Apple Intros MacBook Air Laptops, FaceTime for Macs, OS X Lion

Apple CEO Steve Jobs showed off two super-skinny MacBook Air laptops at today's event, as well as OS X Lion, iLife '11 and FaceTime for Macs. The MacBooks are available now.

At Apple's much-hyped event Oct. 20 at the company's Cupertino, Calif., campus, CEO Steve Jobs offered attendees an early look at Mac OS X Lion, introduced updates to iLife '11 and announced that FaceTime, a capability previously only available on the iPhone 4 and iPod touch, is now available for Macs.

But the big news - Jobs' infamous "one more thing" - was two new MacBook Air notebooks.

"We asked ourselves, what would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up?" Jobs asked, to light laughter from the audience. "This is the result."

Thin, light, fast, rugged and relying on SSD (solid-state disk) storage technology, the notebooks don't have hard drives - or hard-drive crashes. Available in two sizes - an 11-inch model with an 11.6-inch high-resolution LED-backlit display and a weight of 2.3 pounds, or an 13-inch model with a 13.3-inch display and a weight of 2.9 pounds - Apple executives called them the best MacBooks ever, and also the most affordable. They are available immediately.

The 11-incher starts at $999, while the 13-incher starts at $1,299.

"Back to the Mac" was the theme of the event and is the thinking behind the new notebooks, Jobs explained. MacBook technology and OS X birthed the iPhone and iOS, which informed the thinking behind the iPad. All that Jobs and company have learned in creating the latter two, and since heard back from customers, was used to complete the circle and has been invested in the new MacBooks - and OS X Lion.

In short, as the voiceover in Apple's newest ad states, in honeyed tones: "Everything we've learned has come down to this."

In a statement released by Apple, Jobs offered more specifics:

"MacBook Air is the first of a new generation of notebooks that leaves behind mechanical rotating storage in favor of solid state flash storage. We've taken what we have learned with the iPad - solid state storage, instant-on, amazing battery standby time, miniaturization and lightweight construction, to create the new MacBook Air. With its amazing responsiveness and mobility, it will change the way we think about notebooks."

At their thickest points, the notebooks are .68 inches; at their thinnest: .11 inches. They feature precision aluminum unibody enclosures, for better durability, and include full-size keyboards and glass Multi-Touch trackpads, FaceTime cameras, Intel Core 2 Duo processors, Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics and SD card slots.

The 13-inch MacBook Air gets 7 hours of battery life and 30 days of standby time. "We think it's a double improvement, and that's with more realistic testing," Jobs told the event audience, adding, "We've taken everything we've learned about miniaturization from the iPhone and iPad and applied it to the MacBook."

Both devices are also "great from an environmental and toxics point of view," he pointed out, noting they meet EPA Energy Star 5.0 requirements, are made "highly recyclable" aluminum and glass, are mercury free and use arsenic-free glass. They're also PVC-free and contain no brominated flame retardants.

As for the OS X update, Lion will ship during the summer of 2011 and include several notable features. Among these are a Mac App Store, which will launch within 90 days; Launchpad, a home for apps that's similar to the Home screen on the iPhone; support for full-screen apps; and Mission Control, which unifies Expos??«, Dashboard, Spaces and full-screen apps for a single view of everything running on the Mac.

In a note to investors released immediately following the Apple event, Jefferies analyst Peter Misek named the App Store for the Mac as "the single biggest takeaway" of the event and reiterated the firm's recommendation to buy Apple stock.

Still, updates to iLife 11 also offered some pretty memorable takeaways.

Jobs called various members of the Apple staff up to the stage to show off features on four of the applications in the suite, Garage Band, iBooks, iPhoto and iMovie. In iMovie, there's now software that makes creating a trailer a matter of a few minutes' time; and for the trailers' background music - and here's the coolness - Apple went to Abbey Road Studios in London and recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. Also neat: In iLife, you can have personal letterpress cards made. Still neater? Accompanying you, as you learn to play a composition in GarageBand, are now musicians from the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

iLife 11 is available now for $49 in the Mac Store and requires Mac OS X version 10.6.3 or later. The MacBook Air notebooks are also now available. The 1.4GHz 11-inch model with 2GB of memory and 64GB of flash storage starts at $999, while a 128GB model starts at $1,199. And the 1.86GHz 13-inch MacBook Air with 2GB of memory and 128GB of flash storage starts at $1,299, while a 256GB model begins at $1,599.

A beta version of the FaceTime for Mac application is now available free in the App Store and requires Mac OS Snow Leopard to run.

Macs count toward 33 percent of Apple's revenue, Jobs said at the event. "We love the Mac, and we're investing heavily in it."