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Apple Unveils New PowerBooks, Safari Web Browser, and More at Macworld

Saying he had "two Macworld’s worth of stuff for you today," Steve Jobs unveiled a host of new Apple offerings at his keynote address at Macworld Expo San Francisco, including both Apple’s largest and smallest PowerBooks ever, iLife (an integrated suite of Apple "digital hub" iApps iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD), higher speed wireless networking with Airport Extreme, and Safari, an Apple-built, Mac-only Web browser built on open source technology.

PowerBooks — On the hardware front, Apple unveiled two new PowerBooks: the 17-inch PowerBook G4 and the diminutive 12-inch PowerBook G4.

The new 17-inch PowerBook G4 sports the same LCD screen featured on the 17-inch flat panel iMac with a 1440-by-900 landscape display area – the largest display yet available in a portable. It’s also the thinnest PowerBook yet (only 1 inch thick) and weighs a comparatively light 6.8 pounds, in part due to the unpainted anodized aluminum casing. Under the hood, the 17-inch PowerBook G4 offers a 1 GHz PowerPC G4 processor with 1 MB L3 cache, 512 MB of RAM, a GeForce4 440 Go graphics processor with 64 MB VRAM, a slot-loading SuperDrive to read and burn CDs and DVDs, two USB ports, VGA, s-video, and DVI video output, Gigabit Ethernet, a PC Card slot, audio line in, stereo speakers, a headphone jack, an internal microphone, built-in Bluetooth wireless, and new 54 Mbps Airport Extreme 802.11g wireless networking capability. The 17-inch PowerBook G4 also offers a standard FireWire 400 port, and a new FireWire 800 port, which requires a new connector but runs at twice the speed of previous FireWire implementations. (The PowerBook ships with an adapter for using the FireWire 800 port with FireWire 400 devices.) In addition, Apple has moved the Airport antennas to the PowerBook’s screen and claims the 17-inch PowerBook G4 Airport reception rivals that of the iBook – which is good, because Airport reception on the 15-inch PowerBook Titaniums is widely lamented. The 17-inch PowerBook G4 uses a lithium prismatic battery which Apple says provides up to 4.5 hours of battery life. The new 17-Inch PowerBook G4s boot only into Mac OS X and will be available in February starting at $3299. Oh, and in addition to its enormous screen, the 17-inch PowerBook G4 has a just-because-its-cool feature: a backlit keyboard with light sensors which automatically illuminate the keys when ambient light goes down. Not that you’d have any trouble seeing your keyboard with the torrent of light spilling from that 17-inch screen, but we think it does look cool.

The new 12-inch PowerBook G4 is the smallest notebook computer Apple has ever offered, featuring a 1024 by 768 12-inch LCD display and a full-size keyboard, but weighing only 4.6 pounds and measuring a scant 10.9 by 8.6 x 1.2 inches (27.7 by 21.8 by 3.5 cm). Don’t let the small size fool you: Apple is clearly aiming this model at professionals. Inside, the 12-inch PowerBook G4 offers a 867 MHz G4 processor, a GeForce4 420 Go graphics processor with 32 MB VRAM, a slot-loading combo CD/DVD drive (a SuperDrive upgrade will be available as an option) and Bluetooth wireless networking. Not to be outdone by its larger cousins, the 12-inch model also has VGA and s-video output, FireWire 400 and USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, and the capability to add 54 Mbps Airport Extreme wireless networking, along with stereo speakers (and a third mid-range speaker somewhere), audio line in, headphone output, and an internal microphone. Apple says the 12-inch PowerBook G4 gets up to 4.5 hours of battery life from a Lithium-ion battery. The 12-inch PowerBook G4 should be available in about two weeks with prices starting at $1799.

These new offerings Apple mean Apple will soon be shipping five portable computers: two iBooks, the 15-Inch PowerBook Titanium, and now the 17-inch and 12-inch PowerBook G4s. Apple is predicting that laptops will comprise more than half its sales in a few years, but one has to wonder whether customers will be confused by the number of models.

iLife — Apple has also turned attention to its digital hub applications, introducing iMovie 3, iPhoto 2, and iDVD 3. In addition to new features, these "digital hub" applications now integrate with each other – so iTunes playlists are available in iMovie, iPhoto albums are accessible in iDVD, etc. – and Apple is now bundling them together in a collection called iLife, which will be available 25-Jan-03 for $49. iPhoto 2 and iMovie 3 will be available for free download as well. (iTunes 3 is already available; due to its size, its not practical to make iDVD available online).

In addition to integration, Apple has rolled new features into the iLife applications. iPhoto 2 features One-click Enhance, which is literally a one button which analyzes a photo and tries to improve it intelligently by considering a number of factors like contrast, white balance, saturation, and more. Obviously, there will be plenty of photos One-click enhance won’t be able to help very much, but amateur photographers should generally get good results with it – in many cases, better results than exporting an image to a separate imaging program and fiddling with it there for an hour or more. iPhoto 2 also features a Retouch Brush for removing lens dirt, scratches, blotches, and more – it makes an effort to preserve color and underlying texture, so it’ll work best on isolated blemishes, but, again, should be easier for most users than fussing with an external image editor. iPhoto 2 also has a somewhat revamped interface, and can archive photos to CDs and DVDs, plus create an instant DVD slide show with iDVD 3, using meta-information about your albums and pictures.

iMovie 3 is a complete rewrite which now lives in its own window (instead of taking over an entire display). iMovie 3 adds support for chapters (which can in turn be sent to iDVD and used as the basis for scene selection), integration with iTunes, and the capability to apply the "Ken Burns effect" to still photos from iPhoto (whereby iMovie pans around a still photograph while audio plays, providing visual interest in what would otherwise be a static image). iMovie 3 also sports sound effects from George Lucas’s Skywalker Sound, support for three audio tracks, precise audio volume editing, new visual effects, and the ability to automatically send your movie to iDVD.

In addition to integrating with iTunes, iMovie, and iPhoto for getting audio, video, and still photo material, iDVD 3 offers 24 new themes (which is why it’s too big to download), automatic creation of scene selection menus, complete chapter marker support, and coordinated button highlighting.

Keynote, The Application — Steve Jobs has always been noted for his showy keynote addresses: now he’s revealed the application he used to create his sophisticated slide shows during 2002: Keynote. Keynote is a presentation program which takes advantage of Mac OS X display technologies like Quartz and OpenGL to make sophisticated slide shows – to paraphrase Jobs, slide shows which look like you had an entire production department working on them endlessly. Keynote offers sophisticated text control, extensive graphics compatibility (including support for transparently, alpha channels, and rotation), chart and table support, sophisticated transitions (which rely heavily on Mac OS X graphics technologies), animations, effects, alignment guides, an image library, and a collection of professionally-created themes. Keynote also lets you create your own themes, and uses an XML-based file format so third parties can add capabilities and features to Keynote presentations – for instance, grabbing the most recent sales data from a database without re-doing an entire presentation. Keynote imports and exports from PowerPoint, and also exports to PDF and QuickTime. Keynote is available today for $99; Apple also gave a free copy to all keynote attendees.

Express Yourself — Apple also announced Final Cut Express, a $299, slightly stripped-down version of its Final Cut Pro digital video editing application. Final Cut Express uses the same interface as Final Cut Pro and offers most of the pro-level non-linear editing, transitions, and real-time effects as its big brother at about one-third the price: a good choice for someone looking to do projects more sophisticated than what iMovie can handle, but who doesn’t need extensive image capture and export capabilities. Final Cut Express is available today.

Safari Public Beta — Apple’s most uncharacteristic Macworld announcement is undoubtedly Safari, an Apple-built Web browser. That’s right: seven years after the World Wide Web exploded on the world’s consciousness, provoked the Browser Wars and ongoing antitrust suits, Apple is finally releasing its first Web browser. Not exactly what you’d expect from a company which prides itself on defining the cutting edge of computing.

But Safari makes some sense. Built by the same folks who built Chimera for Mac OS X Safari is a new Web browser based on the open source KHTML rendering engine. Apple intends it to be the fastest browser available on the Mac – and so far, they seem to be pulling it off – with easy-to-use features. Safari features Google integration right in the main window, so you can execute Google searches without first loading the Google site. Also new in Safari is a SnapBack button, which takes you back to your search results listing even after you’ve browsed a page or five away from it: no more pounding the Back button just to see your search results again. Safari also features a pop-up ad window blocker, seamless downloads which don’t leave compressed and encoded files cluttering up your desktop, and integration with Rendezvous to find Web servers on your local network. Safari’s bookmark library works much like an iTunes playlists, and Safari immediately asks if you want to rename bookmarks to something useful, rather than the long titles Web sites often use. Right now, Safari is in public beta and available as a (tiny!) 2.9 MB download – there’s also a "bug" button for reporting sites which don’t work well with Safari. But there shouldn’t be too many: Safari supports CSS1, CSS2, Javascript, the document object model (DOM), XHTML, and Java, plus QuickTime, Flash, and Shockwave content. Safari also leverages Mac OS X’s Unicode support for Web pages in non-English languages.

Safari looks like an interesting move for Apple: right now, Microsoft Internet Explorer is the default browser for Mac OS X, and although Apple and Microsoft just re-upped their Office Party promotion for Office X through 07-Apr-03, relations between the two companies have gotten chillier in recent times. If Safari succeeds, it would reduce Apple’s dependence on Microsoft for providing what has become the center of many people’s Internet lives: the Web browser.

Out in the Cold? If Apple’s new offerings give you a chill, Apple has just the thing for you: the Burton AMP, a winter sport jacket with a built-in pouch for your iPod, plus an in-sleeve control panel for complete control of your music experience. This season, the Burton AMPs are sold only through the Apple online store for $499: availability is limited, and you know what that means.

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