Apple today released the latest version of its Mac OS, called Lion, along with new MacBook Air models, and its first desktop display that incorporates the blazing fast Thunderbolt I/O interface. 

The key changes for the new MacBook Air notebooks include more powerful dual-core Intel CPUs (the Core i5 and Core i7), making the computers twice as fast as the previous models, according to Apple. They also are the latest Apple computers to sport the Thunderbolt I/O port, a technology developed with Intel

The I/O interface uses two two-way channels, each capable of a maximum data rate of 10Gbps. Thunderbolt devices can be daisy-chained together. The new computers are available in 11- and 13-inch models, each with two different RAM and hard disk options. All have a high resolution LED backlit display, and a full-size backlit keyboard with a glass “Multi-Touch” trackpad. Full specifications are online.  

Prices start at $999 and top out at $1,599. The new Apple Thunderbolt Display is a 27-inch monitor, with 16:9 aspect ratio and edge-to-edge glass design. It has a 178-degree viewing angle. Any Thunderbolt-equipped Mac notebook can dock with the display using a single cable. Up to five Thunderbolt devices can be daisy-chained together. 

The display has a built-in FaceTime HD video camera, speaker system, and an integrated MagSafe charger to keep Mac notebooks charged. Besides the Thunderbolt port, it includes three USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, and one Gigabit Ethernet port. The new display is scheduled to be available within 60 days, and it doesn't come cheap: Suggested retail price is $999. 

Apple also updated its Mac mini product, which is a compact block-like desktop computer that users can hook up to an existing keyboard-display combination. The new models, starting at $599, also use the Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs, and the AMD Radeon HD 6630M chip for graphics. 

There's a separate server configuration based on the quad-core Intel Core i7 chip. Options include up to 8GB of memory, a faster 7200 RPM hard drive and a 256GB solid state drive. 

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. 


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