And What About the Hardware?
By Peter Lewis

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Apple's latest software is impressive, but CEO Steve Jobs says that the new 17-inch widescreen G4 PowerBook "is the best thing we've ever done." Hyperbole aside, the notebook is indeed a showcase for advanced technology. Its most obvious asset is the 1.3-megapixel LCD display, the same one used on the 17-inch desktop iMac. Through a heroic engineering effort, the 17-inch PowerBook ($3,299 and up; pictured on first page of story) manages to be huge but not bulky or heavy; it's only an inch thick and weighs just under seven pounds, about two pounds less than other desktop-replacement portables.

Clad in aircraft-grade aluminum (Apple says it's superior to the titanium used in the popular 15-inch PowerBook), the 17-incher features three new technology standards. One is FireWire 800, which is twice as fast as the current FireWire system for connecting videocameras, iPods, and external hard drives, and is compatible with existing FireWire products. Another new standard, and the one most likely to have a major impact on consumers, is 802.11g, a wireless networking standard up to five times faster than the current 802.11b (Wi-Fi) Airport system. It has a theoretical top speed of 54 megabits per second (Mbps), compared with 11 Mbps for the Wi-Fi networks now popping up in hotels and airports nationwide. The new 11g devices automatically ratchet down in speed to work on slower 11b systems, but to take full advantage of 11g's higher speed, you'll need a new wireless-networking hub called Airport Extreme ($199 or $249, depending on features). The PowerBook also has a built-in Bluetooth wireless-network system--not exactly a new standard but new as a built-in feature--for linking the computer with cellphones, printers, PDAs, and other Bluetooth-enabled devices. The big notebook also includes a fiber-optic keyboard-illumination system that automatically starts glowing when room lights dim, and a built-in, slot-loading SuperDrive to burn DVD discs as well as CDs. Forget using this baby on a plane, unless you're flying first-class. For road warriors who want a powerful but light and compact machine, Apple's new 12-inch PowerBook fits the bill. The bill for the 12-inch, by the way, is $1,799 to $1,999. --Peter Lewis

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