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The Macworld Announcements: New…and improved, products

macworldThe allure of a suspense is irresistible. 50 pages into a good book the outcome may already be foretold but if well done, you anxiously read the next two hundred to find out for sure. Macworld as a trade show has built for itself the same kind of dramatic tension. Over the years, as ringmaster, Steve jobs has crafted himself into an impressive storyteller. Legions hang in wait for his word. At Macworld, the lines were long and formed hours early for those anxious to see the live spectacle.

At 9:15 PST, following a new Mac vs. PC ad, Steve took the stage. He gave the obligatory recap of 2007, and then launched the crowd into the future.

Major news outlets were vastly in attendance. They’ll be covering the announcement all day.

Here’s the quick list: iTunes rentals (Check), New Macbook (Check), improved Apple TV (Check), software update for the iPhone (check).

And in more detail:

•iTunes Rentals
It’s official. Satisfying the rumors and the odds, effective today with an iTunes software update, iTunes will support now support movie rentals. The surprise: not two or three studios are on board, but all the majors. Apple has deals with Lionsgate, Miramax, MGM, 20th Century Fox, Disney, Warner Brothers, Sony, Paramount and Universal. The movies will be available 30 days after the DVD release. 1,000 titles including major hits will be available by the end of February. The rental will allow 24 hours to start watching and finish watching the film. The rentals can easily be moved between different devices during those twenty four hours. It’s available in the US today, the rest of the world will follow later this year. Pricing: $2.99 to $3.99 per movie.

Apple TV – Version Two
"If it at first you don’t succeed…" An upgraded Apple TV product will include HD TV with Dolby 5.1, and no computer needed for either. A single button and improved interface will provide quick access to iTunes rentals. Rental support, as with HD TV, does not require a computer to be connected. The upgrades will be fee to existing Apple TV owners. And for new customers, the price will drop from $299 to $229.

•Macbook Air "The World’s Thinnest Notebook."
You heard it through the grapevine and now it’s official. The last and biggest of Apple’s announcements was the introduction of a new, sleep portable. With competitors comprising and cutting corners, Steve says they won’t. The new Macbook is a miniature .76inch thick at it’s thickest end and tapers off to less than a quarter of an inch at its thinnest (.16inch to be precise). The computer has a 13.4inch display, a backlit full size keyboard and is available with either an 80gb Flash or 160gb standard hard drive. The computer also features expanded gesture support. With it: photos can be rotated from the track pad, and documents manipulated in more intuitive ways than ever before. The computer is powered by a new Intel chip that is 60% smaller than standard core duo processors. It has no optical drive (it’s an external option) and should get about 5 hours battery life.

•iPhone updates
No Nano-phone, no new hardware….but the iPhone is getting new functionality via an Operating System upgrade available today. It will support multi-user SMS messaging, new video and lyrics support and upgraded map features. So far, 4million phones have been sold. Steve boasts marketshare for U.S. Smartphones is above 19percent.

•Time Capsule Storage Device
A new and unexpected product, Steve revealed a wireless "backup appliance." Essentially a network attached hard dive that looks like a small Mac Mini, the "Time Capsule" will bring Apple’s easy access and user interfaces to improved auxiliary storage.

Upgraded for rentals via the new software available today. The store has now sold more than 4billion songs. They sold 20million songs on Christmas day alone.

No major upgrades, no product line shifts. The Touch does get 5 new applications – mail, stock data, mapping, weather and support for video chapters/song lyrics. The functionality will be in all new iPod Touch products. Existing owners will need to pay $20 for the upgrade.

Metue will provide more updates from the Macworld conference over the next two days.


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