Apple unveils new MacBook Pro, iLife/iWork suites at Macworld

Also drops DRM from iTunes, adds online collaboration to iWork at 'subdued' Macworld

Minus CEO Steve Jobs, Apple Inc. opened the Macworld Conference & Expo today with a presentation one analyst called "mature and incremental" and another termed "subdued."

Philip Schiller, Apple's top marketing executive, took the stage today in San Francisco to introduce software upgrades, a revamped top-end MacBook Pro and several important changes to the iTunes music store.

"Low-key and subdued," Gartner Inc. analyst Van Baker said of the presentation. "But I think there's some good stuff here."

"There were no big announcements," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research Inc. "People that expected the usual breakthrough products definitely had to feel that this was flat. But there were a lot of incremental refinements, and a lot more attention to doing more of what people want to do with their personal computers."

Overall, said Gottheil, Apple's announcements were "mature and incremental, and unsurprising. Or surprising only in how much they were unsurprising."

The only new hardware Schiller touted was a revised 17-in. MacBook Pro that, like the smaller MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks unveiled in October, is constructed using an all-aluminum "unibody" case.

Calling it the "world's thinnest 17-in. notebook" at one point -- reminiscent of last year's Macworld keynote, when Jobs used some of the same words to describe the just-announced MacBook Air -- Schiller also trumpeted the laptop's battery, which unlike other laptops' power supplies, cannot be removed by the user.

The lithium-polymer battery will power the MacBook Pro up to eight hours on a single charge, said Schiller -- seven hours if a more power-hungry graphics mode is selected -- and will take up to 1,000 recharges before it needs to be replaced. He said Apple estimates the battery will last five years under normal use.

"For some users, absolutely [the nonremovable battery] will be a problem," predicted Gottheil, referring to users who stray away from outlets for long stretches, and want to be able to swap out a spare battery while on the road. "I don't think this is a terribly large number [of people]," he added. "For most, it will just be a cost-benefit problem." Apple encountered some resistance in 2007 after it introduced the iPhone, which also sported a nonremovable battery, in part because of the $79 fee the company charged customers to replace worn-out batteries. Within a month of the original iPhone's debut, New York state asked Apple to change the design to let consumers replace their own batteries.

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