Macintosh Highlights From Around the Web

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Firefox shows strength among Mac users, too. You may have seen recent stories about how the Firefox browser has been nibbling into IE's browser market share on the Windows side of the world. Well it's also gaining popularity among Mac OS X users, according to a survey by MacWorld UK. Don't worry, Apple's Safari is still far and away the most popular Mac browser, with almost two-thirds of respondents citing it as their fav. But almost a quarter of those who took the survey, 23%, went with Firefox.

Developers, circle these dates. Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference will take place June 6-10 in San Francisco, and the company is already touting Tiger as the main event of the show. That's not surprising, given that Apple has said its next operating system, Mac OS X 10.4, is due out in the first half of the year. Usually, that means something like the last hour of the last day of the time period given, or -- in this case -- midnight on June 30. But maybe the company will have polished off 10.4 in time for WWDC. More information is available on Apple's Developer Connection.

Now that's a backlit keyboard. With its latest Powerbooks, Apple promises a backlit keyboard on the 15- and 17-inch models that's up to 10 times brighter than the old models. As someone who routinely turned off the backlighting on the older models because it sometimes made the keys harder to see, I can report good news. While I can't say for sure that the new keyboard is 10 times brighter than before, it must be darn close. Even in a a well-lit room, the keys glow brightly enough to be easily seen. Now instead of routinely turning off the function, I turn it on. And as for that other new feature, the double-finger trackpad scrolling, I tried it last night and it works as billed. It's an elegant and simple solution that seems like just a minor tweak -- but it's actually really useful.

This just in from China..., my new 17-inch Powerbook. Since I wasn't expecting a Powerbook G5, I wasn't surprised that Apple didn't release one when it updated its Powerbook line last week. So I promptly ordered one of the 17-inch models on Monday and it arrived today. Now posted: A quick look at the new hardware -- although I have no plans to drop it onto the floor to see if the "Sudden Motion Sensor" technology really works.

Is that a Model T on your desk? Businessweek.com offers this look at the current PC market with an eye on the early days of automobiles -- and the parallels between Ford's Tin Lizzie and the mass-produced Windows-based PCs of today. And guess who looks good as consumers turn away from the PC-as-commodity and look for innovation? I'll give you a hint. It's not Dell.

Best widescreen laptop, but not best overall? Forbes.com takes a look at laptops and has come up with a list of those it deems worthy of plaudits. You'll be happy to know that Apple's 17-inch Powerbook is among those being singled out; But you'll be miffed to discover that it's not the best overall model -- at least in Forbes' eyes. Check out their look at the Coolest laptops.

A faster chip, a lower price. Anyone who follows Apple's hardware release cycles won't be surprised to learn that the company updated its Powerbook line across the board today. With no changes since last June, the upgrades were overdue. And while there's nary a G5 in sight, speed bumps and other improvements should keep most Powerbook fans at least mollified a while longer. If you've been waiting to buy a Powerbook, now's as good a time as you'll get for a while. Apple has the details online.

It's the image, stupid! Adam Robert Guha over at LowEndMac has an insightful look at why a Powerbook G5 may be some ways away--and it's not because of the heat. It's because a Powerbook G5 might well have to be two inches thick, run hot as an oven and last two hours or less on battery. Now really, does that sound like a Powerbook to you?

A Linux geek goes Mac. Jim Lynch, over at ExtremeTech, offers a look at his own entre into all things Mac, opting for a Power Mac G5 right off the bat and marveling over Mac OS X. "What you will read in this column are the impressions of a guy very much used to Linux and Windows....," Lynch says. Here's the story.

Smaller than a breadbox. That would be the new Mac mini that arrived today from Apple for an upcoming review. Wonder if it'll be a hit? Well, at least three co-workers (PC users, mostly) almost grabbed it from my hands as soon as it came out of the box. And without giving away one of the points in my review, one of them scoffed jokingly that anybody would want that "cheap" Mac. When's the last time you heard "cheap" and "Mac" in the same sentence? Maybe that accounts for the three- to four-week wait now at Apple's online store for the newest Mac.

That was fast! According to MacCentral.com, Apple has already cut the prices on build-to-order options for the new Mac mini. If you order the mini through Apple's online store, adding Bluetooth and AirPort Extreme wireless networking options now costs $99 -- $30 off the original price. Apple also cut the price of a 1GB RAM installation by $150 to $325. The 80GB hard drive upgrade for the 1.25GHz model, which was $80, is now $50. And Apple has replaced the 4x SuperDrive upgrade previously offered with an 8X unit instead. That upgrade will still cost you an even $100, however. (Late update: The 8X reference was apparently an online store typo. Looks like it's still a 4X unit.)

They're heeeere. If you ordered a Mac Mini the day they were announced last week, keep an eye out for the delivery truck. Mini buyers reported today that their new Macs are already arriving. Here are some pictures of one Mini unwrapping. And if you haven't ordered one yet, you might want to get in line. The current shipping times for new orders is now three to four weeks.

CIOs see Apple as 'irrelevant' to their IT plans. At least, that's how the CIO "jury" at Silicon.com feels about the company's hardware and software, according to this story. Among others quoted in the piece is Richard Yeo, CTO at easyGroup. Asked about whether Apple has a place in corporate IT, he was dismissive: "Proprietary hardware and software, overpriced, few applications."

About that PowerBook "G5".... If you're holding out hope for an update to the PowerBook line that includes the magic phrase "G5," you're going to be waiting a while it seems. Getting that hot little chip into a laptop will be the "mother of all thermal challenges," according to Tim Cook, Apple's vice president of worldwide sales and operations. Cook's comments came in response to a reporter's question during a conference call on Apple's latest earnings report. The Mac Observer, among other sites, has a story.

So now it's called 'lifestyle computing.' And according to mi2g's Intelligence Unit, the Mac mini unveiled by Apple CEO Steve Jobs will lead the way -- and put a dent in the sale of Windows-based PCs this year. In a statement released yesterday, the U.K.-based IT architecture firm said: "The Mac Mini points the way forward in providing an easy-to-use and affordable alternative to the familiar but malware-attracting Windows environment ... and the less streamlined and sometimes clunky Linux user interface...."

So the rumor-mongers were right. As had been rumored for more than a week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the wraps off the Mac mini G4 computer today. Bring your own keyboard, mouse and monitor and you're good to go. Price $499. Only hitch: It should have been out a month ago--just in time for the holidays. And yes, I know about the iPod shuffle, iWork and iLife '05. Good additions all--especially that Pez dispenser-sized iPod. But what about Apple's Powerbook line, which last saw an update last April? Not even a minor speed bump? Color me bummed.

Tomorrow morning's Mac news tomorrow night. So Apple will indeed provide a webcast of Steve Jobs' keynote address at MacWorld San Francisco after all. But if you're still hoping to tune in for the full skinny on whatever Jobs may have up his sleeve, you're going to have to wait a bit. Apple's Webcast of the speech won't be available until nine hours after Jobs starts speaking. That means it should be available from the Apple web site beginning at 9 p.m. EST. By then, whatever he has unveiled, will already be old news.

No live feed from next week's MacWorld Expo? It's not official (yet), but numerous Mac sites are reporting that Apple may not provide live video of Steve Jobs' keynote at next week's MacWorld San Francisco event. Online readers who have called their local Apple stores report that none of the stores will be showing the Stevenote either. Macintouch offers some of those reader comments in case you're interested (just scroll about halfway down the page). The move, if it turns out to be true, follows Apple's very public efforts to go after rumor sites that have allegedly leaked info about upcoming products. Color me bummed.

The meaning of B-I-G. I've seen the future (of LCDs) and it's big -- as in 30 inches on the diagonal. Yep, Apple has sent for a review purposes one of its massive 30-in. Apple Cinema Displays. Which means coming soon to Computerworld: a first look at what $3,299 buys you. Since I already have one of the 20-in. versions of the ACD, the comparison should be interesting. My first thought: Thank God I have a big desk. Second thought: I'm glad Apple included the Nvidia card I'll need to drive this thing on my Power Mac.

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