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Apple's Laptops Go Upscale in a Down Market

The wait is over: As Mike Musgrove summarized earlier this afternoon, Apple updated its MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops today.

The new models represent the first fundamental revision to Apple's two mainstream laptop designs since 2006. As Apple explains in a video , the new MacBook and MacBook Pro start with a slab of unobtainium aluminum, which is machined into the top and bottom of the computer to yield what the company says is an exceptionally strong, lightweight structure.

Both laptops also feature a glass touchpad that, in its entirety, doubles as the mouse button. It also allows you to control the computer with iPhone-esque "multi-touch" taps of two, three or four fingers at a time.

The updated MacBook also incorporates some sensible upgrades from older configurations. Two gigabytes of memory are standard, and a $1,599 configuration adds the wonderful backlit keyboard that Apple had previously reserved for its pricier, pro-oriented laptops. (The online Apple Store indicates that the $1,299 MacBook also features keyboard backlighting, but company spokeswoman Teresa Weaver said earlier today that this listing was incorrect.)

I'm less happy to see that the MacBook no longer includes a FireWire expansion port, leaving users stuck with just two USB ports for their add-on gadgets. And while the new design is notably thinner, at .95 inches thick, at 4.5 lbs. it's not much lighter than the previous model.

All of these changes don't come cheap -- or, at least, any cheaper. The MacBook Pro starts at $1,999, like before, but the new MacBook starts at $1,299, $200 more than the least expensive configuration of last month's MacBook. Perhaps to make up for that change, Apple is now selling a moderately souped-up version of the old MacBook for $999. You may wonder how long that cheaper configuration will stick around; its design, no matter how exciting it was at its debut, may look a little antique next to the new version.

I have zero doubt that Apple will sell plenty of these models, even at these prices. As one friend reacted on Facebook: "OMGitssoprettyiwantoneNOW!" (Yes, I hope to have a review of the new MacBook in print in the near future.) But in a cratering economy, it seems a little odd for Apple to act as if its customers have the same buying power as ever.

It also seems odd for Apple to continue to ignore the "netbook" category of ultralight, sub-$500 laptops, which has quickly become one of the most popular parts of the computer market.

What do you think of these new models? Do they live up to your expectations, or were you expecting something more (in terms of features) or less (in terms of price tag)?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  October 14, 2008; 5:17 PM ET
Categories:  Mac  
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Posted by: dave | October 14, 2008 6:01 PM | Report abuse

I like my new eee pc. When I heard Apple was releasing a sub notebook I was initially upset, as I would have paid a mint for a sub notebook from them...but they didn't!!

so it looks like I made the best choice. :-)

Posted by: Kevin | October 14, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Hmm... I think the headline wasn't stunning enough this time :-)

Also surprised they'd do away with the Firewire port. My pitch to get the company to buy our whole team new MacBookPros as an end-of-year bonus was turned down, though.

Posted by: misschatter | October 14, 2008 6:03 PM | Report abuse

I admit I wasn't going to buy one unless it got below $800, but now seems like a pretty weird time to be raising the price. I guess they figure Apple people must have the newest Apple products at any price.

Posted by: aleks | October 14, 2008 6:06 PM | Report abuse

I think Steve Jobs has been living in Pal Alto too long-everyone there has $$$$$$$$$$!!!!!!!

Posted by: ZIGGY | October 14, 2008 6:06 PM | Report abuse

It's telling when the biggest flaming apple fanboi I know in my office was actually thinking twice about buying a new MBP.

The next 3qtrs will show their extremely minor gains(in real terms vs. growth hype) vanish IMHO.

It will be fun seeing how Apples #1 Shill here at the WSJ(Mossberg) rationalize these price-points in this climate of cheap tech components and financial woes.

Posted by: Nemo | October 14, 2008 6:08 PM | Report abuse

What is truly odd that you think or lacked to think the development of the new MacBook's was before the US economy "cratered". Were they to just wait on the technology in hopes waiting for the economy to correct itself? I'm sure that would be a grand idea.

Considering there is more to the world then the US there ARE other countries with people that are able to purchase the new MacBook.

Does not your editor-in-chief proof check before you publish?

Posted by: ruban | October 14, 2008 6:11 PM | Report abuse

each time we tell apple how good their products are they raise the price on their products. as comsumers we need to put a stop to this by not buying their products. i was planning on buying a laptop this year which would have been an apple. i wont buy it and encourage consumers not to buy it. apple is overdoing it and is a very greedy company

Posted by: danny | October 14, 2008 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Stop complaining and appreciate de product quality geeze! I will pay 200$ more each time just to see Microsoft die!

Posted by: TheGuy | October 14, 2008 6:25 PM | Report abuse

It's and eee PC for me too!
Can't beat Linux!

Posted by: MeMeMe | October 14, 2008 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Apple did NOT raise their prices. Apple has kept standard price points year after year on all their product lines and each product refresh REPLACES the product before it at the same price point. Macbooks have ALWAYS been $1299 and MBPros have ALWAYS been $1999. They probably always will, it's would be rather simple for Apple to drop their price points because people are complaining about a poor economy but then look what would happen if they were to revert back afterward. Everyone would complain they raised their prices.
I don't know why I'm bothering to explain, everyone wants everything free, they want it yesterday and they want it to work better every time they use it. Get over yourselves. The people who want these computers will find a way to pay for them, no matter the situation.

Posted by: Daiv | October 14, 2008 6:29 PM | Report abuse

I think that they are both great. I really like them as design.
Now about their characteristics. I think it is a huge pitty that mbs do not have a firewire. That made me sad. But on the other hand it kind makes sense because mb and mbp look like the same now and mb is a really good notebook. So they needed something to make the difference between them. Firewire, except all the others but those "others" were already known from te previus line up. MBP always were better and will be. they are not called "pro" for fun.

I really like them, and I think the 15 inch MBP will be my new notebook.

Posted by: aris | October 14, 2008 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Boring. A whole song and dance about minor upgrades to overpriced laptops. Do we really need a slide show about how a case is designed? Is that really all they have to talk about? They also like to brag about reducing their product packaging. Considering that everything down to the smallest products come in over sized over the top packaging, reducing this is a given, not a new feature. All my friends have broken apple products. The "genius" bar at all apple stores are overbooked with broken product. Apple has to be sued by its customers to replace defective products. Are they really worthy of all this hype and free press?

Posted by: Mike | October 14, 2008 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Apple isn't ignoring the netbook market - they have two: the iPhone and iPod Touch. I frequently find myself leaving the MacBook Pro at home because I can do what I need on my iPhone.

Posted by: Tom Saxton | October 14, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Apple is smart, got rid of the Firewire port on the Macbook so that video editors have to use Pros. Who would buy the baseline Pro if the Macbooks had Firewire?

Posted by: Inunacho | October 14, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Well first off I'm Microsoft fanboy just like most of the others on this comment board. Lets see, um well Vista is a better OS and Dell is a better PC.

Posted by: S. Ballmer | October 14, 2008 7:38 PM | Report abuse

These are great additions to the Apple line. Can't wait to get one.

Those who are carping about price should go buy a Dell. When your Dell gets the XP Antivirus Spyware, drop into GeekSquad, it'll only cost you $199.99 if you take it in. Of course, XPAV won't be the ONLY virus you'll get if you're an average user and not an anal-retentive geek capable of spending hours firewalling and updating AV definitions and downloading MS patches on their XP machine to keep away all those nasty PC viruses (and girls). No, you'll get another infection, so, like many of the PC users I know who pay ME to fix their PCs for them when their kids download off the wrong site or they just accidentally surf onto the wrong site, it won't be $199, it'll be $400 or maybe by the time you chuck it, $600.

That $800 you spent configuring a Dell Inspiron is now $1200 and still runs Windows. Doesn't it suck to be you?

Do yourself a favor, get off the hamster wheel, suck it up and buy a Mac, a month later, you'll thank me. How do I know? Because I know. I was a PC user from Dos on a TI2000 to XP on a homebuilt P3 when I saw the light and went Mac back in the 90's. There is no way, even if it involved torture, that I'd EVER go back to a PC no matter how small and cute the EE is! ; - )

Owning a PC is torture enough and the weird part? Until I bought Mac I HAD NO IDEA how much I had been enduring.


Posted by: joeldm | October 14, 2008 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Macs sucks in it's entirety. I wouldn't go for macbook pros cuz you just can't do much with them.

Posted by: Steve | October 14, 2008 8:50 PM | Report abuse

You missed that Apple also souped-up the Macbook Air with more disk space on both the the conventional drive and SSD, faster processor, and NVidia graphics.

Posted by: Jeff G. | October 14, 2008 10:00 PM | Report abuse

here is the thing- people are very afraid of change. i believe that is just human nature.

NOW is the time to buy a mac if you are vaquely into it. all of the prices on the past systems have been cut immensely to get rid of them all. go to best buy and pick an older one tomorrow or this weekend. get the extended protection and you will be all set for 3 years.

if you go on the refurbished apple store they are selling refurbished mbp's for $1350. that is a great deal and a great computer for that price. and there is still that warantee from them, too.

Posted by: korie | October 14, 2008 10:13 PM | Report abuse

i want blu ray recordable drives in the new macbook pro

Posted by: tolli | October 14, 2008 10:48 PM | Report abuse

I am 13 and I can't wait

Posted by: GoDog | October 15, 2008 12:15 AM | Report abuse

best buy has an asus eee pc with 1.6ghz atom and linux for $299

costco has an asus eee pc with windows xp, wireless n, 160gb hd, 6 cell battery for $479

i do my gaming on a real computer with dual nvidia 512mb sli 8800gt

Posted by: yoink | October 15, 2008 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Performance wise, I'm a bit disappointed.
At the risk of sounding like a shallow consumer though, I'd buy it simply for my bias to everything Apple and its design. Can you seriously find a more glamorous entry level notebook in the market?

Posted by: Terrence | October 15, 2008 1:35 AM | Report abuse

Apple's netbook? The iPhone and Ipod Touch. My Apple netbook? A modified touchscreen 10inch Myvvy M310 (a.k.a. MSI Wind) running Leopard OS X and Windows XP on a dual boot. With 160GB SATA HDD, 2GB RAM, 6-cell (about 5.5 hours battery life) it's really not bad... bout the same as a the white MB only it weighs 1.25kg and gets same batt life as the new MBP. I wish Apple would license OS X to third parties, then I could pay them for OS X and the rest of the PC market wouldn't be stuck with Vista or free Linux. I don't really like Apple's hardware, they're overhyped and overpriced. I want to have a choice! I wanted a small netbook running OS X, not another MB or a useless expensive MB Air, Apple's is not listening to anyone... so I went and got myself my own Mac netbook. Touchscreen and dell 1490 wireless card was an additional cost of 200 more, but still only $650 spent. Apple, please let me know how I can pay you for OS X on my MacIntel netbook, thanks!

Posted by: J.Leung | October 15, 2008 6:53 AM | Report abuse

Yep, Apple should follow the sheep, so that...

- it stops growing Mac sales 6 times more than the industry average as it did in the last quarter

- or why it accounted for 33% of $ sales of computers at retail...

Learn the real value of things people.. not just the starting price.

Posted by: Jon T | October 15, 2008 7:15 AM | Report abuse

I think Apple sales have been good due to Microsoft shooting themselves in the foot with Vista.
I was expecting a really low priced macbook or possibly a new netbook which seems to be the must have gadget now.
I like the new design it is what Apple do best IMHO, I love my ipod Touch and I still like the iMac G4 design even though it system board is a bit dated.
I will buy a new Macbook but not till the new year as I like to wait and see if there are any hidden bugs with the new design.

Posted by: jon | October 15, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Jon, if you think that by releasing a netbook Apple is following the sheep, you're missing the point.

I have my luxury Macbook Pro that stays at home, BUT I want a light netbook I can throw in a bag and not have to worry about when I travel. I wish I could say Apple was there to fulfill that need, but they're not. So fine, Apple doesn't want my money in this matter, since yes I'm just going to buy crap with it. What's this about OS X on a worthless plastic netbook? please send link.

Posted by: Rob | October 15, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Look nice, but where's the 17" model?

Posted by: justsomeguy | October 15, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Rob you are totally right about Apple not following the sheep thats why Apple are where they are today, the more I look and drool at the new Macbook and watch the the Keynote video seeing the chassis cut from a solid piece of aluminum I don't think I can wait, I want it now :-)

Posted by: jon | October 15, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

You could always buy the older macbooks on clearance for the cheaper price.

Posted by: DA | October 15, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Buy it Jon, it's now available. Take that one piece of aluminum chassis and make a hole in it just for your size. I'm sorry DA but jon and I can't take your advice on an older macbook, could be refurbished, ya know, dirty and used.

So I'll stick (it) with my 2 yr old macbook pro that does the job every time, and I can leave it at home while I travel around with a cheap trashy netbook that's undergone a major OS change, only done for my ultimate MaC experience. Honestly, I'm just as curious as justsomeguy is at the moment. Where is that 17 inch model? What is Apple really up to with it? I loose it when I think of "seeing the chassis cut from a solid piece of aluminum I don't think I can wait, I want it now :-)"

hey, justsomeguy and DA: my apologies... seriously no offense, didn't mean to bring you into any of this, but U2 happened to come between jon and I. you see, we love apple more than anything else in this world. Apple fan boy here signing out. Love, ROB

Posted by: Rob | October 15, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Correction: "we love apple more than anything else in this world"

Excuse me here, I meant "Apple".

Posted by: Rob | October 15, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Sorry another correction:
jon I was really talking to talking to Jon T (but maybe you're both the same, umm)

Posted by: Rob | October 15, 2008 5:36 PM | Report abuse

People love to complain don't they... I tell you what if you can't afford a Mac or you like the eee PC more, then hey, DON'T BUY ONE!

Posted by: Chaz | October 15, 2008 6:18 PM | Report abuse

@ JoeL

Neat trick switching to Mac from a P3 with Windows XP back in the 90's. Let's see, I believe the release date for Windows XP was October, 2001. Your rant is duly noted!

Posted by: Syd | October 15, 2008 9:00 PM | Report abuse

As usual, the products are beautiful to look at and a pleasure to use. The OS is rock solid and the built-in apps work really well with MobileMe. Like others, I was hoping for a Blu-ray disk drive as well as more substantial processor boosts. And what happened with the 17" MBP? Did I miss something? Why is it not getting the same upgrade? New 24" monitor looks fantastic, but it won't connect to my older PowerBook DVI port. Too bad. Now I have to buy both :-)

Posted by: Tonyinthecity | October 15, 2008 11:14 PM | Report abuse

Considering that Apple too gets its stuff manufactured in China, its computers are overpriced. For the price of the new macbook one can get a 4GB, 320GB Blu ray equipped PC with probably a faster CPU. While a case can definitely made for Apple's design, ease of use etc. for charging more, right now the difference of a macbook from similarly equipped PC is too high to attract value conscious laptop buyers. Apple fanatics - its a different story..

Posted by: ML,Va | October 15, 2008 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Posted by Ruben: "Considering there is more to the world then the US there ARE other countries with people that are able to purchase the new MacBook."

Live overseas Ruben - the old bottom of the range macbook cost AUD$1499 and the next step up was AUD$1899. The new bottom of the range macbook (the old white thing)now costs $1649, and the next step up (the lowest real revamp) is AUD$2099. In USD, that's at least 15% more than the US price. Apple goes after overseas customers more than Americans for their bottom line. And Australia has strong banks and a strong economy!

Now willing to put up with Vista.

Posted by: RC, Oz | October 16, 2008 5:40 AM | Report abuse

The lack of a firewire port is a major turn-off. There is an Apple Discussion thread
(No Firewire; many possible problems) that is one of the liveliest ever with all types of users stating that they need the firewire port.

Posted by: Mike | October 17, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

The glossy screen is the vista of mac...

Posted by: Tarsip | October 17, 2008 7:39 PM | Report abuse

So...Does the new touchpad have a right click function? I NEED my right click!

Posted by: 207gu7 | October 18, 2008 12:34 AM | Report abuse

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