Thursday, January 09, 2003

According to today's Times, Apple's new laptop is a dream come true:

This 17-inch PowerBook G4 is a beauty, clad in unpainted, finely textured aluminum alloy, rounded at the edges and completely flat (and very hot) underneath. At 15.4 by 10.2 inches and only one inch thick when closed, it's gorgeous and shockingly big, like a sterling-silver cafeteria tray from Tiffany's.

Apple's engineers no doubt had a field day dreaming up cutting-edge technologies to cram inside; you've never seen such a long laptop feature list. In addition to the usual PowerBook amenities (Ethernet, S-video, modem, two U.S.B. jacks, a PC card slot, and a drive that plays and burns both CD's and DVD's), the new PowerBook offers several technologies that are not only firsts for Apple, but, in some cases, for the computer industry as well.

First, a Bluetooth transmitter is built in, so that the PowerBook can communicate wirelessly with a similarly equipped Palm organizer or cellphone (for an Internet connection). Second, one of its two FireWire jacks can connect to a new breed of hard drives with so-called FireWire 800 connections, which can transfer data about twice as fast as regular FireWire (and U.S.B. 2.0).

Third, the new PowerBook introduces 802.11g, a new version of the Wi-Fi wireless networking technology that has become popular among laptop lovers in coffee shops and airports. (Apple, understandably, gave it a less user-hostile name: AirPort Extreme.)

The beauty of this new standard is that it is compatible with all existing wireless "hot spots" - but if you buy Apple's new, $200 AirPort Extreme base station, you can transfer files five times as fast.

Apart from its Montana-size screen, the new PowerBook's most glamorous feature is its hidden light sensor. When it detects that you are working in, say, a darkened movie theater, the screen automatically dims slightly to save power. Then, amazingly, a fiber-optic light glows beneath the keyboard. The light spills out around the keys and, in fact, through the transparent letters on the keys themselves.

Frankly, the whole thing is a little silly; finding your way around the keyboard just isn't much of an issue when a 17-inch floodlight is towering above you. Still, the effect is undeniably spectacular. PowerBook owners will soon be dragging loved ones into dark closets and basements for demos.

And honey, if you've got $3,299 just laying around gathering dust, you can even buy me one.

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