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Keynote announcements

The Macworld Expo 2008 Keynote Address by Steve Jobs has finally come and gone, putting an end to all the speculation. The big news, of course, is that the MacBook Air predictions were nearly spot on.

There was plenty of other news, too, but it took quite a while for the event staff to get the masses in the door and in their seats. So long, in fact, that many of us missed half of the Keynote. The main auditorium was beyond capacity, and so were the rooms playing the Keynote on closed-circuit television. But no one was grumbling. Everyone had come to see a big announcement, and they weren’t disappointed.

As I walked in to one of the rooms broadcasting the Keynote on CCTV, Jobs had just introduced movie rentals on iTunes. Apple has lined up every major studio to provide content that will include all the latest releases and many library titles. New releases will cost you $3.99, library titles $2.99. You can download the movies from iTunes to Macs and PCs, as well as to video iPods and iPhones. Not sure I’ll go with this over Netflix, personally, because when you rent a movie you have 30 days to begin watching it, but then only 24 hours to finish it. You can transfer the movie from your MacBook to your iPhone if you need to be on the go while you’re watching it, but that is small consolation to me. I’d much rather have as long as I want to watch it.

Even bigger news was what Jobs referred to as “Apple TV Take Two,” which will allow you to download iTunes movie rentals and play them directly on your widescreen TV in true DVD or HD quality, all without needing a computer. The new AppleTV supports YouTube, Flickr, .Mac, music, photos…. the list goes on. And it syncs wirelessly with your Mac or PC. The price has dropped to $229, also. The new AppleTV is a mighty attractive product, indeed. Jobs admitted candidly that the original AppleTV had been a failure, but the new one looks like it could make the product line viable.

The showpiece, obviously, was the MacBook Air, “The world’s thinnest notebook.” Here are the specs:

– Weighs 3.0 lbs.
– 0.76″ to 0.16″ thin
– Full-size keyboard with backlighting
– A “generous” trackpad that supports several multi-touch gestures (move a window by double-tapping it, pan around or
rotate a photo with two fingers, pan to the next photo with three fingers, zoom on a photo by pinching)
– Full-size 13.3″ LED display
– 2 GB memory
– Flip down door reveals USB 2 port, Micro-DVI, headphone jack
– Intel Core 2 Duo – 1.6 Ghz standard, optional 1.8 Ghz processor available (Intel CEO Paul Otellini came out and discussed
how proud they are of their new chip, which they designed specifically for the MacBook Air: it’s 60% smaller than the
standard chip, about as wide as a dime)
– 1.8″ 80 GB hard drive standard, optional 64 GB solid-state drive available
– 802.11n Wi-Fi
– Bluetooth 2.1 support
– iSight camera built-in
– Magnetic latch and MagSafe power connector

The cost for the MacBook Air will be $1799 , and Apple will start shipping them in two weeks.

Interestingly, there is no optical drive built into the MacBook Air. If you want to rip CDs or load new software on it you can either buy a peripheral optical drive for $99 or connect to another computer wirelessly and use their optical drive. “The MacBook Air was made to be a wireless machine,” Jobs said, explaining this decision. He emphatically expressed his confidence that people will not miss their optical drives — yet he spent a good chunk of time telling us how we’d perform all the tasks that we’ll need an optical drive for. Not sure if this idea will revolutionize the industry or not, but Apple certainly seems to be hoping so.

The Keynote was closed out by Randy Newman singing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” Because nothing says “Leader in innovative computer technology” like Randy Newman.