A new wafer-thin laptop and a movie rental service for iTunes starred in this year's keynote from Apple CEO Steve Jobs at Macworld Tuesday.
The notebook, called the MacBook Air, wasn't the ultraportable that pundits had predicted, but it is "the world's thinnest notebook," according to Jobs, who produced it from a manilla office envelope to make his point.
Priced from $1,799, the notebook has a 13.3-inch widescreen display and a full-sized backlit keyboard. To keep the MacBook Air compact, it uses the same 1.8-inch hard drive found in the iPod and a smaller version of Intel's Core 2 Duo processor built especially for Apple, Jobs said.
The model shown at Macworld was in brushed silver. It is three quarters of an inch thick at its thickest part and just 0.16 inch along the front edge, Jobs said. He compared it to another popular thin laptop, the Sony TZ series. At 3 pounds (1.3 kilograms), it is about the same weight, he said, but the new Apple notebook is about half its thickness.
"To fit an entire Mac in this thing was a major feat of engineering," Jobs said.
The MacBook Air will ship in about two weeks. It lacks an optical disk drive, which could make it tricky to load software. To get around that, Apple developed a program called Remote Disk, which allows users to download software from the optical drive of a nearby computer using its built in 802.11n wireless connection.
The standard configuration comes with an 80GB hard drive, 2GB of main memory, and a 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo. Options include a 64GB solid-state drive and a faster 1.8GHz processor.
Intel developed a Core 2 Duo chip package for Apple that is 60 percent smaller than the standard version, according to Jobs. "It's the width of a dime and as thick as a nickel, with 400 million transistors," said Intel CEO Paul Otellini, who joined Jobs onstage.
Apple will sell an optional portable optical drive for $99, Jobs said. He promised a battery life of 5 hours while surfing the Web and with Wi-Fi enabled.
Many had expected Apple to announce an ultraportable notebook, which would have filled a gap in Apple's notebook product line, noted Robbie Laughlin, an assistant retail manager with Apple reseller Carbon Computing in Toronto.
"They had a 12-inch PowerBook a few years ago, and I'd like to see something small like that reintroduced," he said before Jobs began his speech.
Still, Apple's computer business is riding high from the popularity of its iPods and iPhone, Laughlin said. "They're still on an upswing. We've seen a huge uptick in switchers the last six months, people who wouldn't normally walk into an Apple store."
The other big focus of Jobs' speech was movies, including a movie rental service for iTunes and a new version of Apple TV that allows renting and downloading movies directly to a TV without using a PC.
Apple signed major film studios -- Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Disney, Sony, Universal, and Paramount -- to sell movies through the store. Rentals are $3.99 for a new release and $2.99 for older films, or a dollar more for high-definition versions.