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Back to the Mac: A Roundup Of Today’s News, And Some Notes

Well folks, that was quite an event. At today’s “Back to the Mac” press conference, Apple announced lots of new stuff coming to our Mac. And yeah, they even announced new MacBook Airs, coming in 13-inch and 11-inch double flavor.

Jump after the break for a complete roundup of what Steve Jobs unveiled today. We think it was a great event.

iLife ‘11

Apple is releasing a major new version of the iLife suite today. Free in every new Mac, $49 as an upgrade and $6.99 for October purchasers. The new version of iLife includes updated iPhoto, iMovie and Garage Band, iDVD and iWeb have been included but not updated. iLife ‘11 comes after the release of iLife ‘09 at Macworld 2009. The three updated apps come with a serious iOS-inspired facelift, which leads the way to the previewed new Mac OS X Lion.

iPhoto: there’s a new fullscreen UI, Facebook enhancements that allow users to post photos and check on comments made by others. There’s a new in-app email functionality that lets you easily share photos from within the app, improved slideshows with geo-location data support.

You can also print the new photo books, or a brand new letterpress card. The fullscreen UI takes a lot of elements from iOS, such as popover menus or the tab bar.

From your Facebook Wall to your coffee table to your best friend’s inbox (or mailbox). Do more with your photos than you ever thought possible. And do it all in one place. iPhoto.

iMovie: new audio editing features such as dead-simple volume enhancement; People Finder based on advanced face recognition technology; Movie Trailers with built-in templates and audio recorded from a real full symphony. The Movie Trailers feature is going to be huge.

iMovie makes it easy to turn your home videos into your all-time favorite films. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll watch them over and over again. And you’ll share them with everyone.

Garage Band: this new version includes new features called Flex Time and Groove Matching, together with new and improved guitar and piano lessons. The new Garage Band aims at being your one-stop solution for recording good music and learning how to play an instrument if you’re a novice.

Welcome to the school of rock. A Mac-size practice space. Your own recording studio. If you want to learn to play an instrument, write music, or record a song, GarageBand has everything you need.

FaceTime for Mac

This is a biggie. You can now initiate and receive FaceTime calls directly form your Mac, you just need to sign in with your Apple ID. Apple has released a beta of the application today, and admittedly - it feels pretty buggy and unpolished in some areas. But it works. Once you’ve signed in with your Apple ID, you can receive calls even if the app is not running.

FaceTime for Mac is available here and lets you call from your Mac to other FaceTime-compatible devices.

FaceTime for Mac makes it possible to talk, smile, wave, and laugh with anyone on an iPhone 4, iPod touch, or Mac from your Mac over Wi-Fi. So you can catch up, hang out, joke around, and stay in touch with just a click. Sure, it’s great to hear a voice. But it’s even better to see the face that goes with it.

Mac OS X Lion Sneak Peek

We waited, hoped and here it is: the future of Mac OS X is called Lion and it’s the return of OS X to OS X after a 3-year iOS short trip. Steve Jobs announced, in fact, that they first brought OS X to the iPhone and created iPhone OS; earlier this year they turned iPhone OS into iOS and created an iPad version; now iOS is coming back to the Mac with OS X Lion. Featuring a streamlined user experience based on multitouch gestures and easier window navigation thanks to the new Mission Control feature (Exposè, Dashboard and Spaces all into one, with the addition of iOS-inspired fullscreen apps), OS X Lion will be a departure from OS X as we know it.

Steve Jobs didn’t show the Finder or the app installation system (more on this in a second), but we saw the iOS scrollbars coming to the desktop and the new app launcher called “Launchpad”: you can think of Launchpad as a direct iOS layer above the regular Finder, with a fullscreen UI to launch apps and create folders, just like on the iPad.

Mac OS X Lion will be available next year, starting summer ‘11. We’ll likely see more in-depth previews in the upcoming months.

We took our best thinking from Mac OS X and brought it to the iPhone. Then we took our best thinking from the iPhone and brought it to iPad. And now we’re bringing it all back to the Mac with our eighth major release of the world’s most advanced operating system. Mac OS X Lion arrives in summer 2011. Here’s a sneak peek at just a few of its features.

Mac App Store

The once denied Mac App Store is actually happening, and it’ll be the most important aspect to consider when talking about the future of OS X. It likely won’t be the only way to install Mac apps on OS X, but Apple wants developers to release apps in the Mac App Store, and I think they’ll want to do so as well. Or maybe not? More on this later.

Anyway, the Mac App Store will be, as the name suggests, the App Store you know and love (?), but for Mac software. One-click downloads, categories, promo codes, instant updates, descriptions - it’s really just what you think. Rejections and submission guidelines included.

The Mac App Store will launch in 90 days, and developers will be able to start submitting apps in November. If you’re a developer, you can already check out the guidelines here. The way I see it, this is going to change everything.

The Mac App Store is just like the App Store for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. So it’s as easy to find and download Mac apps as it is to add your favorite magazine to iPad or a new game to iPod touch. You can browse Mac apps by category, such as games, productivity, music, and more. Or do a quick search for something specific. Read developer descriptions and user reviews. Flip through screenshots. When you find an app you like, click to buy it.

MacBook Air

Another update we saw coming. Apple is releasing updated models of the MacBook Air today, and it turns out they’re really releasing two models: a 13.3-inch one and a 11.6-inch one. As Steve Jobs said (and as you can see now on the just-launched and redesigned Apple homepage), this is the future of MacBooks. This is where they think laptop computers are going: ultra-thin, multitouch trackpad (because touching a screen directly “just doesn’t work”), SSD storage for instant-on awakening, long-lasting battery.

Starting at $999 for the 11.6-inch model with 64GB SSD storage and 2GB RAM, Apple is really pushing the new Airs. They even come with a fancy new restore stick. Check out all the info on apple.com.

We learned a lot from iPad. The new MacBook Air is proof. It’s designed around all-flash storage for better responsiveness and reliability. It features a trackpad with full Multi-Touch support. And though it’s incredibly thin and light, its large battery gives you portable power that lasts for hours.

Like I said, it’s been a great event in my opinion. We saw the future of computing on Apple devices, and it’s different than what we thought it would be. Is this a change for the better? More posts on this later today.

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