A complete overhaul only improves this neat notebook
Review It was no secret that Apple was planning to update its laptop range this month, but the early betting was on a new, budget-priced MacBook to win over even more consumers to the platform.
Macs have been selling extremely well over the last year or so, edging towards ten per of the market in the US, compared to Apple’s traditional niche of three to five per cent. Much of that increase has been due to the success of the MacBook. So it seemed to make sense when Wall Street analysts – who often get advance warning of new products from Apple – started to predict the arrival of a low-cost model that would help Apple grab even more market share.
Apple's MacBook: the junior MacBook Pro in all but name
True to form, Wall Street got it wrong, and Apple ended up giving the MacBook a major overhaul that actually resulted in a price increase - although it has craftily left itself with one low (ish) cost option still remaining.
The new MacBooks now start at £949, compared to £699 for the previous entry-level model. The £949 MacBook has a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, with 2GB of 1066MHz DDR 3 memory and a 160GB hard disk. There’s also a second model – the one we tested – that costs £1149 and increases the processor speed to 2.4GHz and the hard disk capacity to 250GB. Both models have the same 13.3in, 1280 x 800 glossy widescreen display.
Those specifications aren’t drastically different from those of the last generation of MacBooks, which raises a question mark over the price increase.
The white plastic is out, in its place a gleaming metal makeover
Apple explains this by saying that the two main requests they have received from MacBook users were for a metal casing and improved graphics performance. In other words, they wanted the MacBook to be more like its big brother, the more powerful and expensive MacBook Pro.
"Writing on the wall" for Firewire?
I don't know where anyone else has been looking, but for the music recording industry the wall reads "we are hugely dependent on Firewire audio interfaces, and unless something better comes along will remain so for a very long time."
USB 2.0 doesn't cut it all, as for one thing it lacks a proper isochronos transport (software emulation is not good enough) and for another lacks the 65W of bus power needed for some of the larger, portable multi-IO devices.
If Apple are phasing out Firewire, then they are phasing out one of their core customer demographics. Madness.
FireWire+DV Cam+iLife=selling point
So now the home user who has been sold on the iLife/iMovie import and editing is out of luck? Are more cameras now coming with USB 2.0 than I recall?
Arguably FW would have taken off far more if it hadn’t for its royalty-system… which Apple pressed for and backtrack (e.g. see http://www.theregister.co.uk/1999/01/15/apple_caught_charging_crafty_firewire/ - although the $1 per port was a much-trumpeted figure but off the mark considerably)
Looking at various Mac forums, although there are a lot of ‘hey, what’s the big deal?’ comments, there are far, far more unhappy bunnies posting. The EFI-X USB device has attracted a lot of attention (especially for those whose hardware needs aren't met by Apple) and a laptop version is in the pipeline supposedly…. I suspect this announcement will further increase interest in this product.
Steve Jobs should check out the UK Apple store...
So, as far as Steve Jobs is concerned, "Actually, all of the new HD camcorders of the past few years use USB 2."
Oh really? He should maybe check out his own company's web-store, because out of 8 video cameras listed, 5 of them are miniDV based and almost certainly use firewire as the sole means of getting footage off the device for editing.
Admittedly, two are high-end semi-pro cameras and two are expensive HDV camcorders, but the purchaser of the remaining sub £200 standard def miniDV cam can look forward to shelling out £1400 just for the privilege of editing their holiday footage on a AluMac.
Yes, I'm aware the white MacBook is still available - but the message is clear - or should that be muddled, due to the above availability of new but apparently obsolete equipment from Apple.com.
Missing the Point
I've read a lot of complaints from long term Apple users, many puzzling how could Apple have done this or that that will lose them many of the devoted fans and people that kept them alive while they were down ("average Joe may not care about FW, but video editing crowd, for example, absolutely needs it, and Apple has always been about creative people").
Well, mr Tony Smith said it. Apple doen't want those users. Apple wants average Joes. Why? Because they are far greater in number and have far more money in total.
Over the years, through iPod and similar consumer stuff, Apple has reached the masses. This gave two results. It gave Apple the taste of their money and showed it that it is not any less sweet than an artist's money. It also made the widest audience interested in their products. Apple is now using what it has learned and achieved and is trying to put Mac OS X on as many desktops as possible and, aiming for the average Joe's pocket, it is shaping it's products for him (pretty, has everything what an average user wants and needs nad it doesn't cost an arm and a leg; the almost irressistably attractive Apple logo is an extra).
And the old users still have the pro line that can sathisfy their needs. They have to pay a premium, but the estimate is that, individually, they have more money than the average guy, so it's only a matter of using the potential customer base optimally.