MacBook Pros

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I’ve been using the late 2008 version of the MacBook Pro now for about two months (on the right). I had my previous MacBook Pro, the mid-2007 model as a point of reference. There are differences, some good, some bad, but overall the latest model wins it – and for one very good reason – the new trackpad.

Not that the 2007 model was anything bad. It originally had OSX Tiger, which I upgraded to Leopard in December 2007. It is a reliable and sturdy laptop, and never let me down. But it was only when I started using the late 2008 model that I could see what I was missing.

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The trackpad on the new model is a wonder. Using any other trackpad on any other computer feels clunky by comparison. Because it is made of glass, it is smooth to touch. It is larger and easier to use than its predecessor. When I go back to using the older MBP, the plastic trackpad feels ugly.

Of course the biggest advantage of the new trackpad is the multitouch. For someone who has not used it, it might be hard to explain just how much this changes how you use the laptop. In OSX it is a god send. My most commonly used gestures are four-fingers in an upward movement to minimise all windows, and four-fingers downward to show all windows in expose. I find myself unconsciously trying to perform the gestures on the old MBP, before I realise I can’t do them. That’s how used to it you become. You don’t even think about it.

In terms of the screen, both models are LED backlit, meaning excellent colour saturation and viewing angles. Both are glossy screens, the first by choice, the late 2008 model only comes in glossy. I never find this to be a problem, though some do. Even in direct sunlight I can clearly read the screen. The colour on the new model seems to be slightly superior, it just feels more defined.

On the downside though, the USB port on the right side of the MBP has disappeared, to make way for the side rather than front slot loading DVD drive. This means that when you attach a wired mouse, the cable plugs into the left side, while the mouse is on the right. A minor inconvenience, but I guess are expecting us all to have a wireless mouse.

The keyboard on the latest model is one of the new flat-keyed versions originally featured on the MacBook Air, and now on all models minus the 17-inch MBP and the still available white MacBook. I like the new keyboard. The older model keyboard was nice too, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. It does what it says on the tin.

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Overall, I would recommend to anyone considering a new laptop, or a move to Mac, to go Britain and pickup a base model MacBook Pro. They are deadly cheap thanks to a weak sterling. If you are Windows user and are worried about compatibility or usage issues, don’t be, Leopard is many times better and easier to use than either XP or Vista. And if you have Windows apps you want to use, then installing VMware Fusion is a breeze, and you can have both operating systems running side by side.

I was a PC user for the best part of 13 years. I will likely never go back to PC.

The iPhone Nano

Rumours abound again about a smaller version of the very popular iPhone. Engadget report on leaked pictures of specs for the protective covers for the anticipated iPhone – which could be launched at MacWorld next month.

iPhone Nano?

I would argue that it is inevitable, whether next month or not, that Apple will release a scaled down version of the iPhone. There are two very good reasons to do this, IMHO. One, many people, especially women, complain about the size of the iPhone. Two, many people complain about the size of the iPhone. It will also likely be lower cost, and attract customers who previously would have considered the option too expensive. It also gets you a new sector of the market.

I have been mulling an iPhone purchase for some time now, but I will wait until after MacWorld next month before I decide on a purchase.

Monty Python comes to YouTube

Rather that issuing take down notices, the lads of Monty Python created their own YouTube channel. Smart guys. Here is their blurb:

For 3 years you YouTubers have been ripping us off, taking tens of thousands of our videos and putting them on YouTube. Now the tables are turned. It’s time for us to take matters into our own hands.

We know who you are, we know where you live and we could come after you in ways too horrible to tell. But being the extraordinarily nice chaps we are, we’ve figured a better way to get our own back: We’ve launched our own Monty Python channel on YouTube.

No more of those crap quality videos you’ve been posting. We’re giving you the real thing – HQ videos delivered straight from our vault.

What’s more, we’re taking our most viewed clips and uploading brand new HQ versions. And what’s even more, we’re letting you see absolutely everything for free. So there!

But we want something in return.

None of your driveling, mindless comments. Instead, we want you to click on the links, buy our movies & TV shows and soften our pain and disgust at being ripped off all these years.

I look forward to some great clips. Legally.

Yahoo results

Well Mr Market has liked Yahoo’s decision to fire 1,500 workers. The shares are trading up by about 5% in after market.

The purge outlined Tuesday represents a 10 percent reduction in Yahoo’s payroll of about 15,000 employees. It’s the second time in nine months that Yahoo has resorted to mass layoffs in what so far has been an ineffectual effort to rebound from a financial funk that has left its stock price near a 5 1/2-year low.

Things got worse in the third quarter as Yahoo earned $54.3 million, or 4 cents per share. That was a plunge of 64 percent from $151.3 million, or 11 cents per share, at the same time last year.

Remember, Microsoft were prepared to pay up to $35 a share under the original deal. Yahoo now trades at $12.

Mac Mini RIP?

Gizmodo reports that the Mac Mini has ceased shipping to some retailers and may be cancelled altogether. Does Apple have a replacement in mind, or is it planning to simple let the Mac Mini go the way of the Dodo?

I have a Mac Mini, as do several people I know. All of whom hooked it up to HDTVs in their living rooms. It provides a great fully featured juke box/computer/internet device for the living room at not too high a cost.

The story brings to mind Cringely’s recent musings on the subject of Apple. He talks about the recently released MacBooks and MBPs and then goes onto this:

Back on July 21st in his regular conference call with industry analysts, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said that Apple’s profit margin would likely shrink from 34.8 percent in the just-concluded quarter to 31.5 percent in the quarter ending in September. “We’ve got a future product transition that I can’t discuss with you today,” Oppenheimer said as he spelled out the reasons for the anticipated profit reduction. “One of the reasons that we see gross margin being down sequentially is because of a product transition.”

What kind of Apple product could be expected to come along, taking a $244 million profit hit for the company? It certainly isn’t any of the products we’ve discussed so far, nor is it the iPhone 3G or the new iPod Touch, which have both been publicly dissected and found to have gross margins in the 56 percent range.

It’s something else that was probably intended to be announced this week but wasn’t.

Apple has also just released Q4 earnings a few minutes ago.

The Company posted revenue of $7.9 billion and net quarterly profit of $1.14 billion, or $1.26 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $6.22 billion and net quarterly profit of $904 million, or $1.01 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 34.7 percent, up from 33.6 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 41 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

“Apple just reported one of the best quarters in its history, with a spectacular performance by the iPhone — we sold more phones than RIM,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We don’t yet know how this economic downturn will affect Apple. But we’re armed with the strongest product line in our history, the most talented employees and the best customers in our industry. And $25 billion of cash safely in the bank with zero debt.”

What has Apple got in store? Maybe Robert has some thoughts?