Apple drops price of MacBook Air, previews Mac OS X 'Lion'

Sub-$1,000 MacBook Air stole the show (see video, below), but Steve Jobs also previewed Mac OS X 10.7, Mac App Store, FaceTime for Mac

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'Mac OS X meets the iPad'

Jobs also introduced Mac OS X "Lion," the next version of the Mac's operating system, and ticked off a few features of the new software, not surprising since the event had been tagged "Back to the Mac."

Jobs said that Lion would ship in "summer 2011," which according to the calendar means Apple's self-imposed deadline would expire Sept. 21, 2011, the first official day of fall.

"Mac OS X meets the iPad," Jobs said as he spelled out how Apple plans to bring some of the functionality of iOS, the mobile operating system that powers the iPhone and the iPad, back to the Mac. Later, he called it a "virtuous circle" that started out with Mac OS X, which begat iOS, which in turn fed back into the Mac.

For example, the Mac, will get its own App Store, a new Web page to show all Mac apps at a glance. "The Mac App Store will be the best place to discover apps," said Jobs. "It won't be the only place, but we think it will be the best."

App Store comes to Mac

Details were absent on whether iOS apps would run on Macs, but much of the rest of the App Store experience on Apple's mobile devices will apparently make a move to the Mac version, including the 30% piece of the action that Apple takes from developer revenues for hosting the App Store.

Apple isn't even waiting for next year's debut of Lion to launch the Mac App Store, Jobs said later during the presentation. "We're going to put out a Mac App Store within 90 days for Snow Leopard," Jobs said, referring to the current version of the operating system, Mac OS X 10.6.

The other major feature of Lion, demonstrated by Craig Federighi, who heads Mac OS X development at Apple, was something dubbed "Mission Control" that will combine several interface elements of Snow Leopard into a single screen.

"We've integrated full-screen apps, windows in Expose, and Spaces into Mission Control," said Federighi, talking about existing Snow Leopard features that let users locate open applications and organize virtual desktops.

Macs get some FaceTime

Jobs also said that FaceTime, the video chat application that first appeared on the iPhone 4 last June, then on the iPod Touch in September, will migrate to the Mac as well.

Today, Apple launched a beta of FaceTime for the Mac, but it did not specify an official final release date. The software can be downloaded from Apple's site. The 13.4MB download requires Mac OS X 10.6.4 or later.

iLife updated

The company also released iLife '11, its consumer digital application suite that sports a number of new features in its high-profile programs like iPhoto and iMovie. iLife is bundled free with every new Mac. Users can upgrade from earlier editions, such as iLife '09, for $49.

"Today was a reminder that with all the attention this year on iOS, that Apple is still very much in the computer business," Gartenberg said. "The Mac is alive and well."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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