RealTime IT News

First Bite of Intel-based Apple Notebooks

Apple addicts who have been eagerly awaiting the mobile version of Intel-inside Macs can break out their credit cards now.

Apple announced on Monday that it will begin shipping the new 15-inch MacBook Pro notebook computer this week. The first, top-of-the-line, Mac mobile will sport a 2.0 Intel Core Duo processor.

Apple said the new notebook is up to four times faster than the PowerBook G4.

But early adopters who rely on Adobe graphics software may not get the best out of their new Macs for a year or so, and analysts warn that sales of the machines may be slow until Adobe, and other popular software including games, get up to speed.

Most of the programs included with Apple's new Intel-based Macs are what the company has dubbed "Universal applications," designed to work well with the Intel Core Duo.

Universal applications include Mac OS X, iLife 06, Safari and Mail. Other third-party applications will run via an Apple "translation" application called Rosetta.

During his keynote at the most recent Macworld Expo San Francisco, Apple CEO Steve Jobs demoed Photoshop running on Rosetta, and admitted that Photoshop's performance under Rosetta would not be suitable for professional users.

Adobe also later confirmed that users would experience a noticeable performance hit when running its applications under Rosetta.

Adobe also announced on Feb. 1 that it would not be releasing Intel Mac native versions of any of its currently shipping products, saying customers will need to wait for future releases. Adobe will not commit to a firm date for the release of the Intel-native versions of its graphics programs.

"An important chunk of Apple's market is people who use Adobe applications," said Frank Gillett, an analyst with Forrester Research. "Those folks are going to stay away from the new machines until they're sure their software works."

Gillett said that performance problems for all applications running under Rosetta will vary by the application, and will range from "almost imperceptible to half as fast."

Additionally Rosetta does not support high-end content creation applications from Apple, including Final Cut Pro, Motion, Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Aperture, Logic Pro, Logic Express, Shake and Final Cut Express.

To run these applications, users will need to upgrade to the universal version of the software. "Universal" is Apple's buzzword for applications that run on both PowerPC and Apple's Intel hardware.

The good news is that customers using the new Intel-based Macs already have more than 700 universal applications from which to choose.

The new MacBook Pro, priced at $2,499, has an aluminum enclosure and weighs only 5.6 pounds.

It includes a built-in iSight video camera for video conferencing on-the-go, and Apple's new patent-pending MagSafe magnetic power connector, designed especially for mobile users.

MagSafe provides a magnetic connection between the cord and the computer's port instead of a physical plug-in one. The idea is that tripping over a power cord won't send MacBook Pro flying off a table or desk; the cord will simply disconnect.

There is also a $1,999 model with a 1.83 GHz Intel Core Duo processor. Customers may also upgrade either machine to a 2.16 GHz Intel Core Duo processor as a build-to-order option on the Apple Online Store.

"What has been proven from the beginning is that the apple faithful, what we call the power users, will buy Apple products immediately once it's available," said Tim Bajarin, president of analyst firm Creative Strategies.

"They've been eating up Apple for two years to give them a more powerful laptop. This is clearly a product they've wanted and now that it's available they will buy it. But some power users who need Quark, Photoshop, etcetera will hold off."

Bajarin has worked with the new Apple Intel hardware and said he's noticed only a minor slowdown with most applications.

"With some of the more graphics intensive apps there may be hesitancy," said Bajarin. "But for more traditional computing processes this new MacBook Pro will be excellent."