Apple’s new products are always highly anticipated. Websites such as Macrumors.com (with about 4.4 million visitors per month) feature speculation about potential new features, design cues, and price adjustments.

Many people who speculate about new Apple products are researching whether they should buy a Mac ASAP, or wait for a potential new release. Others are simply having fun following their favorite brand, as one might follow a band, sports team, or television show. I’m a consummate Mac-follower; I enjoy parsing the hype to guess what Apple will do next.

Anticipation for the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros was especially intense this year. With such high expectations, a certain degree of disappointment is inevitable. When the new machines were unveiled on October 14, Mac-watchers praised their newly designed aluminum cases, graphics and Intel processor updates, Multi-Touch glass trackpad, and reduced environmental impact. However, there has been surprise at three aspects of the new MacBooks (not MacBook Air nor Pro):

#1. Glossy Screens.
Online, people have been vociferous against the transition to glossy screens. However, I know from experience that the average person who comes into our stores likes they way they look, and prefers them over the duller matte screens. The new MacBook has an awesomely bright, crisp display that seems to minimize reflections.

I understand the limitations of glossy screens, especially for working on print projects. It is still possible to custom-order the MacBook Pro with a non-glossy (matte) screen. Also, like most other Apple Specialists, Small Dog is looking into screen-protecting overlays for users who are worried about screen glare.

#2. Price.
There were rumors that Apple would release a MacBook for $800. Instead, Apple repackaged a white 2.1GHz MacBook with SuperDrive and is selling it for $999. This is the lowest price ever on a new MacBook. Still, it’s the old design which has upset some people. Personally, while I always wish for less expensive equipment, I am content with Apple’s decision to do this. The $999 MacBook is sweet machine, even if it does not have the new aluminum case. It does, however, have a FireWire port, which brings me to…

#3. No FireWire port on the newest MacBooks.
This means no use of most older DV camcorders (some may work–-check your manual to be sure). No use with FireWire-only hard drives. No use of FireWire-only audio and video equipment. No FireWire networking. No Migration Assistant with FireWire (though it does work with ethernet, which could be faster in some cases, or via Wi-Fi). And, at least for now, no Target Disk mode.

At first, dropping FireWire seemed crazy to me. Personally, I won’t be buying one of these newer MacBooks, since I use an HDV video camera that does not transfer video via USB 2.0. Even if I upgraded my HDV camcorder, any model I’m likely to buy will still use FireWire for best-quality video transfer, as well as full camera control.

Steve Jobs recently said that “all of the new HD camcorders of the past few years use USB 2.” This is not strictly accurate. Many camcorders with USB 2 use it to transfer photos only. Older versions of iMovie and Final Cut Pro don’t recognize USB 2 for video transfer. Video transfer via USB 2.0 is not nearly as smooth and reliable as FireWire. And as far as I know, USB 2.0 does allow for camcorder control, which makes it useless for logging and capturing footage. There is a transition to USB 2 in camcorders, and all of the small, flash-based camcorders do use USB 2.

Lack of FireWire mostly hurts people with professional equipment and people with older equipment. It can be said that these pro users should buy a new MacBook Pro, or else a previous generation MacBook or MacBook Pro (which Small Dog will be carrying for a limited time at up to $700 less than the current models), or even consider upgrading their AV equipment.

However, there are plenty of people like me who want a machine that’s smaller than a MacBook Pro but has “pro” features. The only thing I really need FireWire for is the camcorder.

I understand that MOST users don’t ever use or need FireWire. USB 2.0 is in very wide use. Camcorders are transitioning to flash memory, which makes two-way camcorder control via FireWire unnecessary. Dropping FireWire from consumer notebooks won’t impact a huge number of people. It just means that we who are impacted have to live with this limitation of the MacBook, or accept that we have one fewer laptop choice.

This whole thing reminds me of when Apple dropped floppy drives, which was annoying at first. Now it would be annoying to have a floppy drive!

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