Leave to Apple to be the trendsetter in style and performance, and now in value!  The recently introduced new iBook does all of this.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Apple Campus (as Apple calls its headquarters offices in Cupertino, CA) for one of their legendary no-info-ahead-of-time press conferences.  We didn’t know what it was that was so important, but we had the sense that it was big news.  So, there we were, all patiently seated in a small auditorium, watching the stage awaiting the appearance of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and speculating on what it was we were to see.

In short order, the wait was over and the charismatic Apple co-founder revealed the reason for this invitation.  No one was disappointed.  There were audible gasps and cheers as Jobs revealed the newest Apple arrival in the flesh after first warming us up with all that was new with this fresh approach to notebook computing.

In addition to its stunning good looks, there was tremendous sensibility and sensitivity in the choices made as to how to configure these new units.

Packed in this beautiful and sturdy body is everything most of us will need and want in a notebook for just about any mobile computing task or user, whether it’s for a student, mom or dad, or even for those who will want it for their business computer, perhaps as a replacement for a desktop in many cases.  In fact, the new iBook has the power and performance of the fastest iMac, and more, in this relatively diminutive size and at considerably less weight.

The new iBook is almost two pounds lighter than the original, weighing in at just 4.9 pounds.  It’s also much smaller, measuring just 11.2 inches wide, 9.1 inches deep and 1.5 inches thin.  Put a piece of 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper on the table.  The iBook is just about that small!  It feels so nice and light and small, yet the screen, well, that’s another stroke of genius, but I’ll get to that in a little while. The price?  It’ll shock you.  Prices start at $1,299, with two higher-level configurations priced at $1499 and $1799.  So, it will fit your budget as well as your backpack or briefcase.

It’s sturdily built, according to Jobs.  He said the new iBook is even more sturdy than the original, and built to take the daily use of busy (and not always so careful) students, as well as the everyday bumps even moms and dads can heap upon such equipment.  It’s plastic body sits on a lightweight but super strong magnesium alloy frame.  In fact, though I wouldn’t dare to try it, my Apple friends were so confident of the new iBook’s solid build that I was encouraged to DROP it so it would land flat (albeit it onto a carpet) from a height of several inches, and then to see that no damage was done.  Even the hard drive has been mounted with rubber isolators to absorb the bumps of daily existence.  That’s confidence!  I DO NOT encourage anyone to actually do this!  I was assured the new iBook was built to take it and it certainly has a sturdy feel to it!  I’ll just take their word for it.

The new iBook comes loaded with thoughtful considerations.  Start with the acclaimed new Mac OS X (10), the recently introduced update to Apple’s legendary easy-to-use Macintosh OS, the one that “the other guys” like to knock because it’s better in so many ways to theirs – easier to use, more fun, and much less frustrating.  Heck, it’s FUN to use a Mac, and there’s power here to spare.  Mac OS X is Apple’s totally new and next generation OS with innovations that will carry users for many years into the future as it matures and grows more functional.  Since it’s new, there are many, many features yet to be introduced, but they’re coming along rapidly.  In the meantime, and this is one of the beautiful capabilities of this new OS (operating system), every new Mac comes with OS X pre-installed but starts up in OS 9.1, now called Classic.  Users can decide when it’s time to make the switch. It’s part of Apple’s philosophy of making new technology easy and available.  I’m using the new OS X right now as I write this article!

The iBook screams with its 500 MHz G3 processor, ATI RAGE Mobility 128 graphics accelerator and more, for outstanding support of any 3D graphics.  (Don’t make the mistake of comparing the Mac’s 500 MHz G3 with competitors’ faster speed chips.  The fact is, they don’t equate, number for number, only most people won’t tell you the facts as I will.  This G3 will perform on a par with or better than just about any competitor’s faster processor speed notebook, such as 850 MHz.  The iBook is one heck of a gaming machine!

There are other distinct advantages to this new iBook that NO OTHER NOTEBOOK CAN MATCH for its size and price.  Packed in its small shell is everything that is needed, including a choice of built-in optical drives.  The CD drive on the base model ideal for most uses, including gaming.  Optional is a built-in DVD-ROM drive (which, of course, also plays CDs), a CD-RW to “burn” your own CDs or a combo drive with both DVD playback and CD-RW.  That’s the one I’m testing right now. The supplied lithium-ion battery can power the iBook for up to 5 hours before recharging, perfect for most of us and more that any other notebook I know of, WAY more.  It’s good for practically the whole day out!  That’s real and useful power as you compute with here, there and anywhere.  Battery life is less when using the DVD to watch a movie, but there’s plenty of juice to watch a feature of up to about 2 1/2 hours or a bit more, and no other consumer notebook can do that as far as I am aware.  You’ll find that on other consumer notebooks, all they can muster is about two hours of battery life, and that’s WITHOUT playing a DVD!  You won’t find yourself wondering how you’re doing on battery life either.  The green LED readout on the bottom of the iBook shows the state of battery charge remaining.  Just push the button.

There are two USB ports.  That’s one more than on most other consumer notebooks.  There is a built-in modem AND an Ethernet port that can be used for connecting to everything from a college network to a home broadband gateway (DSL or cable modem) or for easy machine-to-machine connectivity.  There is also a built-in (and Apple invented) FireWire port, generically called IEEE1394 or iLink by Sony, and that’s for digital video editing!  Excellent software for this purpose, iMovie, is included, as is iTunes, the truly simple-to-use and powerful digital jukebox software so you can “burn” your own CDs right from this little wonder of a machine.

Connecting to home networks is even easier than indicated above through another Apple innovation that is built in to this and every other new Mac – wireless networking capabilities in the form of something Apple calls AirPort, and industry-standard architecture pioneered and offered as a built-in first from Apple.  It’s in a slot easily accessible under the keyboard, which comes up and out of the way with the moving of two little tabs.  Install an optional $99 AirPort Card and you’re set. The antenna is built into iBook and every other new Apple computer. With the addition of either Apple’s stylish $299 AirPort Base Station or some other third-party industry standard wireless networking router, now, this and other Macs are completely connected, untethered.  It’s wireless, baby!  Roam around just about anywhere at home inside and even outside and remain connected at high-speeds, that’s right, at DSL or Cable Modem speeds (and also with standard dial up capability in the Apple AirPort Base Station).  And all this capability is BUILT IN!  I have this incredible wireless networking and connectivity in my home and the performance and convenience are unbelievable.  How freeing it is to install and use our computers wherever WE want them and not be tied to a phone or networking jack!

At this moment, I’m downloading a desktop movie at nearly 150 KB/sec, and I’m wireless, and connected to our new and spectacular DSL service from PacBell.  That’s about 60 times, that’s right, 60 times faster than with my old dial up connection, and remember, it’s WIRELESS at the same speed as if I was wired.  How long did it take me to install and add this iBook to our existing wireless network at home?  After installation of the card, I restarted the iBook and was automatically prompted to set up the newly installed AirPort card ad to connect it to any existing network, which the system recognized instantly.  It was COMPLETELY automatic and took MAYBE 15 seconds!  That’s it.  Boom!  I was on the Internet, all nicely configured and WIRELESS.

AirPort is also designed for computer-to-computer connectivity WITHOUT the base station.  In other words, I can wirelessly link to ANY other AirPort equipped computer wherever I am, at home or not, and transfer files.

And there’s more.  The crisp, and highly detailed screen is another strong point on this new iBook.  Sure, it “only” has a 12.1-inch screen, but, unlike any other consumer notebook, the iBook can be set for an amazing 1024 x 768 resolution.  That’s like having the same real estate to benefit from as on a standard 15-inch computer monitor or a laptop with a 14-inch screen.  Of course, as the need arises for some purposes, resolution can be easily backed down to either 800 x 600 or all the way down to 640 x 480.

The base model ships with 64 MB of RAM, upgradeable to 512 MB of RAM.  Mine came with 128 MB of RAM as the standard issue on DVD/CD-RW-equipped iBooks.

Close the iBook and it automatically goes to sleep.  Open the iBook (using the beautifully engineered magnetically actuated latching mechanism) and your iBook wakes up automatically.

More?  Sure.  The standard internal hard drive is 10BG with 20BG optional.  There is a new composite video output port for video mirroring on an external display AND there’s an AV port so you can connect your iBook using an optional (and inexpensive) Apple or third party AV cable to your big screen or other TV to watch movies or presentations.

In addition to iTunes and iMovie, iBook comes with loads of other useful software pre-installed.  Start with the powerful yet easy to use suite of goodies called AppleWorks.  You get built-in spreadsheet, word processing, database and presentation software wrapped in one work-together suite that many people swear by at home and in offices around the world. Powerful FAXstf software from STF Technologies is included and lets you send and receive faxes on your iBook.   I swear by this one! Nanosaur, Bugdom and Cro-Mag Rally are included and installed 3D games that are so much fun they can become hard to leave.  And, of course, there’s QuickTime, Apple’s technology (also for PCs) that brings all this multimedia capability to the iBook and all Macs.  This is just a sampling of all you get.  There’s much more!

Additionally, remember, every Mac, including iBook, is compatible with productivity applications on a Windows-based PC, but not necessarily the other way around. Did you know that, for example, Microsoft Office for the Mac (that’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint) is fully compatible with Office for the PC?  Well, it is.  Nothing fancy to do.  It just works.  Again, most other PC productivity software is also compatible with the Mac.  I use the best way to accomplish this, a program called MacLink Plus from DataViz.  I also use and recommend VirtualPC from Connectix, an application that runs Windows 98 or Windows ME or other operating systems as an application on the Mac, and it does this beautifully, though not as fast as on a Windows-based PC.

What’s missing?  Not much.  The iBook lacks a PC Card slot, but most of the user who would typically be interested in a computer such as this will not need it.  In fact, many of you reading this probably do not even know what a PC Card slot is and if you now have one on your portable computer, you probably have not used it.  As with all Macs shipping for the last two years or more, there is no floppy drive, but I don’t miss it at all.  There are other, more efficient and faster ways to transfer data into and out of a computer than with the archaic floppy drive.  If needed, though, an external third-party floppy drive is available for under $80. I say, why bother and why lug it around. I don’t need one.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.

This is simply the best example of leading-edge design, performance and value available in a notebook computer today, and I’m so very pleased it’s from Apple. You owe it to yourself to see one, feel one, and experience one of these new iBooks.  If you don’t say “WOW!” then there is no hope for you.  It’s got looks and brains, and it’s a bargain.  It’s perfect for today’s active lifestyle.  Nothing can match what iBook offers in its class.  A new standard has been set in the world of notebook computers.  Need I say more?  You’re going to love the new iBook!

Please read more about the NEW Apple iBook HERE.  You can also see it in one of the new Apple Stores, the first of which opened in the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California and in Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Virginia less than two weeks ago.  Check HERE to see where other Apple Stores are opening and be sure to visit the one in your area.  Of course, you can also check online at the Apple Store HERE for more information, or call 1-800-MY-APPLE to order.

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