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Apple offers new and improved MacBook Pro laptops

Apple Inc. has rolled out new, faster versions of its popular line of MacBook Pro laptops, the familiar gray notebook computers frequently seen in coffee bars and on television shows.

The latest line of portable computers, which Apple updates annually, include speedier processors, a higher-resolution built-in camera for video chatting and a new data transfer technology called Thunderbolt. Laptops account for about 14% of Apple’s quarterly sales.

Thunderbolt is a USB-like connector that can send data between devices at a rate of 10 gigabytes per second. (By comparison, USB 2.0 transfers data at about 480 megabytes per second.) Intel, which developed the technology with input from Apple, said a full-length high-definition movie can be transferred in less than 30 seconds and one-year’s worth of MP3 music can be downloaded in 10 minutes.

Thunderbolt sockets can also be used to connect computers to external monitors.

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All the new laptops will come with a built-in front-facing camera above the screen. They are dubbed FaceTime HD cameras, after Apple’s proprietary software that allows users of its computers and mobile devices to conduct video chats over a Wi-Fi connection.

The move in effect sweeps Apple’s old laptop cameras, called iSight, out of the company’s laptop line. FaceTime HD allows for high-resolution, widescreen video chats and photos, and works with most other Macs, as well as the iPhone 4 and the latest iPod Touch.

The new MacBook Pros, now on sale, start at $1,199 for the version with the 13-inch screen, $1,799 for the 15-inch model and $2,499 for the 17-inch version.

Apple also announced an upcoming version of its computer operating system, called OS X, that the company said was inspired by the look and feel of software on its iPad tablet computer. Programs will fill more of the screen, enable more complicated “touch” gestures with the trackpad and allow users to download applications from a centralized store.

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The new version of the operating system, which Apple has dubbed Lion, will be available to consumers this summer, the company said.

In addition to a variety of TV shows, Apple’s products appeared in 33% of the top 100 movies at the U.S. box office in 2010, according to a report released by market research website Brandchannel on Tuesday. The site gave Apple its 2010 Award for Overall Product Placement.

david.sarno@latimes.com


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