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PowerBooks to make PC users green with envy

Apple adds 17in and 12in mini-me notebooks to high-end range

Hundreds of journalists from across Europe congregated in a snow-dusted Paris to watch Steve Jobs' Macworld Expo keynote speech via satellite link-up to the San Francisco show. Despite not having flown across the pond to attend the show proper, the sheer number of people helped to recreate some of the excitement of actually being in the great man's presence.

Rumours were rife as to what Jobs would announce, from chameleon-style computer cases that would change colour to an Apple take on the tablet PC. But as ever the wraps were kept on until the simultaneous global launch.

As it turns out we were all wrong; what Jobs actually launched at the show were a couple of products that will ramp up PC users' Mac envy another notch. As if it weren't bad enough that we are stuck with beige boxes while Apple fans get to put the gorgeous iMac on their desks, now they have the choice of not one but two of the most covetable notebooks we have ever seen.

The PowerBook range has remained a little stagnant since its launch two years ago, and while the titanium design still wins hands down in the style stakes the technology was beginning to look a little old. Well, no longer. Now there are two additions to the range that will have Mac fans (and probably more than a few PC users) queuing up to place their orders.

First up is a 17in PowerBook that uses the same panel as the 17in iMac, making it the largest screen on a notebook to date. But the massive display isn't all that's innovative about this computer, as it also features built-in Bluetooth and Airport Extreme.

This is Apple's implementation of the latest wireless standard 802.11g, which offers data transfer rates of 54Mbps (megabits per second), as opposed to the 11Mbps on offer from existing 802.11b Wi-Fi, while retaining backwards compatibility with the older standard.

Despite the addition of the 17in 1,440x900 display, this model is actually thinner than the previous one at just under 1in (254mm) thick and weighs in at 3kg. Hardware specifications are the best Apple has to offer with a 1GHz G4 processor, 512MB DDR RAM, 64MB GeForce4 440 Go graphics, a SuperDrive DVD burner and 60GB hard drive. The sexy case is made from aircraft grade anodised aluminium which is what helps to keep the weight down and the finish attractive.

Of course there is one fact that will put PC users off joining the switch brigade, and that is the price. This beauty will cost an eye-watering £2,212 when it goes on sale next month.

If the price has found you backing swiftly away from the 17in PowerBook, Apple is ready to ambush you with an arguably even more desirably mini-me version. The 12in mini PowerBook is the most delightfully cute computer, but the dinky design doesn't stint on features — it also offers built-in Bluetooth and is Airport Extreme ready (a wireless card will cost an extra £67).

The mini PowerBook has an 867MHz G4 processor, 256MB of RAM, 40GB hard drive, 32MB GeForce 420 Go graphics and a combo DVD/CD-RW drive. What's more, it won't strain your back at 2.1kg or your bank balance at £1,191.

What a shame Christmas has just passed as we know what would have been top of our list for Santa.

Jobs anticipated that soon Apple's notebook sales will outnumber its desktop figures, and heralded 2003 as "the year of the notebook for Apple as we ship our largest and smallest portable ever".

The announcement of a new browser, called Safari, was an obvious attempt to wrest Internet Explorer from Apple desktops. Jobs said the company had introduced it to offer Mac users the "fastest browser ever" and to allow Apple the scope to innovate. To this end it has improved the method of storing bookmarks, allowing you to add them to a bookmark bar at the top of the page at the click of a button.

In a dig at Microsoft, Jobs said that the entire package was built on the open source KHTML rendering engine stating "Some people have a problem with open source, we think its great." Safari is a free download available now.

Other announcements included iLife, a new integrated suite of iDVD, iPhoto, iMovie and iTunes, priced £33, although all but iDVD are also available as free downloads. Keynote presentation software priced £67 will also be available, as well as a snowboarding jacket with a built-in iPod pouch and controls embedded into the sleeve, though this is only available via the US online Apple store priced $499 (£329).


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