Apple is doing a live event to unveil new notebooks in Cupertino on Tuesday, confirms Engadget. It’s accompanied by one of the most unambiguous Apple teaser images ever, seen at right. (Guess they got tired of the overactive imagination of the rumor mill.) I expect this means one of two things:

1. Cosmetic changes, under-the-hood tweaks, don’t care that much. Hey, a pretty, new Apple laptop is all fine and good, don’t get me wrong. But PC notebook makers have in recent months rolled out new hardware improvements a lot faster than Apple, and often at a much lower price. That’s not to say the Apple don’t make a very good or even better deal … just that what generally happens is, looking at Apple’s lineup, improvements tend to get bundled together. Maybe I just hate the MacBook Air because it’s beautiful, I don’t know. So, I think this could be big news in the sense that people waiting to upgrade could be very happy, just not earthshaking news. Then again, what we could see is…

2. Multi-touch screens on the whole line. Now that could be interesting. Commodity touchscreens on laptops already appear imminent on PCs in general, so it’s not hard to see Apple getting into the game. And while many people rightfully point out that touch in a laptop form factor isn’t all that practical, for musical applications and live onstage use, it’s a dream.

All bets are off Tuesday.

Updated: Okay, so what we got was basically (1) — except that I missed the “and critical FireWire ports get Steved” part:


… on Create Digital Motion: New GPUs, Connectors; Non-Pro Changes and Did Apple Just Eliminate All S-Video, Composite Video Output?

… on Create Digital Music: Whither, FireWire? What the New Apple Laptop Port Changes Mean for Audio

For anyone who thinks Mac users are superficial and care only about form factor, ahem, we’re going to be talking about jacks. Got it?

  • http://www.erichirsh.com Eric

    One of my big concerns are the rumors that the MacBooks are ditching the Firewire400 port (in favor of more USB ports/a mini-DVI port/a slimmer profile). This would certainly affect the audio community in that most audio interfaces designed with portability in mind operate with FW400 connectivity. I certainly love rocking a small MBP rig with my MOTU828 connected to the FW400 port and Glyph drive connected to the FW800. It'd be sad to see this go so soon, since, as far as I know, no one is manufacturing FW800 audio interfaces. Thoughts?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, it's possible they could retain FW400 support, but via FW800 + dongle, or via a smaller 4-pin FW400 port, which is what you get on nearly all PCs. That means you lose bus power, but sometimes separate power can be more reliable, so it's not necessarily a deal breaker.

    If they ditch FireWire entirely, that'd be a disaster. I can't imagine they'd do that, because of its importance for audio interfaces, hard drives, and (most importantly) DV cameras.

  • tobamai

    They could unveil multi-touch screens on their line of laptops. If it was just on a specialty laptop (as the Air is for portability, maybe a MacBook Touch for touch screen) or even as an available option it would still be great. But that doesn't seem likely to me. We haven't seen any recent changes to OSX to suggest they're moving to support a touch interface for laptops.

    It's likely they're just going to hype up the benefits of a new facility which maybe already built.

  • Emil

    Working in ableton live with a multitouch screen would be as near a revolution as it can be, and we could just wave goodbye to the overrated expensive lemur.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, but this is what I mean. We get lots of hype about Apple's hardware. If they did something like that — really nailed multi-touch, for the first time on the market in a usable way — I think that would be big news. If it's just fit and finish, it's not big news. It's news, it could be great for the customer, but I just have to separate the degrees of significance of the stuff Apple has done.

    And that's not to say it even matters. I think laptops offer an incredible amount of power starting at a pretty low price, which has been a great thing.

  • john z

    ….i'm still smarting from when they changed their 400 power spec and AFTER HAVING TO FIGURE IT ALL OUT (right here with you guys i think it was),

    had to break out wallwarts for my Firepods and Saffire to boot. bleh.

  • http://www.dplex.com dplex

    When (if) Apple releases a multitouch screen, they will have spent some time lining up third party apps to be ready at launch supporting the feature.

    Has anyone here heard any rumors of third party multitouch OSX apps being developed? Me neither.

    Apple is growing its laptop marketshare by offering a line of well-built and stylish portable machines. I think it's unlikely they will deviate from that pattern on the 14th. It's more likely that they will explore the increasingly popular "netbook" market represented by the Asus Eee before they dive into multitouch screens (but we won't see that on the 14th either).

    That being said, it would be fun to be wrong.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Look, again, don't get me wrong.

    Absolutely, Apple builds stylish machines that have a smart balance of features, and they deserve the market share they've earned. It doesn't always make news for some good reasons — a lot of the strength is in Mac OS X, and it's been built over a decade (or more, depending on when you start counting).

    I do think it's likely we'll see touch from Apple in the near future, though, depending on what it costs to add the feature. Apple has a long history of introducing features first, before the market necessarily is demanding them or even before third parties have embraced the idea. That's generally been one of the better things about Apple; it's enabled them to lead the adoption of a lot of technologies (even USB, despite having Microsoft and Intel backing!) I think this comes entirely to what their per-unit cost is and whether it's mature enough for them to want to do it. I don't know if 10/14 will be that date or not, but I do expect this is soon.

    I'm also biased in that I tend to look at the larger picture, beyond just what Apple is shipping, because it's those trends across platforms that matter to music and visuals. But I do expect that, if multi-touch happens on laptops, Apple is very likely to lead the way. HP is onboard, but it's more likely Apple would put it on their whole product line and help push the OS and developer sides.

  • http://www.derekjhunt.org Derek

    Keep in mind the multitouch is for the mousepad, not the screen (at least that is what the dev talks have been about). It would be nice if the laptop didn't scald you when you held it your lap too.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Yeah, I'd put the odds fairly low. Then again, as posts from earlier this week demonstrate … users who want this functionality are going to find a way to make it happen, whether it comes out of the box from Apple or not.

    I meant on-screen multi-touch, though, not the mouse trackpad.

  • http://www.dplex.com dplex

    BTW, the latest rumor is that Apple will offer an $800 MacBook. Sounds like a nice cheap machine for gigging…

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Hey, cheap is good. But we really need the GPU on the MBP on the CDMotion side, so if that rumor is true, here's hoping for an MBP price cut (or dedicated graphics on the MacBook line, though I think that's very unlikely).

  • tobamai

    I think they'll officially announce their new facility for manufacturing laptops here in the states. They get to talk up the benefits the new process will have on their laptops and they get the good press of creating American jobs in times of economic woe. If they announce a low price MacBook it goes hand in hand with an economy oriented marketing event.

    But I feel ya, I'd love to see a multitouch screen on a laptop.

  • lematt

    well, the ideal music laptop would be like that one: http://www.axiotron.com/index.php?id=modbook but multitouch.

    they already have the multitouch technology, as if you install TouchOSC on an iPod Touch it's working perfectly, so i think we can expect something pretty soon…

    that would be AWESOME !!!

  • Mike

    To dplex….. "has anyone heard of third party multitouch OSX apps being developed?"

    Yes actually. The iPhone runs OSX and should be taken as the model for the multitouch future of Apple. OSX Touch is already here, it's just due for an upscale in size/power.

  • http://132bpm.blogspot.com vivusynth

    im on the brink of caving in on a used lemur i just spotted in the wild …

    but the rumor of a potential multi-touch screen / surface is enough for me to hold off a couple days …

    im banking on the idea that Apple's time on the iphone / touch has served them well in prepping for this next step.

    either way i was planning on buying a next gen macbook pro for giggin and production …

    having both in one (kind of: http://hexler.net/touchosc) would be a solid dealbreaker.

  • http://circuitreerecords.com pg13

    people:

    Snow Leopard, the next OSX was announced with the iPhone, but no one paid any attention…I was working at Apple at the time and we didnt even once discuss it…in fact, not one person had even heard of Snow Leopard there when i brought it up. Its supposed to support all sorts of neat new features and work with terabytes of RAM. Which is a way off Im sure. As for the touchscreen, its already being used by millions on the iPhone and iPod touch…why would it be such a surprise to see it come out in a bigger version via laptop?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Snow Leopard — well, some of us paid attention. ;) But Apple didn't reveal much of its functionality, though they did describe what you describe here.

    Terabytes of memory may be far off, but I think more significantly it'd raise the 4G cap on most apps currently (yes, possible to run some 64-bit, but not all, certainly almost no consumer-grade apps). 8 or 16GB of RAM isn't so far off.

    Multitouch hardware is coming, that much is certain; less certain when on Apple's front, though we can safely say we'll see more PCs in the next 12 months or so and Windows7 shortly after that should unleash more. Apple I expect may be on a similar timeline; they just keep their secrets. ;)

  • zenzen

    OK, I finally realize that I'm not the ideal CDM/M reader. Touch screens are nifty and seem to be used and loved by many here. But I dislike them, dislike the oily streaks I leave on my first-gen ipod touch, dislike the inaccurate and laggy controls, and dislike how my stubby fingers seem to trigger adjoining virtual buttons and sliders. Give me mechanical/digital-hybrid stuff every time. Oh, and the thought of using somebody else's grease-streaked screen… Eeeewww!

    But I must be in the minority. I guess a big microfibre or scotch-brite cloth will be part of my studio / gig kit.

  • tobamai

    Zenzen, I'm with you in that I would certainly prefer mechanical knobs, faders, and switches… but having a touch screen lets you put together a custom control interface without having to build anything. When I consider the reliability, portability, flexibility, and cost of buying a laptop with a touch screen vs buying a laptop and building a single dream interface the touch screen looks better at the cost of a screen covered in smudges.

  • bp

    @dplex “has anyone heard of third party multitouch OSX apps being developed?”

    Yes. Adobe has introduced basic support in CS4 for multi-touch. It is only a matter of time before it is more wide spread. Developers are very much aware of it but for it to start becoming standard we need to have the full Mac hardware line support it including an external pad device for iMac / Mac Pro owners. Matter of time.

  • http://dplex.com dplex

    Just to clarify, we're talking about multitouch screens here. Photoshop CS4 will offer some unique multitouch gestures for MacBook trackpads that support them, but that's a far cry from an application which can be used solely through a multitouch capable touchscreen without needing trackpad or mouse input. Such development efforts will be huge and get a lot of press attention long before any machines are unveiled.

    Graphics programs that have Wacom support will have a head start though…

    Latest rumor: Apple is replacing the Intel graphics in their MacBooks with an NVIDIA chipset.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @dplex: I have to disagree. Applications using standard APIs for UI widgets could get multi-touch compatibility once the OS vendor provides it. So, for instance, imagine a standard UI widget in, say, .net … or a standard file dialog …

    And I don't think the effort will be "huge." bp's example is a good one. You can overlay a new gesture with a touchpad, so you could overlay a gesture from the screen. Adobe already supports Wacom tablets that provide much greater accuracy and information than the standard mouse does.

    "Huge" to get multi-touch everywhere, but not for new apps, existing UI widgets, or simple gestures, and that's a pretty good place to start.

    And HP already has this working on a computer. Note this story is from JUNE.
    http://blog.laptopmag.com/hp-multi-touch-to-come-

    You can actually go buy an HP TouchSmart now if you like. It runs Vista – not Windows 7, not special software. (Ahem, HP — can we have that in a laptop form factor, please?)

    Now, HP may arguably be jumping the gun a little bit on this one, but imagine Apple went out and did this — fewer SKUs for the platform, developers already supporting their APIs. I think we'll see a gradual transition to more multi-touch functionality and alternative inputs in general, and I think it'll start VERY soon.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @zenzen: You're having this discussion and thoughtfully considering different options. You're absolutely an ideal CDM/M reader. ;)

    I don't love touch for everything, either. It's all about the right tool for the right job. And while touch surfaces may not trump physical knobs and faders, they can improve upon having to mouse around for everything. Put a combination of mouse, qwerty, knobs, faders, other physical inputs together, and with some blend of that you get an ideal.

    Oh, as for bacteria — you probably don't want to know what's on your qwerty. (Heck, I just saw a report that says the gear shift has more bacteria on it than a toilet seat. Alcohol wash, anyone?)

  • paco

    well bad news. looks like they are getting rid of firewire400!!!

  • Amanda

    Yeah this is really bad. I've been using my FW 410 for years :( The only FW 800 interface on the market is a 1400 dollar RME interface.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Okay, I, uh, didn't quite hit this one on the nose, did I? Touch is on the touchpad (albeit with some new gestures). But Eric, yeah, you not only got the first comment but proved me entirely wrong.

    Doh.

    http://createdigitalmotion.com/2008/10/14/did-app

    @paco, @Amanda: the Pro will still work with your FW400 stuff, via an adapter — though you have only one jack.

    The MacBook leaves you completely out of luck AND won't let you plug in a DV/HDV camera. Uh… awesome?