Apple Tunes Up Notebook Lines

Upgrades to Apple's notebook lines are welcome additions and exceed expectations.

Anyone who wonders why I like covering Apple and the Mac should consider the frenzy of speculation leading up to last Wednesdays tweaks to the companys notebook lines.

What other vendor could inspire weeks of anticipation by its constituency over incremental speed increases, modest price cuts and a handful of new hardware features at the high end?

For those drawn to Apples hardware designs, the upgrades to the professional-strength Titanium PowerBook G4 and consumer-oriented iBook are welcome—and a potentially savvy move as Apple moves into the final stretch of the holiday shopping season.

When it comes to the PowerBooks, Apple exceeded many expectations by reaching the 1GHz mark at the high end—and, taking an early lead against Windows competitors, by including a slot-loaded SuperDrive for burning DVDs and CDs on the road. The PowerBooks also gained faster graphics down the line, as Apple swapped in an ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 card for the earlier Mobility Radeon 7500. At $2,999, the top-drawer stock PowerBook configuration now costs $200 less—the same delta Apple carved out for its iBooks, while boosting the clock speeds of the PowerPC G3 systems by 100MHz across the board.

iBooks have been surprisingly popular with budget- conscious professionals. At the same time, the addition of the SuperDrive and enhanced graphics handling to the high-end line should help differentiate the PowerBook G4 models from their entry-level counterparts for the sorts of media-intensive applications Apple hopes to dominate.

How do these tweaks position Apples laptops for corporate buyers? While they dont alter the product lineup enough to shake up holiday shopping plans, the price cuts and speed boosts should offer extra incentives to consumers and pros.

Matthew Rothenberg is online editor for Ziff Davis Medias Baseline and CIO Insight magazines. He can be reached at