Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Notebook Event

Jason Snell has a great writeup about the new MacBook and MacBook Pro that includes some details that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere. In brief, I like:

I don’t like:

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Methinks the harddrive may be a little too easy to remove.

You actually need to have a kensington lock inserted just to prevent somebody from easily popping out the drive at any time...

there is still 1 screw to remove to get the HD out.

but, by your logic, you could easily steal a battery on any laptop....

Nah, you’d need a screwdriver to take out the drive. It’s only one screw, but it’s a screw anyway.

And besides, if someone has the time and opportunity to nick your harddrive, why not take the whole machine!?!

The 17" design is also going to be refreshed soon. Saw an article on TheAppleInsider about this.

Might I ask what the problem with increased CPU speed is? Isn't that the whole point?

I'm shocked that they remove firewire. A lot of people have firewire drives and USB is just not a suitable replacement.

I think he means the lack of increased CPU speed.

Also, my MBP from early 2006 has only one FW port. From your post I take it that newer MBPs have two -- I don't mind having only one, given the ability to daisy chain.

I'm pretty sure there was a comment about "later" in the video somewhere regarding the 17".

Firewire is a loss, definitely. The loss of target mode doesn't sting as much as it could, given how easy it is to remove the hard drive.

Goobi: I just wish the CPU speed could have been increased more. They’ve improved it 200 MHz in the last year and 466 MHz in the last two years. That’s disappointing compared to switching from PowerPC to Intel or the first year of Intel speed bumps.

Brett: Yes, the late 2006 ones until now have had two FireWire ports. Daisy chaining can be slow if you have a mix of 400 and 800 devices, and it complicates hot-swapping.

Steven Fisher: The report from the event seemed to be that the existing 17″ would get some minor refresh, but it was never stated that it would get the new unibody and other improvements. If I had to choose, I’ve pick easy drive access over target disk mode, but I’d rather have both. Target disk mode has been a standard Mac feature since 1991.

There is some small issue I cannot figure out.
"The compact DisplayPort that supports up to 30″ displays even on the low-end MacBook."

If you have the Dell 30" screen that supports Display Port connections (very cool). You cannot buy a cable that supports mini-displayport -> normal size display port?
It means according to apple I need to spent about 99USD (for a min display port to Dual Link DVI adaptor.

I am sure this will be fixed but it does suck a bit if you want to buy it now and have it working.

Otherwise it looks great, apart from buying more firewire cables.

Chiclet keyboard on the 'Pro' books doesn't rate a mention?

Mainly what Apple has done is raise prices and include no video adapters (that many would need) in a recession. Keeping MacBook pricing so high and offering no netbook, they leave a huge amount of people that will no consider a Mac in a down economy.

Taking away Firewire on the MacBook pushes many users to have to consider the much more expensive MacBook Pro. Personally I will not upgrade after seeing these machines this year as I have a MacBook Pro that has a 2.4 GHz CPU.

Unibody constructin and a new Touch Pad is not enough to pay these prices. Maybe Apple does not follow their own stock prices!

mfbernstein: I’m reserving judgement until I try it. I love the standalone aluminum keyboard, but I think the one on the plastic MacBooks doesn’t feel very solid. I’ve heard that the one on the Air is better, so I expect that these would be, too.

Don't forget the battery life is longer.

Stephen said:

"Mainly what Apple has done is raise prices and include no video adapters (that many would need) in a recession. Keeping MacBook pricing so high and offering no netbook, they leave a huge amount of people that will no consider a Mac in a down economy."

Perhaps folks in a down economy shouldn't be buying *any* laptop at all.

Also, Apple's current stock price has *nothing what so ever* to do with the laptop announcement. To suggest otherwise is just ignorant.

I think the upgraded GPUs are likely to become a big deal in the Snow Leopard timeframe.

I'm pissed about losing Firewire (I'd reluctantly pick TDM over an easily removed drive, given that in a pinch, if you don't have a 2.5" enclosure handy, easily removing the drive doesn't get you very far), but I'm not recommending the $1000 machine to anybody at this point, strictly because of the GPU.

I work for a reseller and can confirm the 17" is not being phased out anytime soon. We had a conference call about this earlier today. Its being refreshed too. Apparently with the Matte display as an option still, whether this is the same information and the same 17" machine that was mentioned on the 14th I am unsure, since I wasn't involved in the call.

Nat: I can kind of understand the loss of firewire, as it isn't used much by the 'average user' (in my experience in IT support.) ..I think gigabit ethernet has the potential to be a more viable port for TDM. It has comparable speed, and the cables aren't so rare.

I'm just glad my one firewire enclosure also has USB.

Why no mention of the second graphics card???

When Snow Leopard ships the OS (and user apps) will be able to use this for all sorts of things, maybe even video transcoding!

This might be the biggest processor bump in history.

I'd put the lack of Blue Ray support in the positive column. Fact is Blue Ray's licensing requirements would require Apple to create much more restrictive system wide DRM requirements that would likely hamper OS performance much like it does on Blue Ray equipped Vista PCs.

Worse, Apple would have to pass that cost on to it's users. The biggest benefit I see to Blue Ray is the one it offers companies like Sony: much more restrictive DRM.

Regarding the loss of firewire ... I'd agree that its a real shame, especially given Apples long time championing of the technology. When it matters its far better than USB, but I guess the ubiquity (and general purpose) of USB win out in the low to mid-range.

BTW, even though the last range of MBPs had 2x FW ports (1x FW800, 1x FW400), they only ran one FW bus. So all the two ports gained you was somewhat easier cabling, not a speed advantage of hooking up two devices across independent buses, hence I'm not at all surprised to see the FW400 port purged.

The interesting step will now be a new 17" MBP for "Pro" users (one machine users, developers and photo/video users, etc), will Apple champion FW3200 or eSATA as an attachment? I can't see FW disappearing in this marketplace because of the sheer volume and intensity of data transfer ... witness the latest DSLRs w. 24MP RAW images ... thats a lot of data to be dragging to and from external drives.

Could be the opportunity for a nice leapfrog ... 17", 1920x1200, 16Gb RAM, quad-core, 256Gb SSD, 2nd battery (use "Air" CD/DVD), FW3200, 2x GPUs, 1/2x DisplayPort ... ;-)

Are you sure about the Target Disk Mode? I was under the impression that the Air had USB target disk mode and that the MacBooks had FW800 Ports, therefore, just because there's no FW400 port doesn't mean there's no TDM. I need to do more research but TDM is, in my opinion, way too important to get rid of. (They said the same thing about floppies, I'm sure ;)

I'm sorry; you're exactly right. No firewire on the new MacBooks. I misread during the announcement.

Craig: Thanks for the correction about the number of buses. I agree that there’s an opportunity at the high end. I’d like to see a 17″, perhaps with an extra processor or hard drive or RAM instead of the optical drive.

Without FireWire, how do you use Migration Assistant?

Scott: Migration Assistant works over the network if you open it on the host Mac. It also works with external drives attached via USB.

"Also, Apple's current stock price has *nothing what so ever* to do with the laptop announcement. To suggest otherwise is just ignorant."

For that matter, I think focus on stock price (read: short-term quarter-to-quarter profits, instead of investment and long-term *profitability*) is one of the most damaging aspects of the business world today. If Apple is ignoring their own stock price, here's hoping they continue!

I have a 1st gen Air and my wife has a white MacBook. The MacBook keyboard is pretty good, while the Air keyboard is OUTSTANDING -- better than the old macbook pro, better than the apple extended keyboard II, better than the powerbook 1400, better than the Apple //e. Haven't gotten my hands on a new macbook yet, but if it has the same keyboard as the Air it's a winner!

One thing about system performance: since the PowerBook G4 era, that is since February 2006, there has been an increase of more than 6 times the bus speed, which is something which gives far more usable speed increase than a mere CPU speed bump.

If we just take into account Intel laptops, the speed increase since February 2006 (first MacBook Pro) has been 1.6 times the original bus speed, or 60% percent more bus speed. Compare that to the FIXED bus rate since for all PowerPC G4 systems. Only G5 systems got faster system buses.

@paul: I guess the touch of MacBook Air's keyboard comes from the extra sturdiness of its unibody enclosure, and should remain the same, or even better, for the new MacBook line.

And I wouldn't be too surprised if Apple came with an EFI update that enabled target disk mode through USB… but perhaps target disk mode depends too much on the drive controller, while USB depends more on CPU power… Don't know. The real thing is the FW silicon is bigger and costlier than USB's.

The loss of TDM is disappointing, however I don't think that Apple is giving up on Firewire. More likely, they are trying to differentiate the consumer and pro models. This is something that's very difficult in the realm of laptops. You can only add so much to a pro model (you can't really put a RAID in there, and the screen size is dictated by the size of the computer), and you can only take away so much from a "consumer" laptop while remaining competitive.

During the PowerPC era this differentiation was accomplished by using the G3 chip in the iBook and the G4 chip in the PowerBook, while optimizing Pro software for the G4.

After the Intel switch, it was accomplished by adding features to Motion, Final Cut and Aperture which relied heavily on the GPU, and then putting a crappy GPU in the MacBooks (fortunately there was no serious Mac game market to alienate).

Now that the chips are the same and the GPU is powerful on both products, Apple removed Firewire to maintain the distinction. This ensures that Pros wanting 1) a new laptop right now and 2) to edit DV or HDV on said laptop pony up for a "Pro" laptop, while consumers with USB-capable video cameras (many consumer cameras now) can still work on the MacBook.

Another reason this is a great strategic differentiator is that few switching from a PC care about Firewire. So Apple doesn't lose sales to new customers while, at the same time, they protect themselves from cannibalizing their Pro market with an (admittedly awesome) less expensive laptop.

If I was upgrading my mid-2007 MBP right now, I would have bought the MacBook, *except* for the lack of Firewire (lots of DV tapes here). Also, I now own an EX1 which shoots on ExpressCards cards and is very convenient to work with on the MBP.

So Apple's strategy worked on me. In reality though, it's probably better for me to be gently nudged toward the MBP for the (extra) speed and screen size.

It's not just pros that use FireWire. Apple is alienating the education market by removing FireWire from the MacBook line. Many schools are heavily invested in FireWire drives, audio interfaces, prosumer cameras ie. with FireWire rather than USB, and they don't have the budget for MacBook Pros - as such, Apple is shooting itself in the foot in this market segment.

I teach at a college. I agree that it's a pain, but this assumes the school is outfitting a new Macbook lab or student body, but using older cameras. The simple alternative is to buy a workstation for capturing the media since it's likely that the output will not go back to tape.

As for the other applications (audio etc), these are professional applications (even if the students are not yet professionals). I'm certainly not saying that it's ideal, but I am saying that a lot of those with the choice (students or otherwise) will simply but the MacBook Pro

If cost is the issue, right now the students can still buy the white MacBook.

It's also not unheard of for Apple to add in the port in the next rev. It happened with the audio inputs due to demand from the audio education market. The point is that this will probably get more (albeit frustrated) media creators to upgrade to a pro machine than it will cause Apple to lose sales entirely.

Most manufacturers of Firewire 800 Hubs have discontinued making this product many months ago. What I don't like is that this is going to be tactically difficult to overcome on the MacBook Pro when daisy chaining mixed speed scanners, printers, drives, and card readers.

The only viable alternative is to use a third party express bus card to add ports. Some of these are incompatible with some third party firewire scanners, printers, drives and card readers.

What was Apple think'n?

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