Apple Releases OSX Lion, New Macbook Air, Mac Mini
Mac OSX Lion Available for Download: Thunderbolt I/O Means Buying Yet Another Adaptor
Apple has released the newest version of the Mac operating system, OSX Lion. Mac users can download it only via the app store; this feature was part of a recent update to Snow Leopard.
The lack of a physical boot disk is problematic. Unlike Steve Jobs, real-life users live in a world of spare cables used equipment. What happens when your OS becomes corrupt and you have to reinstall? You can't fire up the App Store if you can't launch it. Command-D is a Mac user's best friend once the machine is more than two years old.
Also, what about restoring the Mac to factory conditions when you want to sell it? After all, Macs (particularly notebooks) are designed to be replaced. Speaking of which...
New Macbook Air
Apple is releasing a new version of the MacBook Air, which features new specs, plus the backlit keyboard that the last version should have had. Entry price is $999, but that gets you a scant 64GB of flash storage space and 2GB RAM, 246MB of which is shared to video memory. I'd recommend at least 4GB just for running Aperture.
The new Macbook Air also features the new Intel Sandybridge processor, as well as the Thunderbolt I/O high-speed data port. So that means you will have to buy yet another FireWire adaptor, since the Macbook Air doesn't come with one.
The 11" Macbook Air claims up to 5 hours' battery life with the WiFi switched on; cut that in half for real-world battery life. The 13" Macbook Air claims up to 7 hours' battery life.
New Mac Minis
Also updated: the product you all thought would die ages ago... the Mac Mini. It gets a massive speed boost, as well as the Thunderbolt I/O port. The Mac Mini retains its HDMI port, though.
The Mac Mini will start at $599, BYO keyboard, mouse and display.
Apple also launched the Thunderbolt Display, a combination 27" cinema display and peripheral hub, connected to your (new) Mac via the Thunderbolt I/O port. You can plug USB and FW 800 devices into the back of the display, like on the iMac. You pay a hefty premium, though: $999 for a 27" display is up to 4x the going rate. Apple's displays are drop-dead gorgeous, but still.
The new Macbook Air and Mac Mini will ship within 24 hours; the Thunderbolt Display ships in 6 to 8 weeks.
You'll notice that the white plastic MacBook is missing from the Apple Store. That's because the MacBook has been discontinued. So, going forward, the MacBook Pro is only Pro to differentiate it from the Air.
Also, bad news for those looking for an entry-level machine: $999 gets you only a fraction of the notebook that it used to if you're going with Mac: the MacBook Air has a smaller screen, weaker video card, and half the storage space... non-expandable onboard storage space, at that.
If this post seems snarky, it's because I find Apple's planned-obsolescence strategy to be getting more blatant. I've made my Macs last 5 years each, and that means lots of hardware replacements and OS reinstalls. New versions of Apple hardware make that to be a lot more of a pain in the ass. Don't get me started about the gong-show that Aperture has become, and FCP is pretty much a joke at this point. I stick with OSX because it's orders of magnitude better than Windows, but I don't like shopping for pricey toys.
Apple, just ship your $1000 laptop with a data adaptor, okay? Your customers do not appreciate the steady decline of value-adds in your packaging.