Apple Unleashes Lion, Revamped MacBook Airs; Plastic MacBook Gets the Axe

Apple yesterday announced another blowout quarter, raking in $28.57B in revenue and $7.31B in profit. The company also sold over 20 million iPhones, over 9 million iPads, and just shy of 4 million Macs. While Apple has spent the bulk of its resources grooming its iOS-based products and accompanying software, Apple is turning its attention to the Mac side of things today with the official release of OS X 10.7 Lion and new Mac computers.

I. OS X Lion roars onto the scene

Apple first gave us a glimpse of OS X Lion at its “Back to the Mac” event in October 2010, but today is the big day when customers can finally download the operating system. Apple’s goal when revamping the OS was to take some of the lessons and design principals from the iPhone/iPad touch and iPad and bring the to the larger screens of Mac Pros, Mac Minis, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs. 

As a result, OS X Lion supports a number of features that are commonly found in iOS including: 

  • Multi-touch gestures
  • App Store
  • App Home screens
  • Full screen apps
  • Autosave
  • App resume when launched 

Other new features include Air Drop which quickly allows OS X Lion users to share files over Wi-Fi, improved Time Machine functionality (local snapshots of files, encrypted backups via USB 2.0/Firewire), Screen Sharing, and a revamped Mail app. Apple claims that there are over 250 new features in OS X Lion. For a full rundown on what you’ll find in OS X Lion, you can check out our article here. 

As expected, Apple is furthering its push into digital distribution with the launch of OS Lion — the operating system will be available as a download from the App Store. Using this method, customers will already need to have Snow Leopard installed (with App Store functionality installed/enabled) in order to perform the upgrade.

“Lion is the best version of OS X yet, and we’re thrilled that users around the world can download it starting today,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “Lion makes upgrading a Mac easier than ever before; just launch the Mac App Store, buy Lion with your iTunes account, and the download and install process will begin automatically.”

The OS X Lion upgrade costs $29.99 via the App Store. If you prefer to have physical media, you can purchase a USB thumb drive with OS X Lion on it for $69.

II. New MacBook Airs

Apple last did a full revamp of its MacBook Air in October. The MacBook Airs (available in 11″ and 13″ varieties) went to an all-SSD configuration, shaved off some weight/bulk, and the ultraportable went from a sales zero to sales hero.

However, the new MacBook Airs weren’t without their faults. For one thing, Apple inexplicably ditched the backlit keyboard (what’s even more bizarre is the first generation MacBook Air design had a backlit keyboard).  Another head scratcher was the fact that Apple only provided base systems with 2GB of RAM — customer has to use a $100 BTO option to get a more palatable 4GB of memory in their systems (11” and 13” models). And while the $999 price of entry is quite low for those used to purchasing new Mac systems, that price only got you 64GB of storage space on the 11″ MacBook Air.

Apple is addressing a few, but not all of these issues with its 2011-spec MacBook Airs. The $999 11″ MacBook Air still only comes with 2GB of memory and a 64GB SSD. However, the processor has now been bumped up to a 1.6GHz Core i5 processor instead of the decrepit Core 2 Duo process in the previous model. Also, NVIDIA graphics have been tossed aside for an Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU. Coughing up an extra $200 will get you 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. 

In addition, the new 13″ MacBook Air gains a 1.7GHz Core i5 processor in its standard configuration ($1299). Base storage remains at 128GB, but 4GB of RAM is now standard. Stepping up to 256GB of storage space will cost you an extra $300 (head scratcher). Customers can order a 1.8GHz Core i7 processor ($100 extra) with configure-to-order options.

“Portable, affordable and powerful, MacBook Air is the ultimate everyday notebook,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “MacBook Air features our most advanced technology and is an ideal match for Lion, especially with its new Multi-Touch gestures, full-screen apps, Mission Control and Mac App Store.”

All of the new MacBook Airs will be getting backlit keyboards and a single Thunderbolt port. 

III. A new Mac mini has also arrived

Although it’s not quite as high-profile as the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or even the iMac, Apple has taken the time to update its tiny Mac mini. The new Mac mini, which is just under 8″ square and 1.4″ thin, can now be configured with Core i5 or Core i7 processors. A  new AMD Radeon HD 6630M discrete GPU has been added to the mix for added performance.

In an interesting move, Apple has decided to remove the optical drive from the Mac mini, which follows the similar move for the MacBook Air family.

“Mac mini delivers the speed and expandability that makes it perfect for the desktop, living room or office,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “With faster processors, more powerful graphics and Thunderbolt in an incredibly compact, aluminum design, the new Mac mini is more versatile than ever.”

Pricing starts at $599 for the Mac mini.

IV. The $999 MacBook: “So long, farewell!”

As a final note. We can all have a moment of silence for the lowly, plasticy, and overpriced MacBook. Apple has dropped the entry-level notebook completely from its lineup, so that means that the $999 11.1″ MacBook Air will now take its place.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *