stock and market tracking
A wireless backup device called a "Time Capsule" was also announced by Jobs who
stated, "Bring Time Capsule home, plug it in, click a few buttons on your Macs
and voila - all the Macs in your house are being backed up
automatically, every hour of every day." The unit, a wireless N base station
with a 500 GB or 1 TB hard drive and a number of additional ports, is expected
to retail next month for $300 and $500 for the terabyte version.
The other major announcement was that iTunes will now start renting out movies
following a deal with studios including 20th Century Fox, The Walt Disney
Studios, Warner, Paramount, Universal Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment,
MGM, Lionsgate and New Line Cinema. Movie rentals will cost $2.99 for library
titles and $3.99 for new releases in a move that puts iTunes in competition
with Microsoft, which offers movie rentals through the Xbox 360. The movies can
be ordered from and played on the iPhone, iPod and through the Apple TV
Google meanwhile announced that it will redesign its iPhone suite, offering
faster load times and an improved user interface. Gmail and Calendar functions
have been improved with more emphasis on streamlining tabs and the touch-screen
operation of the software. Pre-fetching and auto-complete functions were
introduced, enabling messages to appear as soon as they arrive. IGoogle gadgets
will also now find a home on the iPhone; at present available only to the US
market, Google plans to expand them internationally later this year. IGoogle
offers "the ability to create a personalized iGoogle page that gives you
at-a-glance access to key information from Google and across the web".
MySpace, one of the world's largest social networking websites claiming 70
million users, has agreed with attorneys from 49 US states to take new measures
to protect teenagers and children from sex offenders online. Four categories of
principles are hoped to be made into industrywide standards; these include
reviewing of all content uploaded to the site, hiding from public view profiles
of 14- to 17-year olds, and enforcement of the site's minimum age of 14.
Other principles include more education and free parental software, and
increased communications with people that report abuse on the site. Parents
will be able to submit email addresses if they don't want their children using
the site and adults will need to show proof that he or she knows a child user
in order to contact that child.
MySpace also intends to improve collaboration with law enforcement, with a
24-hour hotline to "enhance the ability of law enforcement officials to
investigate and prosecute Internet crimes". The introduction of an "Online
Safety Task Force" will also assist with these goals.
growth continued unabated last month, with an additional five million new
websites making a bottom line of over 150 million. Last year Netcraft’s web
server survey estimated that the Internet has grown by more than 50 million
websites last year, topping the previous growth record of about 30 million
sites in 2006. The popularity of blogs accounted for the majority of this
increase, with an estimated 25 million sites in the survey. According to
Netcraft, which monitors host and server activity, the web has grown by 48%
since December 2006 and although this is an impressive figure it does not
compare to the runaway growth figure of 160% recorded in 2000.
Three of the largest makers of hard drives are rumored to be in talks over a
joint venture dedicated to the market. Hitachi, Toshiba and Fujitsu would own
equal parts in the company, according to Cnet; they would combine their
hardware sectors and storage system infrastructures. It has been suggested that
if this proposal materializes it will do so before the start of the business
year in Japan on April 1.
AMD plans to make public the specs for its new dual core R680 graphics card
this month. January 23 will be the release date of the card, which has two
graphics processors and will allow quad processor configuration in CrossFire
mode on certain motherboards.
Intel has put back the release of their quad Core 2 Extreme QX9770 processors
for high end desktops to February or March instead of January. The 3.2GHz CPU
will be replacing Intel’s Core 2 Extreme QX9650, launched last year.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.