Apple touts iPad-inspired Mac laptop

Apple touts iPad-inspired Mac laptop

Cupertino, California: Apple Inc CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the thinnest, lightest Mac laptop yet with features borrowed from iPhones and iPads, hoping to grab more market share from Microsoft Corp’s Windows PCs.

The new MacBook Air starts at $999, weighs as little as 2.3 pounds (1 kg), and measures 0.11 inches (0.3 cm) at its thinnest to 0.68 inches (1.7 cm) at the rear. It is designed to replicate the versatility of popular devices like the iPhone and iPad on its venerable computer line, and will incorporate Facetime video chats and an apps store.

Running on flash storage like the iPad rather than hard drives like conventional computers, it can power up instantly and store data twice as fast, executive said.

“We asked ourselves what would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up? Well, this is the result," Jobs told investors and reporters at a media event in Cupertino, California.

Loading up its Macs with iPad characteristics may help stave off fears that sales will begin bleeding over to the tablet, which has stirred up surprisingly strong demand.

Investors have wondered whether the iPad, a 10-inch touchscreen tablet that began selling in April from $499 and runs on the same system as the iPhone, would cannibalize sales of the Mac -- as it has done for lower-end laptops.

“They’re basically merging the product lines; they’re simplifying it," said Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu. “They’re taking the strengths out of what they’ve learned on the iPhone and iPad and bringing that technology over to the Mac side. It makes a lot of sense."

The Lion

Jobs also showed off a new version of Mac operating software. Nicknamed “Lion," it includes an improved “iLife" multimedia suite and incorporates FaceTime video chat which the company recently launched on the iPhone. Apple provided a sneak peek at the software on Wednesday.

In the quarter that just ended, Mac revenue was $4.9 billion, less than a quarter of Apple’s overall revenue.

But while much of the consumer and investor attention is focused on the iPhone and iPad, the Mac has been critical to the company’s success over the past few years. Apple sold 13.6 million of its personal computers in fiscal 2010 ended September, up more than 30 percent and far outpacing the overall market.

In the third calendar quarter, Apple became the No. 3 personal computer maker in the US with a 10.6% market share, according to IDC. Its global market share is less than 5%, and the company is aiming to increase sales outside its US stronghold.

The Mac user base is now 50 million people.

Apple shares rose 0.3% to $310.41 on Nasdaq shortly before the close.