Apple Updates Notebooks

MacBookThis morning at a press event in Cupertino, Apple introduced updates to their line of notebooks.

At the beginning of the event, Apple’s COO Tim Cook (looking like Jobs picked his outfit of a black collared shirt and jeans) shared some impressive statistics on Mac growth: 2.5M Macs sold last quarter, a new record. Last few quarters they’ve been growing at 2-3x the market rate. 400K visitors a day to Apple’s Retail Stores, and 50% of the Macs sold there are to people new to the Mac. 18% US Retail market share and 31% revenue share. #1 notebook in education, recently surpassing Dell.

Specifications wise, the new notebooks are only an incremental upgrade over the previous line, but the enclosure has been completely redesigned. The previous MacBook Pro aluminum enclosure didn’t change much between 2003-2008, even as the hardware inside switched from PowerPC to Intel. The MacBooks went through different iterations of plastic enclosures. The new MacBooks and Pros feature a new manufacturing technique whereby the enclosure is machined out of a solid block of aluminum. They claim that this new “unibody” is both lighter and stronger, and it certainly appears to be more attractive, with smoother edges, fewer lines, and fewer screw holes.

Other notable changes include a 39% larger glass trackpad without a button (the whole trackpad is the button) that features new multi-touch gestures, a new black keyboard similar to that on the MacBook Air, and a glass, glossy LED-backlit screen (personally I prefer matte finish for less glare). For the first time, a solid state hard drive will be an availible option, and the hard drive will be user-removeable. A notable omission is a lack of Firewire in the lower end MacBooks, which could be a no-deal for those wanting to do video editing with them.

Apple has posted a video on the new MacBooks, and if you can get past the gadget worship and U2 background track, there’s an interesting explanation of the enclosure machining process. Mentioned in the video about Aluminum: “great strength to weight ratio”

At the end of the event, there was a brief Q&A period, uncommon for an Apple press event. One reporter asks when we might see an Apple netbook, a small, light notebook along the lines of the Asus eeePC.

“In terms of netbooks, that’s a nascent market that’s just getting started.”

Another reporter asked “Why no Blu-ray drives?”

“Blu-ray is just a bag of hurt. It’s great to watch the movies, but the licensing of the tech is so complex, we’re waiting till things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace.”

Phrase of the week: “bag of hurt”