Apple updates notebook range, cuts cord on mouse

Apple updates notebook range, cuts cord on mouse

Apple Computer has launched three new models in its PowerBook notebook range, and unveiled the shape of a new cordless mouse to accompany them.

Chief executive officer, Steve Jobs, summed up the company's innovations in the year to date in a keynote speech at Apple Expo Paris, and concluded with the announcement of performance increases for the 12-inch and 17-inch PowerBooks launched in January, and the introduction of a new 15-inch model, replacing the one introduced in January 2001.

Already, 42 per cent of the computers Apple sells were notebooks, compared to around 25 per cent for computer makers across the industry, Jobs said.

He hoped to bring that level up to 50 per cent in short order.

Jobs repeated his January claim that, for Apple, 2003 was "the year of the notebook".

He said: "We still aren't even done with the year yet; we have more innovating to do."

That's a reference to what could be the biggest disappointment of the day for Macintosh fans: the next version of Apple's Mac OS X operating system, known by its code name "Panther" is still not ready.

It will sell for $251 including sales tax in Europe, and "will come out before the end of this year", Jobs said.

The three new models of its thin, aluminium-cased PowerBook range will therefore begin shipping with the existing 10.2 ("Jaguar") version of Mac OS X.

The new 17-inch PowerBook contains several enhancements to speed its performance, including a 1.33GHz G4 processor and 512KB of Level 2 cache memory, double that of its predecessor. Cache memory enhances a processor's performance by speeding its interactions with slower main memory.

The new PowerBook also uses PC2700 DDR (double data rate) RAM. It ships with 512MB, but up to 2GB can be installed.

The slot-loading Superdrive (Apple's name for a CD-RW/DVD-R drive) has also received a speed boost, to 2x speed when writing to DVDs. Its 17-inch, 1440 by 900 pixel screen is driven by a Radeon Mobility 9600 graphics card, and can be connected to an external monitor via a DVI (Digital Video Interface) connector. Other ports include FireWire (IEEE 1394) serial ports running at 400M bps (bits per second) and 800 bps, and two USB 2.0 (Universal Serial Bus) ports running at up to 480M bps.

The updated 12-inch model contains a 1GHz processor, with 512KB of Level 2 cache and up to 1.25GB of main memory, two USB 2.0 ports and a choice of either a Superdrive or a Combo (CD-RW/DVD) drive. The Nvidia GeForce FX Go 5200 graphics card can be used, via the newly added DVI connector, to drive a second display or provide an external mirror of the internal 12.1-inch, 1024 by 768 pixel display. The PowerBook can also operate with the lid closed. The 12-inch model equipped with 256MB of RAM and a 40GB hard disk drive.

Jobs also presented a long-awaited update to the 15-inch PowerBook, which made its debut in January 2001. The new model has a 15.2-inch wide-screen (1280 by 854 pixel) display, weighs 2.5kg and is 28mm thick. The top-of-the-range model features a 1.25GHz G4 processor with 512K bytes of Level 2 cache, up to 2G bytes of main memory and a Radeon Mobility 9600 graphics card with 64M bytes of onboard RAM. It too has a DVI port, FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, a 56K modem and a built-in antenna for Apple's AirPort Extreme IEEE 802.11g wireless network card.

Two configurations are available now. The first, with a 1GHz processor, 256MB of RAM, a Combo drive and a 60GB hard disk, is priced at $3371. The second, with a 1.25GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, a Superdrive, an 80GB hard disk, an illuminated keyboard and built-in AirPort Extreme wireless networking, costs $4214, the only break from the euro-for-dollar pricing strategy among the new notebooks.

Classically, in Jobs' keynote speeches there was always a "just one more thing." This time, it was the presentation of Apple's long-awaited cordless keyboard and mouse. Priced at $133.20 including European sales taxes, the devices would be available in two weeks, Jobs said.

The keyboard would run for nine months on four AA cell batteries, the mouse one month on two AA cells, he said.

The keyboard and mouse use Bluetooth short-range radio technology.

"We didn't want to use a schlocky or proprietary technology," Jobs said.

The devices had a range of 10 metres and work with all three new PowerBooks, which are all Bluetooth enabled, he said.

They require a computer running Version 10.2.6 or newer of Mac OS X.

Addressing concerns that neighbors might be able to eavesdrop on passwords typed over a wireless keyboard, Jobs said the Apple devices used 128-bit encryption and were resistant to radio interference, even from other Bluetooth devices, making them suitable for use in crowded classrooms or offices.

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