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Back to the Mac Opinion

Well that's another special media event over and Apple have presented us with some new hardware and software to take a look at. A refresh to the Macbook Air, release of iLife '11, introduction to the next OS X (Lion) and the introduction of an app store for Mac software. Pretty substantial event so lets take a look at each piece individually.

1. Macbook Air. The MBA is apparently what would be produced if the original Macbook Air and the iPad had a clandestine relationship. The result is a pair of beautiful laptops which are tiny and light coming in at just 2.9lbs for the 13 inch model and a mere 2.3lbs for the 11 inch model. Flash memory for instant on and battery life of 5hrs and 7hrs for the 11 and 13 inch models respectively sounds pretty impressive but would you buy one? With a price point beginning at £849 for only 2Gb of RAM, a massively underpowered 1.4GHz processor and 64Gb of storage it is not the most appealing of deals considering the 13 inch Macbook costs £849 for which you get a more impressive 10hrs of battery, a bigger screen, 2.4GHz processor and 250Gb of RAM for a still light 4.7lbs. Sadly the MBA just doesn't seem to have a reason to exist at the moment. Decrease the price to closer to £700 and I'll think about it.

2. iLife '11. The new iLife suite has been released and contains the same software as before, i.e. iPhoto, iMovie, iWeb, iDVD and Garageband. in this release there are updates to 3 out of these 5 applications namely iMovie, iPhoto and Garageband. much has been written about these new features already so I'm only picking out a couple of them. The new full screen mode for iPhoto is nice and allows the user to have their full screen taken up with just the application and no menu bars from the OS. Looks very like an iOS app in this mode I have to add. iPhoto also has some new slideshows and improved integration with cloud platforms like Facebook and Flickr.

iMovie has gained a very impressive movie trailer mode. I'm not sure how this one will look when you're trying to make a trailer of the family coming round for Christmas but I am looking forward to playing with this. It has also gained an excellent looking sound management feature and a similar face finding feature as the one in iPhoto.

Garageband has two features musicians are likely to love, namely Groove Matching and Flex Time. Flex Time gives you the ability to better manage the different sounds within a track and fix some errors like not holding a note for long enough. Groove Matching is like spell checking for songs and automatically corrects serious track issues like instruments being out of time with the beat.

iWeb and iDVD do not appear to've gained any new features but even with no changes to those there is enough in this release to warrant me buying it and I will be as soon as possible.

3. OS X 10.7 Lion. We got a sneak peek at the next 'big cat' and it shows the influence that iOS has had in Apple. With features such as a new application launcher, to be honest this looks like a modified version of stacks when you drop the application folder on your dock. The new launcher does support features such as the iOS folders which might be a nice addition but I'm not convinced. Mission Control brings together everything that is running on your Mac onto one dashboard. It is the merging of Expose, Spaces and Dashboard which is an interesting idea but seems a little useless if you're using an older Macbook that doesn't have a motion sensing trackpad but we'll see closer to the time I suppose. The final feature on show is full screen applications which is similar to what iPhoto gives us now. This does give the Mac a strange iPad feel and will be interesting to see how developers innovate and deal with it. I can't wait to see Lion up and running.

4. The final piece of news from Steve was the App Store for Mac. This is basically the same as the iPhone App Store but stocking applications for OS X. While it was announced as part of the Lion segment it is actually due to open in 90 days. Having an application store that can keep track of your applications and alert you to updates is great but after the issues with the iPhone App Store it'll be interesting to see what restrictions Apple put in place. This really is one of those things that can only really be judged after it's launched and we see how developers take to it. I hope it's a hit and I'm tempted to develop Mac applications now there is an easy release mechanism.

So that's the Back to the Mac event. Some very interesting developments on the OS front, an application store which could be a second developer gold rush, a disappointing hardware refresh and a new iLife suite that is certainly worth a look especially if you're on a version pre-2009. I nearly forgot Apple also released a beta of Facetime for Mac. I haven't gotten my hands on it yet but it looked nice, very bare on the feature front and with no integration with iChat, which is disappointing. With the Mac accounting for a 1/3 of Apple's revenue it's not hard to see why it gets an event on its own and its nice to see that Apple hasn't forgotten about it.
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