Apple to slim down, power up MacBooks

Apple is preparing a new lineup of thinner MacBook laptops running on more powerful chips made by Intel, people with knowledge of the plans say.

The MacBook Pro machines, to be unveiled at Apple's annual developers conference starting on June 11, will also feature high-definition screens like those on the iPhone and iPad, as well as flash memory to cut startup times and extend battery life, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans have not been made public.

Apple's Mac sales are growing faster than the personal computer market, benefiting from the popularity of its mobile devices.

Since 2007, when the iPhone was introduced, Apple's Mac sales have more than doubled, reaching US$21.8 billion ($28.4 billion) last year.

As Apple's share has grown, competitors such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Samsung Electronics have followed suit in making thinner, aluminium laptops that start up more quickly.

Apple's new laptops will run on Intel's new processors, code-named Ivy Bridge, and will have a slimmed-down body design from the current 2.4cm thickness, the people said.

Apple's other lines of computers - MacBook Air laptops and iMac desktops - also may receive an overhaul next month to add high-definition screens and Intel's stronger chip, said a report yesterday from Ben Reitzes, an analyst at Barclays Capital.

Bill Evans, a spokesman for California-based Apple, declined to comment, while Chuck Mulloy, a spokesman for Intel, referred questions to Apple.

At the developer conference, Apple also may announce the debut date of its latest Mac operating system, called Mountain Lion, one person said.

The new software, which Apple previewed in February, more closely aligns Mac computers with its mobile devices - the operating system includes many elements of the iOS mobile software that runs the iPhone and iPad. One feature lets users send a text message to an iPhone from a Mac.

Mountain Lion also expands Apple's iCloud digital-storage service to let Mac users access and share saved documents across the internet.

Another new iCloud feature will make it easier to share photographs, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. The emphasis on the Mac at next month's conference suggests that Apple will concentrate on the iPhone later in the year.

Analysts, including Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray, have predicted Apple will release its next smartphone model by October.

- Bloomberg

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