SAN JOSE – One week after Taiwan’s mobile PC party at Computex, Apple rolled out a new line of notebooks that will bring the ceiling down on Ultrabooks and ultrathins from PC makers. Apple also previewed new features coming in its iOS 6.0 and OS X software.
Apple refreshed all its notebook line to use Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors and in its MacBook Pro line switched out AMD Radeon graphics chips in favor of Nvidia’s GeForce GT 650M aka Kepler. The high-end 15-inch system is Apple’s first notebook to use its so-called Retina displays now used in the iPad, sporting a 2880×1800 pixel resolution and 16 Gbytes flash for a whopping $2,199.
The rest of the product line is slim in depth and price. Apple was able to keep entry level prices for its 13-inch MacBooks to $1,199. It shaved its MacBook Air entry-level prices to $999 for an 11-inch display model.
The 11-, 13- and 15-inch display systems sport one Thunderbolt and two USB 3.0 port. All use solid-state drives and range from 0.68 to 0.95 of an inch in thickness.
The specs and prices put a squeeze on a PC industry trying to differentiate itself with equally thin and lower cost systems.
Taiwan PC makers complained ahead of Computex that their Ultrabook systems are still too expensive at prices similar to the MacBook Air due to their relatively expensive metallic cases, solid-state drives and lithium ion polymer batteries. They placed hopes for distinguishing themselves with a new line of larger, but better performing and lower cost ultrathins. With its new MacBook Pros, Apple has narrowed the margin of difference those mobile PC can claim.
Observers have taken opposing views of the situation. One veteran Computex attendee said there was too little that was truly new at the show, suggesting it was in danger of going the way of Comdex. Another said the rise of the Ultrabooks and ultrathins marks a significant comeback for PC makers.
PC makers still have a trick up their sleeves in the battle to best Apple. Their next big rev will come toward the end of the year with the release of Windows 8, opening the door to systems supporting touch screens and ARM-based SoCs.
More than 35 Ultrabooks will be shipping before mid-July and 110 more systems are in design for release in the next year, Intel said at Computex.
Separately, Apple previewed a handful of new features coming with its iOS 6.0 software for which a developers kit is now available online.
Among the new features, maps will now support vector graphics, Siri voice servcies will be available on the iPad and in more languages, FaceTime video conferencing will be available over cellular networks and the OS will sport deeper integration with Facebook. It will be supported on iPhone 3GS and iPad 2 and newer products.
Apple "will try to close the gap to Android in terms of market share, but it will continue to lead the user experience and usability race," said Francisco Jeronimo, a research manager at International Data Corp.
Many of the new features also are reflected in the Mountain Lion upgrade to Apple's OS X due in July for $19.95. The notebook and desktop OS will sport more than 200 new features, Apple said.
Apple's new entry-level MacBook Pros is 0.68 inch thin and costs $1,199.