Like everything Apple does, the new MacBook Pro lineup spawned a great deal of Internet chatter among Mac faithful. Some welcomed the new 13-inch Pro with open arms, remembering the well-loved 12-inch PowerBook—and happy to have a small MacBook with pro-level features as an option. Others were less than pleased with the loss of the ExpressCard slot in most MacBook Pro models, which Apple replaced with an SD Card slot in all but the 17-inch model. With no fewer than six different models available—not to mention BTO options—there’s a wide range to choose from. And with a $1,300 price spread across all the MacBook Pros, it’s clear that Apple is targeting the new Pro models at a wider audience than ever.
What's the same?
The new Pro models all feature the aluminum unibody design—only the single remaining MacBook model still sports the white polycarbonate case. They all feature AirPort, Bluetooth, multitouch trackpad, iSight, and other standard Apple features. And for the first time, there’s a 13-inch Pro model. All but the 17-inch model sport a new SD card slot, which we found more useful than an ExpressCard slot, although we certainly understand the chagrin of Mac users who already have a significant investment in ExpressCard gear. The LED-backlit screens are beautiful, showing brighter, more saturated colors than the previous generation. We just wish Apple would relent a little and offer an option for matte screens once again.
MacBook Pro models feature a new, nonremovable battery, which Apple claims can give you seven hours of “wireless productivity” on the 13- and 15-inch models. In our tests, Apple’s results held true—we were able to get almost all the way through the workday on battery power, under normal-use conditions. The drawback, of course, is that the batteries aren’t swappable, so if you’ve been holding out hoping Apple would bring them back, you’re still out of luck. Although for some, the increased battery life may negate the need to pack a spare anyway. In our power-intensive DVD rundown test, the 2.8GHz 15-inch Pro and the 2.26GHz 13-incher lasted an impressively long 3 hours, 39 minutes, and 3 hours, 29 minutes, respectively.
Since the majority of users will be choosing between 13- and 15-inch models—if you need the behemoth 17-inch model, you probably already know exactly why—we focused our testing on those machines. We were also curious to find out what an additional $1,100—the price difference between the entry-level MacBook Pro and the high-end 15-incher—nets you in the way of performance and features.
For day-to-day tasks (email, Internet, productivity apps), we found that the new MacBook Pros are all pretty sweet. They’re plenty fast, and the choice of what to buy will most likely come down to how much screen space you need—especially since RAM and hard drives are user-upgradable across the whole line. When we ran some of our more heavy-duty benchmarks, the differences began to stand out. The 2.26GHz 13-inch model sports Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics, as do all the MacBook Pros. On higher-end 15-inch models, however, you can choose to kick in the 9600M GT graphics card, which comes with its own memory. Battery life will take a hit, but for certain tasks, the performance boost is worth it. On our 2.8GHz test unit, we averaged 41.2 frames per second using Call of Duty 4 with the 9600M enabled, versus 24.4fps with standard graphics engaged (the 2.26GHz Pro model also hit 24.4fps). For gamers, video editors, and the like, the secondary discrete graphics card is probably a worthwhile investment, but everyday users don’t need to spend the extra scratch.
In our Photoshop Actions test, the 2.8GHz unit with 4GB RAM was 88 percent faster than its 2.26GHz sibling, which comes with only 2GB of RAM. This memory deficit was also apparent in our H.264 video-conversion test, where the 15-inch configuration was 32 percent faster. In our WAV-to-AAC audio-conversion test, speed gains were more modest, but the 15-inch model was 22 percent faster than the base MacBook Pro. Still, the base model posted respectable times across all our tests, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a laptop that strikes a balance between power and portability.
The bottom line.
Apple’s newest line of MacBooks offers choices for a wide array of users. We’re especially pleased with the significant price drops and stellar battery life. But we still wish Apple would bring back a matte-screen option, and the SD card slot might bum some people out.
2.26GHz 13-inch MacBook Pro COMPANY: Apple CONTACT:www.apple.com PRICE: $1,199
SPECIFICATIONS: 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB 1066 MHz
DDR3 SDRAM, 3MB shared L2 cache, 5,400-rpm 160GB hard drive, Nvidia
GeForce 9400M graphics processor with 256MB of shared DDR3 SDRAM,
13-inch glossy LED-backlit widescreen display, two USB 2.0 ports, one
FireWire 800 port, SD Card slot, Mini DisplayPort, analog/optical audio
output, selectable analog audio input, iSight, 802.11n AirPort Extreme,
$400 less than previous equivalent model. Bright LED display. Backlit
keyboard. Excellent battery life. FireWire 800 port. Great value.
No matte display option. Only ships with 2GB RAM.
2.8GHz 15-inch MacBook Pro COMPANY: Apple CONTACT:www.apple.com PRICE: $2,299
SPECIFICATIONS: 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB 1066 MHz
DDR3 SDRAM, 6MB shared L2 cache, 5,400-rpm 500GB hard drive, Nvidia
GeForce 9600M GT graphics processor and Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics
processor with 512MB GDDR3, 15-inch glossy LED-backlit widescreen
display, two USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, SD Card slot, Mini
DisplayPort, analog/optical audio input & output, iSight, 802.11n
AirPort Extreme, Bluetooth 2.1+ EDR
$200 less than previous model. Bright LED display. Excellent battery life. Discrete graphics card offers better performance.
No matte display option. Pro-level users might miss the ExpressCard slot.
Yes, It's Intel-only, but for anyone who does graphic- and processor-intensive work, Snow Leopard's full 64-bit support is good stuff.
WWDC 2009 was full of blockbuster announcements: New MacBook Pros, iPhone OS 3.0 and new iPhone 3GS hardware, and Snow Leopard, Apple’s next-gen operating system (Mac OS 10.6, if you’re counting).
And while there’s not a lot coming in the way of whiz-bang new features, it’s what’s going on behind the scenes that counts. In an interesting—and uncharacteristic—move, Apple will be selling the OS upgrade at a bargain-basement price. The $29 upgrade fee accomplishes two things: First, it accounts for the (apparent) lack of exciting new features from the user’s perspective. For the usual 129 bucks, people tend to want new stuff: new features, interface tweaks, and yes, new eye candy. Second, the modest upgrade fees help ensure that Mac users—who are traditionally very loyal to Apple’s OS upgrades anyway—will quickly move to Snow Leopard and in greater numbers than ever before.
Why the urgency? It’s because Snow Leopard has been entirely rewritten to take advantage of modern Intel hardware, and rapid user uptake will allow Apple to focus on moving its OS ever forward. Snow Leopard is also leaner than Leopard—Apple announced that a Snow Leopard install is 6GB smaller than Leopard. And Snow Leopard is faster as well. Apple has rewritten most of its own native apps to take advantage of 64-bit architecture, doubling the amount of data your Mac’s processor can crunch at one time, and tremendously increasing the potential of both existing Mac hardware, and whatever Apple’s got in the pipe.
NO POWERPC MACS ALLOWED.
Unfortunately, all this technological progress comes with a catch: Anyone still cruising along with PowerPC chips in their Macs will have reached the end of the road as far as OS X upgrades are concerned. Snow Leopard requires an Intel-based Mac.
Late-model Macs contain 64-bit processors, and Leopard already has limited support for 64-bit code. But most of the time, OS X and its apps parse data 32 bits at a time. While that doesn’t sound like much, keep in mind that’s 32 bits per clock cycle. A current midrange iMac accomplishes this nearly 3 billion times per second. Yes, billion, with a B. With Snow Leopard, however, Apple has rewritten nearly all of the native apps to take advantage of the 64-bit chips in late models Macs. So when it’s running 64-bit apps, your Mac will be able to process twice as much data as before, resulting in dramatic speed bumps for processor-intensive tasks. The only reason the world hasn’t already gone 64-bit is that applications must be written from the beginning to take advantage of 64-bit processing at the OS and chip level.
A BIT OF BACKGROUND.
For all you non-computer-science majors out there, a bit is the smallest unit of digital data that a computer can recognize. It’s the proverbial 1 or 0. Eight bits equals the one byte required to store one English character. This article contains about 6,600 bytes of data, give or take a couple thousand bits. A kilobyte is a thousand bytes. 5.25-inch floppies from the Mac Classic era held 1.44 megabytes, or approximately 1,440 kilobytes. Grow that by several orders of magnitude, and you’re up to the now-common 1 terabyte hard drive, which holds a thousand gigabytes, 1 million megabytes, or 1 billion kilobytes. And, of course, all of that is approximate. Technically speaking, a kilobyte is 1,024 bytes, but for simplicity’s sake, digital data is commonly measured in factors of 1,000—which explains why your 320GB laptop drive only shows about 298GB worth of space in the Finder. Which brings us back to 64-bit processors.
So what will 64 bits do for you? First the bad news. It won’t make working with everyday apps—like a word processor, email app, or Web browser—any faster. Your brain is the weak link in that chain. But for apps that require serious processing muscle to make things happen, the 64-bit architecture is your new best friend. Everything from complex Photoshop filters to 3D rendering will get a major speed boost from the new code. Pro-level audio and video apps are also likely candidates for 64-bit rewrites. But if you’re dreaming of 64-bit Photoshop, don’t get ahead of yourself. Creative Suite 4, which Adobe released in October 2008, is a 32-bit app. The Windows version of Photoshop is built from 64-bit code, but unfortunately the Mac versions of Adobe’s apps are built on Carbon, an older Mac programming environment, which Apple has abandoned in favor of Cocoa. That means all the existing code needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. Adobe remains committed to 64-bit apps on the Mac, however, and has stated that a 64-bit version of Photoshop is on track for release as part of CS5.
CORE 2 DUO? YOU'RE GOOD TO GO.
The good news is that Apple is already using 64-bit-capable chips in its most current Macs. If you’ve got a Core 2 Duo processor, which Apple started using in 2006, you’re good to go (to check your Mac’s CPU, check About This Mac under the Apple menu). Older G5 processors are also 64-bit, but as we’ve said, Snow Leopard itself will only support Intel-based Macs.
Apple offered limited 64-bit support in OS 10.4, better known as Tiger. Developers have been able to write certain kinds of 64-bit code for your Mac, although they also had to support 32-bit architecture. Under Tiger, developers could write background processes that utilized 64-bit processing power, but data had to be passed on to a 32-bit GUI—the part of the app that you see and interact with.
Snow Leopard marks the first time that the OS and native apps will be written to take full advantage of 64-bit code. Apple reports that with the September release of Snow Leopard, “nearly all system applications—including the Finder, Mail, Safari, iCal, and iChat—are now built with 64-bit code.” Save DVD Player, Front Row, Grapher, and iTunes, every bit of code on your Mac running OS 10.6 Snow Leopard will be able to leverage 64-bit computing power. To see which of your current applications are 64-bit, run this Terminal command:
Aside from increased data-crunching prowess, another huge win for Snow Leopard’s 64-bit architecture is the ability to support more RAM. And when we say more, we mean lots more. Current Macs running Leopard can support up to 32GB of RAM, but the 32-bit applications that run on them can only address up to 4GB at a time. A native 64-bit app, on the other hand, can theoretically utilize up to 16 exabytes of RAM—that is, 16 billion GB. Snow Leopard itself will be ready to support a much, much smaller 16TB of RAM, but that’s 500 times more RAM than current machines can handle.
Bottom line: Increased processing power, more future-proof architecture, and the ability to handle more RAM than you could possibly ever need...for now. And, in case you’re wondering, at today’s prices, 16TB of RAM would set you back $195,200. Good thing the Snow Leopard upgrade is only 29 bucks.—Ray Aguilera
The Macintosh, a computer that for over two decades has been the choice of creative professionals, is being adopted by more small businesses, a market segment that has traditionally been dominated by computers running Microsoft Windows. Apple has tried off and on since 1985 to pitch the Mac as a business machine, and the Macs of today are easily the most business-capable computers Apple has ever shipped.
If you’re a business owner or thinking of becoming one, you may be surprised by how useful a Mac can be and how it can save your company money in the long run. We’ve talked to business owners, scoured the Internet, and come up with the top ten reasons your small business should switch to Mac.
INDUSTRIAL DESIGN Apple’s reputation for good hardware design owes a lot to what its designers have done in the last 10 years. In 1998, the eye-catching curvy shape of the iMac helped forge a whimsical identity for the Mac, but its Bondi blue color and bulbous body didn’t complement every office’s décor. These days, the company’s designers are working with anodized aluminum casings with black or white accents that go with just about anything. Whether your desk surface is cherry, plum, or an unfinished plywood sheet, a new Mac will look great on it.
Having Macs in your office or shop sends a signal about your company’s philosophy: You understand good design and appreciate quality and simplicity. It could also signify how “with it” your company is, how creatively your employees think, or even how intelligently you manage the business.
Because most of your customers likely use Windows PCs at home and work, the Mac they see in your office will make an impression. Then, every time they see an Apple advertisement, there’s a chance they’ll think of you.
iLIFE’S SUPRISING BUSINESS USES Every Mac comes with iLife, Apple’s software for working with photos, music, video, and webpages, as well as iTunes and iCal. Just because most people use these apps in their homes doesn’t mean you can’t use them for work. iTunes can do more than just play music in your office; it’s also a great general-purpose audio sequencer, which you can use to shape the soundscape of your office or store. You can even insert marketing messages between music tracks. If your phone system lets you connect a CD player or other audio source for people to listen to while they’re on hold, you can use iTunes to burn CDs with playlists that set the right tone or mood for your business. Be sure to include a “thanks for holding” message between songs, to keep customers on the line.
You can also use iPhoto as a still-image sequencer. Perhaps your business won’t benefit from a slide show, but it might benefit from a slide show with helpful information on a continuous loop. If your company is undercapitalized, you can use iPhoto as presentation software, using the arrow keys to change slides manually.
GarageBand isn’t just an audio editor. You can use its recording capabilities to create those marketing messages for the iTunes playlist or the customer-service message for the hold CD. Use the provided royalty-free audio loops to make music underneath your message, and if you time it right, you’ll have a perfect thirty-second cut to use as a radio advertisement.
With iWeb, you can build a simple website from professionally designed theme templates. iMovie lends itself to making videos to attract more customers over the Internet or ad spots for television. iCal can help you make schedules for your employees and keep track of appointments.
COMPANY: Intermedia, Ltd. EMPLOYEES: 2 LOCATION: Nagano, Japan
Choosing the Mac was a no-brainer for Intermedia, a provider of Japanese-English translation services to mostly Japanese clientele. “A well-configured Mac becomes a seamless extension of your mind, in a way that no other combination of software and hardware can,” says Intermedia owner Brian Rafter. “That makes work more productive, less stressful, and a whole lot more fun.”
The Mac has long been a leader in multiple-display setups, and Intermedia takes advantage of this ability with a 23-inch Apple Cinema Display as its main monitor, flanked by two 20-inch Apple Cinema Displays. A fourth display is also within view. Typically, Rafter keeps the previous year’s version of a document in Japanese and English on the left monitor, the current year’s versions appear in the main screen, and reference documents are visible with a glance to the right.
Rafter uses Mac OS X’s Spaces feature, which enables multiple workspaces for each display, to switch seamlessly from one project to another. Since he juggles anywhere from five to six projects at a time, each project will have its own workspace, available instantly.
When Intermedia’s clients required it, Rafter used to translate on Windows PCs. Since switching to the Mac, his translation word count per day has gone up by about 25 percent, which gave him more time to craft definitions like “the difference in the radii of the arcs traced by the front and rear inner wheels of a turning car” to represent the Japanese nairinsa, an obscure word that pops up every now and then.
YOU CAN RUN WINDOWS APPS IF NECESSARY It’s difficult to justify buying a Mac to run software for Microsoft Windows, but that’s not the reason the compatibility factor makes this list. Rather, it’s knowing that your investment in Mac hardware won’t prevent you from using Windows software in the future--if you ever need to--that makes good sense. You can control the processes in your office, so you’ll run Mac software in-house. You can’t control the processes of other organizations, some of which may require compatibility with Windows.
While a Mac isn’t capable of running Windows apps out of the box, there are a number of options available that are cheaper than running out and buying a Windows-based computer. Apple’s Boot Camp software, part of Mac OS X Leopard, enables you to install your copy of Windows onto the Mac and lets you choose which operating system you’ll boot into.
If you prefer to use Windows programs without rebooting, you can try VMware Fusion ($79.99) or Parallels Desktop ($79.99), both of which require a copy of Windows. If you don’t have Windows, try CodeWeavers CrossOver ($39.95), though it doesn’t run as many programs as the other two.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT Corporations study the “total cost of ownership” of their technology to decide whether a computer system is worth purchasing. Businesses of all sizes find that the Mac platform can save money over time, despite the higher price tag associated with the initial purchase.
The Mac’s greatest ally in calculating cost of ownership is the value of time. Business owners say their Macs experience fewer crashes and other problems than PCs running Windows, translating to less lost work and fewer visits from the IT folks. They also tend to keep Macs in service longer than they keep PCs running.
The time calculation works both ways: You’ll have to place a value on retraining employees on the new operating system and lost time and increased agitation due to slightly different keyboard layouts and a different OS. You’ll also need to budget for Mac versions of the software you plan to run. (Of course, you would probably also have some retraining and software costs upgrading from XP to Vista if you stuck with Windows.) If you’re starting a new business, you can skip the costs associated with switching.
COMPANY: Stevens MacPhail, P.A. EMPLOYEES: 4 LOCATION: Spartanburg, South Carolina
firm Stevens MacPhail switched to a Mac platform in August 2005. “I got
tired of wasting time and money dealing with one problem after another
with our PCs and network,” says Ben Stevens, one of the company’s two
attorneys. “It seemed that we were having at least one issue a week
that was affecting our ability to most effectively represent our
clients, and that was not acceptable.”
Since the switch, the
company’s tech-support costs were reduced to almost nothing. (The
company still uses a Windows server that requires troubleshooting.)
Stevens reports 100 percent uptime on the company’s Macs. He also says
his employees are happier: “Anything that can be done on a PC can be
done on a Mac, and usually faster, better, and more enjoyably,” he says. The
company uses each of the apps in iWork. Stevens is especially fond of
Keynote for his presentations. Rocket Matter ($50/month), a Web-based app, is the company’s choice for case
management. Stevens MacPhail uses a combination of Parallels Desktop
and Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection to run two Windows apps:
QuickBooks (because the Windows version has better payroll features
than the Mac version, they say), and South Carolina’s child-support
calculator, which has no Mac version.
Stevens uses a MacBook
Air and his partner uses a 15-inch PowerBook from 2005 that he likes
too much to upgrade. The company’s two legal assistants use 20-inch
iMacs. “We often have clients and other visitors to our office comment
on how ‘pretty’ their computers are,” says Stevens, who also publishes
a legal Mac-tech blog, themaclawyer.com.
SECURITY Part of the reason businesses report more uptime with the Mac is because of the Mac’s built-in security features that keep viruses and malware at bay. A Mac won’t run Windows software right out of the box, so most of the malware lurking on the Internet won’t harm a Mac. The same goes with viruses that affect Windows users: With no version of Windows to run on, a virus will sit unused, unable to replicate itself.
Because viruses and malware are not a serious threat on Mac OS X yet, attackers have to fool unsuspecting Mac users into installing malware themselves. Apple’s Safari, Mail, and iChat software all notice when downloads contain applications, and tell Leopard to warn you the first time you open the software, hopefully thwarting the security breach.
The sunny state of Mac security may not last forever, of course: As more people connect their Macs to the Internet, attackers may take more of an interest in learning new ways to compromise them. Even so, experts have been saying this over the last decade, but the threats still haven’t shown up in large numbers.
TIME MACHINE Backups are tedious, time consuming, and inconvenient to schedules, but they’re critical for all businesses, especially small ones that don’t have IT departments in charge of such things. Mac OS X Leopard’s built-in backup software, Time Machine, backs up documents automatically. Should you accidentally delete your tax return, payroll info, or even if you just destroy part of it, you can easily call up Time Machine and travel backwards in hours, days, or weeks through time—onscreen, of course—until you find the particular file you were looking for.
Because it’s automatic, you don’t need to force your employees to come in on the weekends to babysit the backup. It’s a tradeoff, however: Time Machine stores its backup information on an attached hard drive, a Leopard server, or a Time Capsule wireless storage device ($299 for 500GB). Time Machine won’t make a copy that you can take off-site in case your office burns down, and it won’t let you keep stuff indefinitely (when the drive fills up, it starts deleting weekly backups). Still, it’s a lot better than no backup at all, and it’s easy to restore individual files quickly, without needing to spelunk through piles of removable media for an earlier version of the file. Think of it as a “Time- and Bacon-saving Machine” when calculating its benefit to your business.
COMPANY: Spruce Body Lab EMPLOYEES: 12 LOCATION: Vancouver, British Columbia
Customers visiting Spruce Body Lab for services like microdermabrasion or massage will notice the day spa’s calming design: subtle use of color; a logo in shades of green, suggesting new life; and a white iMac G5 at the front counter.
That iMac isn’t just for show: The spa uses Xsilva LightSpeed (from $1098/single user) point-of-sale software to handle invoices, inventory, and a customer database. LightSpeed even integrates with iCal for scheduling appointments.
“The Mac is a user-friendly and high-quality product with attention to detail,” says Kathryn Sawers, the company’s creative director and general manager. “It is a good fit for our business from an aesthetic perspective as well: We are a very modern and polished facility, and the Mac design complements that.”
The company uses Adobe Creative Suite for marketing materials, Adobe Contribute to update its website at sprucebodylab.com, and Microsoft Office for word processing, invoicing, and other business tasks.
iWORK Apple’s iWork software does a lot for just $79. The Pages word processor, Numbers spreadsheet, and Keynote presentation software let you take advantage of Apple’s army of designers and software engineers to make your company’s documents and presentations stand apart from generic business documents. Naturally, iWork is available exclusively on the Mac.
In addition to great-looking documents, iWork can also open and save Microsoft Office 2007 Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, letting your business exchange files with Office users in a Microsoft-dominated world. And at just $79, iWork is a lot less expensive than Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac ($299.95).
You can use Pages to create all kinds of great-looking newsletters, flyers, “take one” sheets, brochures, and other documents. Numbers can keep track of your company’s cash flow, and help you create beautiful 2D and 3D charts to help your employees, associates, and investors visualize what the data really mean. Keynote helps you prepare unforgettable presentations. iWork isn’t for everyone, but it’s a capable software suite.
COMPANY: Sea Shell City EMPLOYEES: 40 LOCATION: Fenwick Island, Delaware
When it’s raining in the beach resort town of Fenwick Island, Delaware, vacationers head to the shops on Coastal Highway. The staff at Sea Shell City, a longtime landmark of the town, loves rainy days.
They also love the Macintosh, using six iMacs as cash registers, plus more iMacs and a Mac mini for the business office and mail-order operations. The company has only one PC, tucked away in a back office. Though many of the store’s seasonal workers come from countries where Microsoft Windows dominates even more than in the U.S., the store hasn’t received many complaints from workers about the Mac. In fact, the workers catch on quickly.
“The only problem we have noticed sometimes is that the foreign employees like to go online when no one is looking to check mail from home and the news,” says Virginia Davidson, who helps her family run the business. “We hope in the future to have a lounge set up so that during their free time they can connect with home a little easier.”
Sea Shell City uses ShopKeeper ($1395/multiple user) for its point-of-sale software, and MYOB for accounting. Its website, at seashellcity.com, is served from an iMac.
YOU CAN RUN MICROSOFT OFFICE Despite no love lost between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Microsoft continues to improve upon the Office suite for OS X. Office 2008 for Mac includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage (the Mac version of Outlook, if you’ve used it in past work environments) and sports a few Mac-only features to balance out what it lacks.
Word 2008 for Mac offers one big advantage over Word 2007 for Windows: Its Page Layout view makes it easy to create elegant-looking documents. Excel 2008 includes premade ledger sheets, making it easy to keep track of finances without worrying about how to set up a spreadsheet.
If your office already runs a Microsoft Exchange server, you can use Entourage to connect to the server and use most of the features that full-fledged Outlook users can use, including email, calendaring, and contact management. Windows Outlook users have no parallel to Entourage’s My Day feature, which lets you see your schedule at a glance in a single window on your Desktop.
CHEAPER LICENSING FEES FOR SERVERS If you’ve ever bought a server for a Windows network, you know how they get you. Hint: It’s the licensing fees. Microsoft Windows Small Business Server, for example, has a retail price of $1,089. For that price, five clients can connect to the server. Each additional client costs $77. If you opt instead for a full-fledged copy of Windows Server 2008 and Exchange Server 2007, the pricing structure is even more complex.
Mac OS X server costs $999 and includes an unlimited client license, making the accounting simple. It uses the familiar Mac interface, so you don’t need to go out and get a certification before you set up your network. It’s got the communication and management capabilities you’d expect for a small business, and some you might not have thought about, such as a Wiki Server to make your intranet more collaborative and flexible. And, as your business grows, you don’t have to shell out for more client licenses.
COMPANY: Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit EMPLOYEES: 12 LOCATION: New York City
Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit was ranked second in Zagat’s New York City Gourmet Shopping and Entertaining 2008 and 2009. It’s no surprise that the shop is doing so well: Its founder, Tom Geniesse, understands that a good shopping experience makes customers happier and keeps them coming back.
Naturally, Geniesse is a Mac user. “I love Apple and always have. The company designs with people in mind. They provide an excellent, intuitive, and beautiful experience. We are trying to do the same thing at Bottlerocket.”
Geniesse is really trying, and customers notice. For customers with kids, for example, there’s a “children’s nook” with toys and books to keep them busy. Customers can bring dogs in too; the shop provides water and dog treats. Themed display islands, organized by intended use of the wine, make selection easier for novices. Each bottle also has tasting notes posted nearby.
The company chose PayGo ($349/year) as its point-of-sale software, and uses it to offer better service: The tasting notes for each wine are stored in PayGo’s database, so customers receive each bottle’s tasting notes with their receipt. Bottlerocket also uses PayGo to power its website’s shopping cart, running on “a big fat [Apple] Xserve,” at bottlerocketwine.com.
BECAUSE IT'S A MAC Apple has made the Mac the best computing experience available, so why would you accept anything less for your business? Sure, Macs costs more than low-end PCs initially, but isn’t it worth it in the end to pay a little bit more up front for a computer that works with you, rather than against you? Mac users love their computers, so, if you can, it makes nothing but sense to bring that to your business. The strides Apple has made in offering business solutions over the past decade are making the Mac a more sensible choice, as our profiles of Mac-using businesses throughout this article prove.
COMPANY: Arockalypse EMPLOYEES: 3 LOCATION: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
When Arockalypse founder Jeff Mains was starting his skateboarding, footwear, and clothing shop, he went into it with an open mind: Though he was a Mac user with a degree in graphic design, he would be willing to accept a Windows-based point-of-sale solution for his business, if it were the best choice.
“After researching many other specialty retailers that I know through our industry, I realized so many people were not happy with PC-based POS,” says Mains, who opened the shop after years of working as a marketing representative for some of the clothes he now sells in the store. “I had researched LightSpeed through Apple, and after months of considering, and researching, it was apparent that Mac and Xsilva were appropriate to our needs. It also fits our business ideals, style, and standard.”
Mains says that as the Mac gains mainstream popularity, his customers have started to ask about it when they see one in the store. He responds with the reasons the Mac is better. Mains’ passion for the Mac is much like his passion for skateboarding.
The company also uses the Mac to design apparel, skateboards, and its website, which is packed with action photos and video of local skaters, at arockalypsenow.com.
Remember when Steve Jobs announced the coming of the iPhone in January 2007? We only mention it here so you can imagine the palpable excitement that ran through the auditorium that day and compare it to the polite applause that met Senior VP of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller’s announcements during the Mac Expo 2009. Phil gave cool demos of the updates in iLife and iWork ’09 and surprised no one by announcing the 17-inch unibody MacBook Pro. But when the lights came up and everyone filed out of the auditorium, the Applesphere remained largely unrevolutionized.
That’s the short version. The truth is, the improvements in iLife, iWork, and iTunes that Phil told us about may not be felt for months. Unlike the arrival of a single, sleek, wondrous gadget like the iPhone, Apple’s updated consumer suites and eco-friendly big-screen portable Mac will take a while to work their way into the Mac-using universe in a way that’s deeply felt.
If your first reaction when you read about the keynote announcements was, “That’s it?” you’re not alone. We admit it—it was tricky coming up with a sexy angle on the story for this issue. But have a little patience: iLife and iWork ’09 have a lot of potential, and Apple seemed to promise that there’d be way more cool stuff to come when it invited legendary crooner Tony Bennett to the stage to sing “The Best Is Yet to Come” after the Philnote.
We don’t know what’s coming from Cupertino in the future, but we can only guess that as long as Steve Jobs is around, it will continue to wow Mac fans and the world at large.Here’s a look at what the Apple’s Mac Expo announcements mean to Mac users everywhere.
In 2009 and beyond, the consumer creative suite may just be the bait Apple needs to lure thousands more switchers to abandon their Windows PCs.
FUELED BY DREAMS, POWERED BY IMAGINATION. Matt Groening meant to satirize Steve Jobs and Apple in the “Mapple Store” episode of The Simpsons, but when Homer becomes mesmerized by the glowing MyCubes that are “fueled by dreams and powered by imagination,” the sales dude might as well have been talking about iLife ’09, which features the same creativity apps you already know about and which still ships free on every new Mac. The improvements seem engineering-intensive enough to make us wonder how Apple could ever recoup its R&D costs by selling upgrades for a “mere” $79. (And for anyone who rushed out to buy a brand-new 17-inch MacBook Pro in early January after Phil Schiller announced their release at this year’s Expo, you can upgrade to iLife ’09 from iLife ’08 for $9.95 plus tax.
The only conclusion we can draw from the effort Apple poured into iLife is that the company hopes to lure bazillions of new Mac buyers with the promise of the mind-blowingly cool projects they can create with the software suite.
In case you haven’t heard, the additions and improvements to the primary iLife apps (iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand) are pretty major, especially in the case of iPhoto and GarageBand, and to a smaller degree in iMovie, which was totally rebuilt for the iLife ’08 update. The changes in iPhoto and GarageBand represent an interesting mix of advanced technology applied to a consumer product (in the case of iPhoto) and a quite visionary goal to teach every GarageBand user how to play an actual musical instrument (more on that later), in addition to bringing sound editing made simple to nonmusic pros.
Your photo library could look like this in iPhoto ’09--so go out and get yourself some prettier friends!
FACES AND PLACES
iPhoto ’09’s most important improvements are two smart, fun ways to catalog a personal photo collection: by faces (using face detection and face recognition technology) and by places (using geotags). If you only take the occasional snapshot of your dog or your drinking buddies, and if you rarely travel farther than your place of residence or business, iPhoto ’09 is about as useful to you as a frequent-flier mile program membership and a set of Louis Vuitton luggage. But for a certain swath of Mac users, Faces and Places represent a significantly more efficient--not to mention technically whizzy--way to catalog your snaps.
In addition to the Events category in iPhoto, Faces and Places sort your image library based on the people in them and the locations where they were taken, respectively. iPhoto ’09 wasn’t yet shipping as we went to press, but it will be by the time you read this, and we spent quite a bit of time commandeering the attention of Apple booth workers at Mac Expo, having them demo Faces and Places on demand--using Apple’s preloaded iPhoto libraries of gorgeous, happy people enjoying good times with their gorgeous, happy friends and families in exotic locales. If your photo collection has at least 200 images in it and/or if it spans more than two years, it’s a good bet you’re going to get a thrill from and save quite a bit of time with Faces, which creates a snapshot for each person you’ve entered as a face, then stacks all the photos of that person underneath it automatically, essentially sorting your photo collection by person faster you could ever do it manually.
Places, meanwhile, automatically takes in photos’ geotags if they have them, or lets you type in a photo’s location. More fun, perhaps, are the ways iPhoto uses location info, allowing you to add maps to your printed and digital photo albums and slide shows, and letting you sort your entire photo library by location, displaying this info in a Google Maps–esque view.
Yes, it’s tough to get excited about Places if you don’t travel, but even so, we were impressed by the effort of the iLife dev team to boost iPhoto’s usefulness. Since its photo-editing abilities can only be described as underwhelming--and those features didn’t change in iLife ’09--iPhoto ’09 now has the potential to be the best consumer photo-cataloging app in existence (for photo editing, we prefer the $99 Adobe Photoshop Elements, www.adobe.com).
HI, I’M STING…
New to GarageBand ’09 is a feature we can’t say we predicted--but then, Apple doesn’t tend to do the predictable thing. According to Phil, Apple brass tasked the GarageBand team to provide a fun, fast, easy way for users to learn to play the piano or guitar--really learn it. To that end, GarageBand now includes music lessons, presented by no-name musicians with pleasant demeanors and nonthreatening names like Tim, as well as artist lessons from famous musicians like John Fogerty, Sting, Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones, and others.
Each celeb introduces him- or herself in a friendly, warm voice, as if you’re meeting each other at a party or over a cup of coffee. You get a video lesson from the artist complete with onscreen finger-placement hints and musical notation. GarageBand ’09 comes with a starter kit of preloaded basic lessons; artist lessons are sold separately for $4.99 each in the new GarageBand Lesson Store from within the app.
This is Tim. He’s not famous, but he’s really nice and wants you to learn to play the guitar.
We’re not quite sure where Apple got the idea that users wanted GarageBand to teach them to play an instrument, but it may well pay off when it comes to Mac sales, and will no doubt help Apple keep flogging the notion that Macs are for creative, adventurous types who want to learn new things, while Windows PCs are for those who’d rather stick to what they already know.
iMovie made smarter. iMovie got some improvements too, which we’ll go into in more detail in a future review. Suffice it to say here that it seems clear that Apple heard user complaints that iMovie ’08 was fast and easy but just too amateur-oriented. Features like the Precision Editor and automatic image stabilization will come in handy for people who know their way around a video-editing timeline but aren’t ready to step up to Final Cut just yet.
Work usually isn’t fun or sexy—and it’s not always easy, but iWork ’09 can help make word processing, spreadsheet wrangling, and presentation-building a little more of all those good things.
iWork ’09, adds more features for everyday Mac folks as well as “pro” users who need to create sophisticated business or academic documents and presentations. These advancements—along with the iWork.com online sharing site—should entice more people to consider Apple’s suite over something less elegant like Sun’s OpenOffice (free) or something more expensive like Microsoft Office ($399.95).
Across the whole iWork suite, which includes spreadsheet app Numbers ’09, word processor Pages ’09, and presentation app Keynote ’09, toolbar buttons let you upload your documents to iWork.com, which is still in beta--meaning it’s free for now, but eventually will become a paid service. From there, you invite others (by email) to view your documents in their browser, where they can also add comments and download their own copies as iWork, PDF, or Microsoft Office files.
This is a great idea, but it’s hardly new. Microsoft’s Office Live Workspace (workspace.officelive.com) does the same thing, with the addition of versioning tools missing from iWork.com, but it only supports Office formats, and until Office 2008 for Mac gets an update, only Windows users with Microsoft Office 2007 can send documents to Office Live Workspace directly from their Office applications. Google Docs (docs.google.com) lets you create or upload documents for others to view, edit, or download, but it doesn’t support native iWork formats at all, just PDF, Microsoft Office, and Open Office. Still, both of those services are free, while iWork.com will cost money to use once it’s out of beta. iWork ’09 does have built-in options to save documents as PDF or Office formats, and to email iWork, Office, or PDF documents directly from the iWork apps.
Among the new templates are a whole host of personal-finance documents in Numbers.
Each iWork app includes more templates to jump-start creativity and make it one-click simple to give your documents a polished look. Pages adds power with an outline view, support for MathType equations and EndNote citations, plus a distraction-killing full-screen view, a critically acclaimed feature of creative-writing-focused Mac apps like Scrivener, WriteRoom, and CopyWrite. In Numbers ’09, only the second version of the app, the improved formula builder and copious examples in the Help menus make it much easier for novices to wrangle the 250-plus included functions, while power users get advanced charting options (trend lines, error bars, and the ability to mix chart types) and AppleScript support. Keynote adds snazzy text and object transitions, plus a neat Magic Move feature: If you use the same objects on consecutive slides, the app will auto-animate a transition from one slide to the next. iPhone and iPod touch owners can use the 99-cent Keynote Remote app to control their presentation wirelessly, although a Wi-Fi network is required, since the iPod touch doesn’t have Bluetooth.
iWork is available now for $79 or $49 when purchased preloaded on a new Mac. Since it requires Mac OS 10.5 Leopard, Apple is also offering the Mac Box Set (starting in late January when iLife ’09 is available), bundling iWork ’09, iLife ’09, and Leopard for $169, a savings of $118 off buying them separately.
Glossy-screen haters can replace the display with an antiglare one for $50 extra.
17-inch Unibody MacBook Pro
An ultrathin MacBook pro with a ginormous screen and non-user-removable battery for $2,799? Creative pros, be our guests; we’ll wait until the reviews come in to drop our own cash on one.
When Phil Schiller told the crowd at Apple’s keynote that he had three things to talk about, we hoped he really meant “three things...in addition to the completely no-brainer announcement of an updated 17-inch MacBook Pro.” Because after Apple’s October 14, 2008, event introducing the latest MacBook and 15-inch MacBook Pro in their sleek, slim, unibody aluminum enclosures, the eventual arrival of a matching 17-inch MacBook Pro seemed inevitable. The only question was how much the 17-incher would differ from its 15-inch li’l sib.
Now we have our answer: not much, except for that battery. And the 17-inch MBP’s battery situation—it features an ultrathin non-user-removable long-life battery—could be a huge advancement or a disaster, although we won’t know for sure until long after the machines start shipping to customers in late January.
But first, the specs. In the “duh” column are the 17-inch MacBook’s recyclable aluminum unibody, plus its mercury- and arsenic-free glass, LED-backlit display, integrated and discrete graphics chips, Mini DisplayPort, and multitouch trackpad. All of that is already featured on the newest 15-inch MacBook Pro.
Even the speed bumps are unsensational. The 17-inch machine can take up to 8GB of RAM (the 15-incher tops out at 4GB). Buyers can upgrade to a 2.93GHz processor on the 17-incher, the fastest ever in a Mac laptop (the 15-incher’s fastest is a 2.8GHz chip), and/or a 256GB solid-state hard drive (the 15-incher’s biggest SSD is 128GB). You can choose a $50 “antiglare” screen option instead of the standard glossy display, which at least proves that Apple heard the complaints from image pros. Oh, and the 17-inch Mac has three USB 2.0 ports instead of the 15-inch model’s measly two. Still awake?
That leaves the battery—and only the battery—as the truly big news. In order to keep the 17-inch MacBook Pro less than 1 inch thick, Apple had to nix the removable battery found on every Mac laptop except the MacBook Air, the explanation being that the removal mechanism and user-accessible housing just take up too much space.
The video Apple showed (see it online at www.apple.com/macbookpro/17inch-battery/) about its “breakthrough” new technology explained how the totally reengineered battery will last up to 8 hours per charge and have a life span up to 3 times as long. Apple’s Adaptive Charging advancement adjusts the current used to charge individual battery cells, which should reduce wear and tear on the battery as a whole, so the battery retains 80 percent of its capacity through 1,000 charge cycles, instead of the 300 charge cycles a typical notebook battery will get. And the battery gets 8 hours per charge by using lithium-polymer cells—since they’re thinner than lithium-ion cells, Apple can cram more cells into a smaller space.
This all sounds nifty, but every technology buyer realizes that companies’ battery-life claims should be taken with a grain of salt. As of this writing, we have no way of knowing how accurate Apple’s claims are, and even after the 17-inch MacBook Pros start shipping, it’ll take quite some time for the early adopters to reach 1,000 charge cycles and report back. On-the-go pros, who rely on switching out their machine’s battery with a spare, might want to let others play guinea pig for now. Apple’s decided that you’d rather have a sub-1-inch-thick laptop than a spare battery—like it or not.
At press time, many albums were already 256kbps and DRM-free. By the end of March, all 10 million songs in the store will follow suit.
More Music Choices in iTunes
Witness DRM’s death on iTunes, and get ready for sweeter-sounding tunes at prices to fit all budgets.
The iTunes news Phil Schiller shared with the crowd on Jan. 6 may be the sleeper hit of the Expo this year. Apple’s been in the DRM-free camp for a long time, and Steve really threw down the gauntlet in 2007 with his Thoughts on Music anti-DRM screed. But even if you couldn’t care less about copy-protection hassles, the fact that everything in the iTunes Music Store is getting bumped to higher bit rates is good news for everyone who listens to digital music.
Transitioning to 256kbps files means a better sound quality. And you don’t need to be a golden-eared audiophile with an $80,000 stereo to hear the difference. With a decent set of earbuds, the difference between older 128kbps files and higher-bit-rate versions becomes apparent pretty quickly. The new tracks offer a much better experience for listeners, and also better ease-of-use, particularly for households with more than a single Mac.
What is DRM? The digital rights management protection on older tracks from the iTunes Store is what keeps you from using your music on more than five computers and limits the number of times you can burn a specific playlist to a disc. It’s also what keeps thieves and other assorted jerks—who feel they ought to get paid for going to work but that musicians don’t deserve the same—from putting iTunes tracks up on BitTorrent sites, since they wouldn’t play on other machines anyway.
But pirates, be warned. Just because DRM is dead on iTunes, you can’t start torrenting all your Britney albums from iTunes. The files still have your information—including your name and account info—attached to them. Privacy-geeks may balk, but in our minds, it’s a small price to pay for files that we can use anywhere we want, any time. Besides, if you really want to steal music, you’ve probably already done it. In less than five minutes, we found all of iTunes current top 10 albums available illegally elsewhere on the Internet. Despite all the record industry’s protestations, DRM isn’t doing anything to prevent piracy.
Apple has long been a fan of uniform pricing. Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” has traditionally cost the same 99 cents as the latest Kanye jam. But to negotiate DRM-free tracks, Apple had to compromise, letting the labels introduce variable pricing. Starting in April, they’ll be able to capitalize on popular songs, charging $1.29, while older catalog tracks will be available for 69 cents and 99 cents. Phil assured us that there will be more songs available for 69 cents than $1.29, but that’s a bit of a red herring. By definition, the cheaper tunes won’t be the ones most people are buying. Still, we love the new better-sounding, easier-to-manage iTunes tracks, and in fact, we’ve returned to iTunes after defecting to Amazon’s MP3 Store a year or so ago for music downloads. The variable pricing is lame, but overall we’re excited to be returning to Apple to feed our music addiction. Navigating the Amazon store always kind of sucked, and we prefer AAC files to MP3 anyway.