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Apple's Macworld News: Movie Rentals and a Super-Skinny Laptop (Updated)

(I've revised yesterday's post with some extra details gathered since I wrote it.)

SAN FRANCISCO--Apple chief executive Steve Jobs unveiled a way to back up computers without wires, new software that lets an iPhone and an iPod touch find themselves, iTunes movie rentals you can download without using a computer, and a laptop that fits in an interoffice manila envelope.

The tiny, ridiculously thin MacBook Air got the loudest applause, but the movie rentals have to rank as the more important news. By both taking the computer out of the video-download equation and making rented downloads iPod-compatible, Apple's new iTunes offerings could fix two of the biggest sources of pain in online movie viewing.


New releases will rent for $3.99 each, while back-catalog releases will cost $2.99--matching prices as at Amazon's Unbox video store. Jobs--who said Apple's earlier movie-download sales efforts, with 7 million titles sold to date, "did not meet our expectations"--told attendees at the Moscone Convention Center here that iTunes now stocks 1,000 rental titles. It also stocks "over 100" high-definition movies, which rent for a dollar more.

These releases come from all of the major studios, not the minority who had participated in iTunes movie sales before. (The big record labels, however, still seem to be stiffing iTunes when it comes to offering their music without "digital rights management" restrictions--as they already do on Amazon's MP3 store; Jobs didn't even mention Apple's iTunes Plus no-"DRM" downloads during the hour-and-a-half keynote.)

Back to movies: In two weeks, Jobs said viewers will be able to rent movies directly through Apple's Apple TV media receiver, courtesy of an upcoming, free software update. Apple also just knocked $70 off the price of the two Apple TV models available: a unit with a 40-gigabyte hard drive now sells for $229, and a 160-gig unit now costs $329. As before, the Apple TV also serves as an extension of your computer's media library, providing easy access to your digital music, photos and videos. (But it seems that it still can't do Web radio, which just looks silly at this point.)

Those prices compare favorably to the HD-movie media the electronics industry all but anointed at last week's Consumer Electronics Show: Blu-Ray disc players start at more like $399.

Apple is not the first to offer no-computer-required movie rentals; Microsoft's Xbox Live has provided that feature since late 2006. But Xbox rentals can't be viewed on an iPod or an iPhone. Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg dismissed the odds of any video service that won't work with Apple's iconic media players: "If it doesn't work on the iPod, it might as well not exist."

On the other hand, that same problem applies to the iTunes Store's HD rentals. As Apple's terms of service spell out, you can't take an HD rental off the Apple TV: You can't transfer it to a computer, even if the machine has an HD-capable display, nor can you put a lower-resolution copy of it on an iPod or iPhone for viewing on the go.

The iPhone and the iPod touch both had significant updates showcased during the Jobs keynote. A new, free software release [QuickTime video] for the iPhone lets its Google mapping software find itself by detecting nearby cellular or wireless signals; the latter feature relies on a nationwide network of WiFi hot spots compiled by Boston-based Skyhook Wireless. iPhone users can also rearrange the icons on the phone's home screen (a giggle-inducing process during which every icon wiggles to indicate its adjustability), send text messages to multiple people at once (the lack of that was one of the weirder omissions on the original iPhone) and save "Web clippings" that capture just a part of a favorite Web page.

If only Apple would also put copy and paste commands on the iPhone too! But I digress...

Users of the iPod touch can also get this new self-locating ability (limited to WiFi signals, because the Touch doesn't include a cell phone) and mail, note-taking and stock and weather look-up programs, but that update will cost them $19.99. (That last bit momentarily quieted the crowd.)

Although the MacBook Air had been rumored for months, this little laptop still got the loudest cheers when Jobs took it out off an envelope that had been sitting on the podium the whole time. Apple says this $1,799 machine will run for five hours on a charge and includes a standard-sized, backlit keyboard like those on its MacBook Pro machines and a 13.3-inch screen as big as the display on its MacBook laptops, but weighs only 3 pounds and measures just .16 inches "thick" at its thinnest point (or three pennies stacked on top of one another), .76 inches at its fattest.

"It's the world's thinnest notebook," Jobs declared.

It may also be the coolest--in the sense of "not hot." A display unit on the show floor barely felt lukewarm at the end of yesterday, even right at the point where its MagSafe power adapter connected (usually, the toastiest spot on any laptop). It also includes the usual extras on Apple's computers: an iSight Webcam, WiFi and Bluetooth.

The tradeoff for that skinniness is that the MacBook Air doesn't include any sort of CD or DVD drive. Apple will sell an external CD/DVD burner for $99, but Jobs predicted that "we don't think most users are going to miss the optical drive." He said iTunes downloads can provide all the movies and music you want, while a new "Remote Disc" will allow a MacBook Air to borrow the CD/DVD drive of a nearby computer when you need to install software off a disc.

The MacBook Air also includes only one USB port and leaves out the usual Ethernet port for wired networking (a $29 adapter plugs into that single USB jack). And its battery is sealed inside the case; replacing it will cost you $130 and a trip to an Apple Store.

The Time Capsule device that led off Jobs' keynote takes the Time Machine automatic-backup feature of Apple's Mac OS X Leopard operating system and does away with the need to have a hard drive plugged into a computer. Instead, Time Capsule--a $299 box with a 500-gigabyte hard drive--includes a complete wireless access point, allowing any Mac on that wireless network to save a copy of your files to Time Capsule on the fly.

Jobs, wearing his usual black turtleneck and unbelted jeans, also threw out some numbers as evidence of Apple's "extraordinary" 2007. He said that the company has sold 500,000 5 million copies of Leopard since its release in late October, and that 19 percent of Macs had already been upgraded to the new operating system. He said that 4 million iPhones had been sold, giving that device almost 20 percent of the smartphone market in the third quarter of last year according to data from Gartner Research. That made the iPhone the second most-popular smartphone; Research In Motion's Blackberry let the category with a 39 percent share, and Palm was the third biggest vendor with 9.8 percent share.

And Jobs revealed that Apple sold its 4 billionth (!) song on iTunes last week.

Jobs did not mention anything about Mac market share, although recent figures suggest he'd have plenty to brag about there as well. There was also no news about new consumer-oriented Macs or Apple's consumer-oriented software.

And the keynote (which singer-songwriter Randy Newman closed out with a two-song set in which he admitted that "I always root against corporations, just because that's how I am--but not this one") didn't feature the magic phrase "And one more thing..." which Jobs has often thrown out to introduce a special surprise at the end of a Macworld keynote.

I don't think anybody minded much this time.

So what do you think? Are you ready to break out a credit card for some iTunes rentals or a MacBook Air? The comments are yours...

By Rob Pegoraro  |  January 15, 2008; 3:03 PM ET
Categories:  Mac  
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Comments

Hi Rob,

You stated above, "The big record labels, however, still seem to be stiffing iTunes when it comes to offering their music without "digital rights management" restrictions--as they already do on Apple's MP3 store..."

Did you, in fact, mean to write Amazon's MP3 store? If not, I was not aware that Apple offered MP3 downloads.

Posted by: Doug | January 15, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

The feedback I've seen on other blogs about the MacBook Air is pretty negative. The biggest complaints revolve around the absolute lack of upgrade capacity (it's built like an iPod...no access panels), nonremovable (and nonreplaceable) battery, and cost compared to MacBook Pros. That, along with the upgrade fee for the iPod Touch, makes me really think that Apple has lost its way.

Posted by: 23112 | January 15, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

I am always astounded when people make negative COMMENTS regarding a corporation's pricing policies. Yes, I'm an AAPL stockholder; so what. Corporations risk stockholder assets on R&D for one purpose, i.e. to PROFIT from that R&D. I hope that corporations who's stock I own successfully sell the fruits of their R&D at extraordinary profit. Apple comes out with a new software add-on. I bet it required vastly more talent & ingenuity to create than, say, a video game. It adds & magnifies the functionality of the hardware. $20 sounds like the world's biggest bargain. I'd ask for $40.

Posted by: Sam Smith | January 15, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I would not say that Apple has lost its way. They have always looked for ways to squeeze a little bit more money out of their customers. That is why wall chargers no longer come with iPods like they did in the first few generations. That is also why the new iPod extended warranties only give you one extra year of coverage where they used to give you two. It means you will go out and replace your iPod sooner and they will get more money sooner. Even their low end laptops no longer come with the miniDVI to VGA adapters they had been giving out with previous laptops. They know that they can get people to shell out the extra 19 bucks to buy one.
Despite Apple's greed they still make extraordinary products that blow the competition out of the water. Very few other companies take the time to figure out exactly which features someone using a particular product both need it to do and what they want it to do (Especially with highend gadgets like the Macbook air and the iPod touch, which cater to a niche market). If other companies like Microsoft realized this fact then Apple would be in big trouble. But in the meantime I for one have no problem giving my money to Apple.

Posted by: That Guy | January 15, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Doug - good catch about that MP3 comment. Fixed now (and I've added some other comments based on a quick inspection of a MacBook Air). Hope to have some pictures uploaded soon...

- R

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | January 15, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

The Time Capsule was the biggest item to me, although it also burned me as well. I just purchased the Airport Extreme base station (should've waited). The new Time CApsule is an extremely agressive price for a Wireless-N speed router, with a hard drive....The extreme base station sells for 175 a pop, and throw in a 500 GB HD for $125. That's what I can't wait to buy, when I figure out what to do with this now old extreme base station...

Posted by: CP Staley | January 15, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm dumbfounded that they dropped the Ethernet port. Hello; any business with brains will NOT have the corporate LAN on wireless.

UTP Ethernet Just Works; so let's drop it! That's Ballmer-Think at work.

Posted by: George | January 15, 2008 6:08 PM | Report abuse

i guess steve wants you to download movies in the new mac air...vs bringing your own dvd....bad, i think

i think an 8-9 inch itouch/laptop would have been better, with an optical drive, as many of the other fujitsus and sonys have...hey, i love apple products, but smaller would be better than thinner...just an opinion

Posted by: steve | January 15, 2008 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Oh great. Now my fat wife wants a skinny computer.

Posted by: Reynaldo | January 15, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm sold on the MacBook Air. (Literally, already ordered it.) I've got a MacBook Pro that I love and previously had a G4 Powerbook. Work provided both of those (I'd been a PC/Dell user for years until I started at an all Apple office). The MacBook Pro is, simply, heavy to cart about. As soon as I set it down, I love it and as soon as I pick it up, I hate the weight. My situation is somewhat unique because we have a wireless connection in our office for guests (I work in academics and we have visitors who need a place to work fairly often). Mostly, though, at home I have a robust, secured wireless network and the places I go most often have wireless available, thus the absence of an Ethernet jack is fine with me. The larger than normal screen for an ultraportable is great. I'd prefer to be able to swap out batteries on long days, but I can live with that. The price is also competitive in my mind, we spent about $2000 on my wife's Lenovo that weighs about the same, with a smaller screen and an external optical drive recently. For someone looking to use the MacBook Air as their only computer, I can see where there could be several issues to overcome, but as an adjunct to a desktop and work provided laptop, it seems near perfect.

Posted by: Chris | January 15, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the coverage. My take on AppleTV is that it is just short of perfect. What we really need is something that provides some additional convenience besides being able to buy and watch product. For instance, how about pairing with TiVo to bring HD DVR recording, or allowing us to rip our DVD collection to keep it on the box? Then, perhaps we'd augment that collection with purchased movies from iTunes.

Otherwise, it just seems like one more single-use box (and an expensive one at that). I have a DirecTV box, a Tivo (for SD bcasts), a Wii, a bluray player...Apple could knock the media PC out of the box, but this seems to come up a bit short by being such a one-trick pony.

The laptop is cool, but I'm not sure what the value proposition is compared to the company's other offerings.

I'm a buyer for the backup system though. Been looking to upgrade a wireless hub and a backup system, so I lucked out there.

Posted by: Sec 315(2) | January 15, 2008 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Jobs' keynote was an epic fail.

The Air is a too expensive piece of nerd jewelry. No drive, 1 usb, no ethernet? What's the point?

Movie rentals are only a slight improvement for the poor Apple TV device. The PS3 and Xbox 360 are much better tools for this job.

The $20 "upgrade" for the iTouch apps is the latest installment of the Apple "Cool Tax". Only a sucker would pay it.

Posted by: Chris | January 15, 2008 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Hola, Rob, thanks for the report. Chris, nice, insightful commentary. I back that whole-heartedly.

An avowed and longtime fanboy (still have my 128k-now-macplus in the basement), I have to say this MacWorld disappointed me.

Yes, this machine is a technological marvel -- what they squeezed into there is insane. Yes, it's lovely beyond compare. Yes, I'd like one.

HOWEVER...

it's no smaller than my MacBook in general dimensions (won't fit into a smaller carrybag, for example), and 5hrs of battery is what I get from the MacBook; I hoped for longer in a device like this.

And, really, this seems to fit into the same sort of "take advantage of the business class" category that the Cube (and Business Class airline pricing) did. I was hoping for something more accessible for the average consumer, esp since this (and what I was hoping for) is clearly intended to be a 2nd (3rd?) computer. I wanted an eMatePlus, not a MacBookFlat.

HAVING SAID ALL THAT... to those of you who whine about missing items, remember that Apple was first to kill the floppy (and remember how people howled?). Apple was first to offer no internal modem. And now you howl that they've taken the ethernet port??

This isn't designed to replace your office's desktop, this is designed to shock and awe when you pull this from your SLEEK attache case at the next investors meeting.. you'll have won right then.

And given the lack of long-term (and/or swappable) battery, having a DVD player installed to allow you to play several movies is moronic, especially since you can handbrake up to 7 with perfectly adequate viewing quality into the storage area provided by one DVD. Chump.

Really, what this has done is leave me HAPPIER with my eeepc. A device that is incredibly small and "just works" yet didn' cost me half a kidney. Take that, Apple.

Posted by: Bush - not related | January 15, 2008 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Chris, I disagree with your following comments:

"The $20 "upgrade" for the iTouch apps is the latest installment of the Apple "Cool Tax". Only a sucker would pay it."

Spending $20 for some additional apps is nothing. Most people spend that on a few lattes during the course of the week.

Don't be cheap.

In regard to the Macbook Air. Is it "pricy"? You bet. Let's face it, we all work hard for our money; it is a precious resource. However, for nerds like me who embrace cutting edge apps, software, and hardware, I will gladly shell out a few dollars more for something with high quality and a high grade (Microsoft are you taking notes?).

For me, what Apple did with the Macbook Air is put the technology industry on notice (once again). They basically said, "Look, we are raising the bar". Geez, how many times have I said that with Microsoft.

If I sound like I am on the Apple payroll, I am not. I own three computers--Two PCs and one Macbook. However, that will soon change. I am about to ditch both PCs and spend my hard earned money on another Macbook. Why? Because Apple simply gets it.

Posted by: Jason | January 16, 2008 4:18 AM | Report abuse

Hummm, into the thin Air. Very nice design but disappointing. Apple cheated by taking out some important features from my daily MacBook Pro. No DVD burner, no built-in Ethernet, only 1 USB, the harddrive is too small, and it's way too dependent on wireless. Perhaps Apple forget that many places are not WiFi ready yet. To have all these features available to me on the road, I would have to lag around with an external Superdrive, an external drive, an external Ethernet. ummm, I think not. I will stay with my self -reliant MBP.

I must add though, if I had the extra money to spare, I would love to buy one as a collector's item.

Posted by: Rich | January 16, 2008 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Looks like the Apple winners today were Time Capsule and GPS on iPhone. Macbook Air is pricey and requires lot of compromises and not a whole lot of improvement on ultraportables like Lenovo X61 and will probably be in same category. The success of Apple TV depends on Movie download rentals and they are not really going to succeed until the pricing is $1.99 or less and the Studios remove the 24 hour limit. Why can't you keep the movie until you have finished watching it? No matter how long it takes. Studios are still not coming up with a model to make money from digital media and stop piracy.

Posted by: Sanjeevp | January 16, 2008 8:24 AM | Report abuse

"I'm dumbfounded that they dropped the Ethernet port. Hello; any business with brains will NOT have the corporate LAN on wireless.

UTP Ethernet Just Works; so let's drop it! That's Ballmer-Think at work."

Yeah, but I don't think Apple is offering the MacBook Air as an enterprise-level computer.

Besides, Sony and Apple famously stopped selling 3.5-inch floppy drives on their computers, and while people complained back then, who uses a floppy now?

As we move more toward the cloud-computing model touted by Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, we won't need discs.

PLUS, anyone give any thought that this poises Apple for a Blu-ray introduction that does not require people to buy a new computer? Only a new $100 drive.

"The Air is a too expensive piece of nerd jewelry. No drive, 1 usb, no ethernet? What's the point?"

The point is wireless! If you don't have a Wi-Fi network in your house, don't even look at this laptop!

Come to think of it, if you're running a laptop on an ethernet cord, what the heck is the point? Should have bought an iMac!

Posted by: Brendan West | January 16, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the double post.

Jason wrote:
""The $20 "upgrade" for the iTouch apps is the latest installment of the Apple "Cool Tax". Only a sucker would pay it."

Spending $20 for some additional apps is nothing. Most people spend that on a few lattes during the course of the week."

But I think the $20 has more to do with accounting practices (a là the n-wireless update that cost a dollar or whatever).

Posted by: Brendan West | January 16, 2008 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Less weight is nice, but what I really don't like having to do is pack in a bunch of dongles and accessories. I already have to do this with my MacBook: video-out dongles, USB hub, remote, ethernet cable, charger. One could reduce the weight of the laptop but to be prepared you'd have to add to this a USB ethernet adapter and the hub would become a requirement (it might need to be a bulkier, powered one at that).

Apple touts the iMac as a simple, clean computer without a rats nest of cables and wiring, but ironically it's the laptops that have that problem more now. I see what they're trying to do by pushing everything to be wireless but even if you set up such an environment at home, it will never exist in the random places one takes a laptop, so all that gear must be in tow.

Posted by: BR | January 16, 2008 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Here's the solution to the comments regarding no on-board Ethernet...Apple offers an accessory: Apple USB Ethernet Adapter.

http://store.apple.com/1-800-MY-APPLE/WebObjects/AppleStore.woa/wa/RSLID?nnmm=browse&mco=639BD6F7&node=home/shop_mac/family/macbook_air

Posted by: Anthony | January 16, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Can the movies rentals be used on Ipods, or just Apple TV? I'd love to rent a few movies for my Ipod for business trips. That would be useful.

Posted by: Bethesda guy | January 16, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I know I'm showing my age, but . . . movies on my iPod? Why?? I can understand watching Jon Stewart's monologue or Letterman's Top 10 on a screen the size of a Post-it note. When I want to to watch a movie, I want to stretch out in the recliner, listen to the sound run through my speakers, and view the film in wide screen with the best quality possible. I'm just imagining a film like Into the Wild, with its magnificent Alaska scenery, shrunk to device-size.

Apple will really be on to something with an Apple TV/DVR that replaces my cable box. I'd love to use iTunes or Netflix as an on-demand service and get the films downloaded straight to the box.

Posted by: MmeLibn | January 16, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

The new laptop is just plain expensive, no matter how you cut it. I just can't see spending that much on something that has so little. And 4 bucks to download a movie? Come on...that's how much it costs to go rent a DVD...and the DVD doesn't cost me bandwith or HDD space. Why? Why should something that requires me to have greater resources, and uses less of their resources (no people at a rental shop etc...and don't try to tell me it costs as much to have people look after servers).

Posted by: Patriot | January 16, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

>>And 4 bucks to download a movie? Come on...that's how much it costs to go rent a DVD...and the DVD doesn't cost me bandwith or HDD space.
---
The gas and time it costs me to go to the rental store are real expenses. My hard drive and bandwidth are already paid for and the price doesn't change if I use them a little more.

And anyone who's really interested in this can learn a lot about the rental policies in this nice summary:
http://daringfireball.net/2008/01/itunes_movie_rental_tos

Posted by: Jeff | January 16, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I don't see the rental being useful if it expires after only 24 hours. It's a nice idea IF you have an Apple TV. I may try it but I like netflix. I guess the rentals won't have the problems of scratched or damaged disks, but I bet they also won't have the DVDs' special features (like commentaries, outtakes, deleted scenes) that I often love.

Posted by: Paul | January 16, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Hi Rob,

You wrote: "He said that the company has sold 500,000 copies of Leopard since its release in late October..."

Are you sure that was not 5,000,000 copies of leopard?

Posted by: Jymbeau | January 16, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Rob,

I think it is very a bit odd for you to spout the party line regarding Time Capsule. As you well know, this capability was supposed to be in the latest update to APEBS(n) and in fact was present in rather late Leopard builds. If you have any responsibility at all as a member of the press it is to hold the light up to what Apple seems to be doing - either to get a straight answer from the company regarding their plans for those of us who just shelled out for a piece of hardware that doesn't do what it was supposed to or, better, pressure them into doing the right thing.

What the right thing would be is unclear. However, unless there is a real technical reason why an APEBS(n) CAN'T be made to work identically to Time Capsule, it would seem obvious that allowing that capability to be used would be a good choice. If they are concerned about drawing down sales of the new product, the solution is obvious: raise the price of the Airport by the $20 or so in order to make them equivalent. Why Apple feels compelled to drive its customers into this love / hate relationship is beyond me - especially when in doing this type of thing they are running counter to the entire paradigm that they've established >> It would seem that you should be able to use an Air Disk to do exactly what Time Capsule does, therefore it is supposed to do just that. Apple's made itself by two cornerstone principles in its products: coolness and things working as they intuitively should. They will lose in the long run (and probably short run) when they lose sight of the interdependency of those two principles.

Posted by: A Plea re: Airport Extreme | January 16, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm eager to try out the rentals -- and watch them on the iMac, not an iPod. We are increasingly fed up with the scratched up DVDs at the video stores, plus....the options for movies will be wonderful! Let's give it a try. Yes, make sure you factor in no gas expenses, no lines to wait in, and the fact that the movie will be in stock! Our local video stores charge 3.99 for DVDs.

Posted by: rjrjj | January 16, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Geeze, I am wondering whether some of the readers read the same thing I did? Perhaps Rob should dumb down his writing? Or maybe some readers should check out what Apple is sayin' about these new developments.

Posted by: umm.huh | January 16, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Rob-

My two cents on MacWorld:

Apple TV: This is still a work in progress. It's great that Apple managed to get the movie studios on iTunes, and Apple TV instantly supersedes other movie rental boxes (except cable boxes). But who wants to pay hundreds of dollars for a box that just gives you the privilege of paying more for content? To get Apple TV into homes Apple will either have to give it away (like cable boxes), go to a subscription model (like TiVo), or provide customers substantial value from just buying the box itself. My candidate would be adding Safari to give free streaming access to all internet content (but this would require Bluetooth support for a mouse and keyboard). Then, when Apple TV is as ubiquitous as the iPod, Apple and the studios can make plenty of money renting movies through iTunes to customers who value the simplicity and convenience.

MacBook Air: Who cares about thin? What matters for an ultralightweight is weight and overall size. I've been waiting for the Air, and I don't care that it's not powered as a desktop replacement, but it just isn't portable enough. What Apple (still) needs is a 2 or 2.5 pound laptop that can be stuffed anywhere you can stuff a letter- or A4-sized paper notepad. To do that they will either need to shrink the keyboard (like the 90% ThinkPad 240 keyboard which worked fine) or think hard and get rid of some superfluous keys.

Time Capsule: This is a great idea, but as with the 802.11n Airport Extreme Base Station, Apple should drop two of the LAN Ethernet ports (who needs these?) and add two more USB ports and two Firewire ports. Also, Apple's marketing is completely deceptive and dishonest in suggesting that any USB printer will work if you plug it into the AEXB or Time Capsule; in fact most USB printers (including my HP PSC 1410) don't have drivers to work through Bonjour over a wireless network.

iPod Touch: Now that it has Mail I might get this (but I'm still skeptical of writing emails on a touch screen). The $20 fee is apparently required for accounting purposes (so they don't have to restate their earnings), and not really an example of Apple nickel and diming its customers.

Missing: Aside from putting Safari on Apple TV, the main thing Apple lacks right now is a family friendly support and upgrade policy. Within the last three years I have purchased an iMac, two MacBooks, and two Minis, and yet I am expected to pay separately for support on each machine and to purchase OS-X and iLife upgrades every year in order to keep them all running the same software. There should be a Family-Pack support package and some policy whereby major software upgrades are distributed automatically within a 3 year period or at least to customers who purchase a new Mac.

Thanks for your column.

-JAFDC

Posted by: JAFDC | January 16, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Can the movies rentals be used on Ipods, or just Apple TV? I'd love to rent a few movies for my Ipod for business trips. That would be useful.

Posted by: Bethesda guy | January 16, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

"Apple comes out with a new software add-on. I bet it required vastly more talent & ingenuity to create than, say, a video game. It adds & magnifies the functionality of the hardware. $20 sounds like the world's biggest bargain. I'd ask for $40"

Um it's not new most (if not all) of those apps have been available on the iPhone (which runs the same platform as the touch) from the get go. Apple reportedly didn't include them on the original touch release because they were afraid it would cut into iPhone sales, now that they've sold enough iPhones they've decided to stick it to their early adopters. Albeit not as badly as they did the iPhone's early adopters. Accounting glitch, yeah right.

At $1800 the Air is indeed jewelry. However the Levono I've been using for the last few years doesn't have an optical drive and I've never missed it. Wired Ethernet is another matter, still I'm guessing if you can afford the price tag you can afford wireless. Plus, isn't that where we're really headed with nothing accept maybe power hooked up to our computers. Still as others have said for that kind of $$$ I'd rather have a MBP. What it really does is make me want to get an eee and see what a different Linux install could do for that.

I do watch movies on my computer, but there's nothing in Apple's current pricing that would move me away from Netflix.

Posted by: Norm | January 16, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

The movie rentals are available from itunes for your computer (or ipod) and it is about time! Netflix and Amazon Unboxed have been offering this "download rental" for quite some time for the Windows market. Even the NY Public Library offers Video "download rentals," but only for Windows!

What I'm waiting for is a program to let me access all these resources. It is terribly frustrating to have one of the coolest computers (MacBook Pro) to use for my film work, only to be excluded from the vast libraries available to the Windows world!

Posted by: chrissy | January 16, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I love everything about the MacBook Air, except the footprint. It's huge! Two inches wider than my four year old, 12" Powerbook. It's almost as big as a MacBook Pro. I'd be happy with the machine's compromises if it were actually ultra-portable, but as it is, I'd have to buy a bigger bag than the one I use to carry my Powerbook.

Posted by: Anon | January 16, 2008 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Let's see, no firewire, no optical disk drive, non user replaceable battery, middling processor-yes, Apple has reinvented the PDA-as the "Mac Air".

And all this for $1800? If they took away the keyboard, would it be $2500?

You don't need an optical disk drive? Just wait for those long, oft interrupted installs over WiFi. Want to back up to CD or DVD, Steve says "no".

WiFi is hardly ubiquitous, and if you're traveling, you're more likely than not to be somewhere where WiFi isn't. Even in your own WiFi outfitted house you might at times want to connect wirelessly, and, heaven forbid, connect thru ethernet.

After all the criticism in the press directed to the UMPC, we'll see if the "Mac Air" gets the same, deserved treatment.


Posted by: skshrews | January 16, 2008 10:15 PM | Report abuse

hey there JAFDC,
Apple offers a "Family Pack/Multi-Mac" option for up to 5 users for OS X & the iLife suite & unlike Microsoft, even if you don't go that route you can load most Apple Software on multiple machines. i got OS 10.5 on an upgrade disc w/ my current MacBook & loaded it onto a couple of other Macs i own w/ no consequences, even on my soon to be 5 year-old 17" iMac G4.

thanks for the reports on CES & Macworld Rob, good job as always.

Posted by: dk jones | January 17, 2008 8:49 AM | Report abuse

I don't get the Mac Air. For about the same price I have a Toshiba Portege. Admittedly it 'only' has a 12.5" transflective LED lit screen, but it's got a full optical DVD *burner*, same battery life, removable battery, and critically it's only 2/3 of the weight: 2.2 lbs.

Saying that, I bet it will be lovely to use...

Posted by: Gordon McKenzie | January 17, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

having just bought the imac and macbook, i won't be buying another computer this year, but i also would like a smaller computer, not just thinner...something the size of a portable dvd player would work great for me.
hope the folks at Apple are reading this stuff :) thank you.

Posted by: tjm | January 17, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

The MacBook Air puts fashion first, and functionality last - no thanks.

Posted by: JohnJ | January 17, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I recently bought my first iMac and the announcements from MacWorld confirm my questioning of what all the hype is about Apple. There isn't really anything remarkable about any of it; the iMac isn't that much different to use at all than a PC (and I am using the mouse twice as much). Like why can't I attach photos in web forms from inside iPhoto? I don't get it. I think the iMac is going to end up as a stereo and TV for the living room and I'll buy a Dell laptop for work.

Posted by: Jon Benfer | January 17, 2008 4:59 PM | Report abuse

To all those who are commenting that the ethernet port missing on the Mac Air is a non-issue, I think you may be missing a point. An encryped wireless setup, which all should have takes a performance hit which could really affect your downloads of movies (up to 20% when encryption is enabled IIRC, maybe more depending on distance from the router). On a large file like a DVD based movie, this could add some serious time to downloads.

Just a thought. I don't have any experience with Apple kit so maybe its different with it.

Posted by: Mark | January 18, 2008 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I would worry a bit about the durability of a computer that thin. I'm sure most people like their laptops small and light, but they also want to ensure they can get away with banging it around a bit on their morning commute, airplanes, etc.

Posted by: Tim.Odenton | January 21, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

As tjm states a few posts above, I, too was hoping for a portable-dvd sized laptop- a more portable portable. I actually have been looking at the nokia n810 coatpocket-size w/pop out keyboard. And as I have posted on a previous pre-Macworld article here, I feel that the removing of an optical drive is a case of Steve Jobs pushing his technological change to the point of ignoring the public. From the posts I have read on many blogs throughout the net- Yes, many of you do not use your discs much, but just as many if not more Do, and would if the drive is in the laptop. (And a bunch a dongles- optical drive, ethernet, USB boxes, firwire adapter, etc- to carry around negates the stripping of them, as you need to carry them around.)

As a portable, on-the-road machine, how many of you would love to grab a few discs for viewing on a plane? Movies on disc are a big part of many of our collections. To suggest that we all have time or would rip these discs to hard drive, well- isn't it less time consuming to just grab those netflixes you just got in the mail to take along with you? And wouldn't those discs help to quickly fill up that 80GB HD?

Basically though, I am surprised as to how many out there fail to see the brazen and blatent tactic Jobs has assumed in forcing a mandatory wireless network system on the purchaser of a MacAir for certain functions. For movies: "No one uses a drive anymore" he says, "but if you want a movie, well, you'll need to buy my Time Capsule, and oh yeah- wouldn't it be so much easier to rent your movies from my new itunes store- movies which expire 24 hours after you start watching them."

Who is the MacAir for? I agree with those that state it works best as a whip out of your manila envelope at your Big Proposal and impress your client while intimdating your competition with a beautiful form-factor lightweight.

Really though, wouldn't an anywhere from 5"-9" true portable have really stoked the masses?

Posted by: ken baltimore | January 22, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

wow apple is so cool .. but that sskinny laptop isnt a laptop in its first place.. its just a small piece to access the required "things" via wi-fi and rentals.. A new approach by apple and wrong percievence by people. what say?

Posted by: imransyedh@gmail.com | February 20, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

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