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Mac Bloggers Hail White MacBooks, Salute Apple TVs, Chuck iPhone Nanos

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jan 23, 2009 4:00 AM PT

There's a lot of news in the Apple-focused blogosphere this week, and picking the most interesting tidbits is quite a chore.

Mac Bloggers Hail White MacBooks, Salute Apple TVs, Chuck iPhone Nanos

In any event, Apple quietly upgraded its polycarbonate entry-level white MacBook, announced record profits and nixed the notion that Apple might introduce an "iPhone nano" anytime soon. Plus, the Apple TV "hobby" picked up some steam.

Long Live the Whitebook

When Apple announced its new unibody aluminum MacBook and MacBook Pro line in October, most everyone seemed to think the white old-school MacBook simply gave Apple a sub-US$1,000 notebook it could sell out and allow to fade away. Surprisingly, though, the company instead upgraded it. Apple added the Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics processor -- which is already in its more powerful siblings -- bumped the default RAM to 2 GB, and beefed up the frontside bus from 866 MHz to 1,066 MHz. The 2.1 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor slipped to 2.0 GHz, most likely so that the white MacBook shares the same guts as the low-end unibody version. Bluetooth also hopped to version 2.1.

Obviously, all the major Apple-focused blogs picked up on the news, but TheAppleBlog's Tom Reestman jumped into the nitty-gritty: comparing the new white MacBook to the aluminum unibody MacBook.

"The bigger issue, to me, is discussing the relative 'worth' of the $1,299 unibody MacBook in comparison to the updated white model," he wrote.

The white MacBook's RAM is slightly slower -- DDR2 vs the newer DDRM -- and the LED-backlit screen on the unibody gives it a usage edge. Reestman noted that the MacBook unibody screen is much richer and brighter than the white MacBook screen -- but not as good as the MacBook Pro's screen.

"I was really astonished to learn that the entry level White MB had got the new videocard, but still remained at the low price. This is very tempting, but also tempted to save for the unibody one. Trouble is ... once I start that path, I can easily see that I'll be tempted to up-sell again for the larger hard disk and the backlit keyboard! Sigh ..." commented Michael Cheung.

Still, unibody MacBook users seem reluctant to recommend the polycarbonate option.

"The biggest difference is the trackpad. My girlfriend has the white MB and I have the new unibody. The trackpad on the white MB is not smooth and feels tiny when compared to the aluminum. Plus all the gestures on the aluminum are amazing. It frustrates me when I can't do them on the white one," commented David.

Placeholder for a Netbook?

Apple's white MacBook just invites speculation. Perhaps Apple is just trying to keep a lower-cost portable option available in the market as the consumer economy falters. Or maybe there's more to it.

"It seems interesting that Apple is keeping the white MacBook around so long. The MBP 17-inch is now replaced, and maybe the white will be soon, too; however, the white may be just place-holder for the netbook that Apple says it's 'watching' now," Sven Rafferty, founder of hyperSven and SvenOnTech blogger, told MacNewsWorld.

"I do think the upgrade is a better value at $999. I wish Apple would just have a loss-leader like every other company and eat the $100 price slash and have a true sub-$900 notebook. But again, it may be gone soon anyway," he added.

Apple's Stellar Financial Results

The company in Cupertino reported a record $1.61 billion in profit for its most recently finished financial quarter, on top of record revenue of $10.17 billion, which compares to $9.6 billion in revenue and $1.58 billion in profit from the year-ago quarter. Mac shipments came in at 2.524 million -- a tidy 9 percent growth. As for stagnation in iPods? Hardly: Apple sold 22.727 million, a company record (though growth was just 3 percent). And the iPhone? 4.463 million sold for the quarter, up 88 percent.

Even more interesting is the question and answer session following Apple's official report. In the call, COO Tim Cook noted, "We're not going to play in the low-end voice phone business. That's not who we are, that's not why we're here. Goal is not to lead unit sales, but to build the world's best phone."

While many analysts have been expecting Apple to introduce an entry-level iPhone, that just hasn't happened -- even with Wal-Mart coming on board to sell iPhones.

As for possible users, what if Apple did deliver a low-cost iPhone?

"I really don't think a low-end iPhone would be useful. I love the iPhone for its connectivity (internet, mail, apps) and I feel that a basic iPhone would be very basic, unable to do some of the great things that the iPhone can. So I agree with Apple for this move, or lack there of," commented JohnnyQuest on the MacRumors.com post on the subject.

"All the people that were waiting for the iphone nano are going to be so disappointed," added jmann4489.

Of course, then there's a whole 'nother direction: "Bring on the iPhone Pro already!" added =MuLti-CeLL=.

Maintaining the Brand

While Apple's next move is anybody's guess, an iPhone nano is looking more and more like wishful thinking.

"Tim Cook said Apple doesn't want to be the shipment leader, Apple wants to be the maker of the best phone out there -- and I think that speaks to Apple maintaining the iPhone brand and maintaining the value, and a huge part of that value is the size and resolution of the screen," Chris Hazelton, research director of Mobile and Wireless for The 451 Group, told MacNewsWorld.

"There are going to major reductions in the size of components in the next iPhone, but I don't think that will equate to a smaller screen," he added, noting that he would expect to see the extra space used for more storage and a bigger, longer-lasting battery.

"Do I see Apple releasing an iPhone nano? I don't see that," Hazelton said.

From a developer standpoint, much of Apple's success and future success can be attributed to the widely successful App Store and the developers who extend the value of the iPhone via software.

"Having the large touch screen gives them the ability to build a custom user interface for their applications," Hazelton noted. A smaller screen would limit their abilities, and may do little to create awe-inspiring app value.

Long Live the Apple TV?

"Purportedly left for dead and mocked by pundits," the Apple TV has turned into a productive hobby for Apple that will see continued development in the future, AppleInsider reported.

During an Apple financial conference call, Cook noted that Apple TV sales were up more than 3 times over the year-ago figures, according to AppleInsider. However, he maintained the company still considers it a "hobby."

Hobby or not, the Apple TV is popular among its owners -- some of which indubitably wish it would do more, like let them surf the Web or view non-Apple video streams.

"Frankly, it'll continue to be a hobby till they improve the software and take on board what their customers (and more importantly, potential customers) want. For example, I want to be able to watch things I download from the internet (not via iTunes). I also want to be able to watch the BBC iPlayer (a UK specific hulu-like service from the BBC). Neither of those two things are possible with Apple TV, but both are possible with a number of competitors (e.g. Boxee). So, I'll probably buy a Mac Mini instead, and do it that way (if they ever update it) ... They're really missing so many opportunities here," commented eAi on the AppleInsider post.

"The Apple TV needs to stop masquarading around as a computer imitating a CE device. Apple should slap an ARM proc, better video decode and open it up to Hulu and Netflix amongst others. I know this sounds crazy. Why would you let your competitors hitch a ride? Because once you get people comfortable with the idea of streaming content it means they become hungry and iTunes would still be the premiere service," added hmurchison.

"I like my AppleTV just fine. It's nice, but it could be awesome! If they could make it work with a wireless keyboard/mouse, it could be what WebTV should have been. WebTV is the coolest idea that has had the most disappointing execution -- no wonder Microsoft bought it," commented macFanDave.

NasserAE, however, was ready to toss a dose of reality onto the wishful thinking: "I don't know why some people are obsessed in considering AppleTV a failure! It is the best product in its class. The problem is not AppleTV, the problem is with ISP limitations in regard to bandwidth, speeds, and availability. Until this problem is solved we will never see AppleTV or any other similar product takes off no matter how good or cheap it is."

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