Apple unveils thinner, lighter iBook, OS update

Apple Computer Inc. is thinking thin. The company launched its newest iBook laptop computer Tuesday, an all-white machine starting at $1,299 that is thinner, lighter and cheaper than its predecessor.

The new iBook was unwrapped at Apple's headquarters by CEO Steve Jobs. At 11.2 in. wide, 9.1 in. deep and 1.35 in. thick, the machine weighs in at 4.9 lb. -- 2 lb. lighter than Apple's current consumer laptop, Jobs said.

The new iBook uses a 500-MHz Power PC G3 processor with 256KB of performance-boosting on-chip cache and offers five hours of battery life, according to Jobs. As well as being lighter, the new iBook also has an improved screen resolution at 1,024 by 768 pixels. "This has the same number of pixels as an iMac in its highest resolution," he said.

The new iBook is priced lower than Apple's current consumer notebooks, which start at $1,499, and is scheduled to be available by the middle of the month with four different drive options, Jobs said. A CD-ROM version will retail for $1,299, a version with a DVD-ROM is priced at $1,499, a CD-RW version is $1,599 and a combination model that includes both DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives will retail for $1,799, he said.

"This does look like a breakthrough," said Martin Reynolds, a San Jose-based research fellow at Gartner Inc. "It's just like a portable iMac."

While Apple has found it difficult to persuade users of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows software to switch to its platform, the company may succeed in getting some of its existing iMac users to treat themselves to an upgrade to the new iBook, Reynolds said.

"If your iMac is 2 years old, you might be willing to make the switch," he said. "It's really slick, and the price point and feature set are what makes it so attractive."

The price difference between an iMac and an iBook has been reduced to within a few hundred dollars, Reynolds noted, "and video editing can now be done on a portable device."

The iBook also has a built-in Ethernet port, an internal 56K bit/sec. modem and a VGA port for external monitors. The computers also come "AirPort-ready" for wireless Internet access, Jobs said. This means they have two built-in antennas and a slot for an AirPort card.

The base model includes 64MB of RAM, while the other three models feature 128MB of RAM, Jobs said. All the models are expandable, which means users can install as much as 512MB of RAM.

The new iBook is "twice as durable as the last one," Jobs said, explaining that it has a magnesium frame and a polycarbonate plastic body. "This is the same stuff they make bulletproof vests from," he quipped.

Jobs said the iBook will become "the center of your digital lifestyle." That echoed a similar message from Intel Corp., which positions PCs and notebooks as a digital hub for editing and storing content from devices such as digital video cameras and music players. The new iBook features dual Universal Serial Bus ports and a single, 400M bit/sec. Firewire port.

Although the notebook won't be available to the public until the middle of the month, Apple has already received its first order for 23,000 new iBooks from the Henrico County School District in Richmond, Va.

Jobs also announced an update to Apple's recently launched OS X operating system that allows users to burn their own music CDs using Apple's iTunes program. Apple also unveiled a minor OS X update, which was posted for download on Apple's Web site.

Related stories:

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon