Apple spent the lion’s share of its keynote address at this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference highlighting the flattened design and new features of iOS 7. But in spite of its mobile focus, the company certainly hasn’t been neglecting the computer market: Apple also unveiled new Macbook Air laptops and OS X 10.9 Mavericks, an update to its desktop operating system.
The biggest change to the new Macbook Air line is the inclusion of Intel “Haswell” CPUs, which have increased power efficiency and built-in graphics processing. The result? Better battery life -- Apple claims an improvement of 4 to 5 hours over previous Airs, and says users can enjoy “all-day” power -- and 40 percent faster graphics. The new Macbook Airs, like their predecessors, will come in 11- and 13-inch sizes and feature non-Retina displays (1366x768 resolution for the smaller model; 1440x900 for the larger). Apple announced that the flash storage in the new models is up to 45 percent faster, and that the machines will be compatible with snappy 802.11ac Wi-Fi networks.
The new Macbook Airs will ship with OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion), but they’ll be upgradeable to 10.9 when it comes out in the fall. The 11-inch model starts at $999 for a 128GB hard drive, while the 13-inch model starts at $1,099 (down $100 from last year) for the same capacity. And both can be upgraded with more storage, more RAM, or a better CPU.
On the software side of things, a non-feline moniker wasn’t the only change in OS X 10.9 Mavericks. Apple also showed off power-saving features, better support for multiple monitors, and a whole host of interface improvements. (It didn’t mention how much Mavericks will cost, though.)
One new feature is the introduction of Finder tabs, which let you bring several windows of files together into one, tabbing between them as you would in a browser. Apple also introduced system-wide file tagging -- you can add multiple tags to any file, and they’ll show up in the Finder sidebar and in the iCloud storage service -- which should help with filing and finding your stuff.
Mavericks also brings some extra iOS functionality to the desktop with automatic background updating for apps, as well as the introduction of Notifications, a feature that allows you to reply to e-mails and Facetime calls from within the notification box at the top of the screen. You’ll also see these notifications when your computer wakes up, much like you would on a phone’s lockscreen. And you’ll be able to receive push notifications, like news alerts, from an iPad or iPhone.
Apple has also made a number of tweaks that improve Mavericks’ power consumption, thereby giving laptop users a little extra battery life. “Timer coalescing” reduces the CPU activity by synchronizing app timers behind the scenes, so the computer isn’t constantly being pulled out of a low-power idle state. “App Nap,” a nifty feature built in to the Safari Web browser, makes sure the app isn’t drawing much power when you’re not actively using it. And other improvements to the way memory and system resources are used should make Mavericks less power-hungry, too.
Apple implied that a user running Mavericks on a low-power Macbook Air can expect pretty spectacular battery life -- users will have to wait until the fall, when the OS is released to the public, to try it for themselves, but there’s good reason to expect that Cupertino’s new hardware and software will be an efficient combination.