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There's a serious bit of number crunching in this sweetest little Apple.

Byline: GILES TURNBULL

Amid the usual hoopla Apple announced a new computer product. The MacBook Air immediately had its fans - but also some critics.

It manages to be so thin by ditching some gadgets and widgets that until now have been considered essential parts of any computer - namely, an optical disk drive for playing CDs and DVDs, an Ethernet port for plugging in a broadband modem, and in some circumstances, a hard disk.

No hard disk? Not if you shell out for the most expensive MacBook Air, which dispenses with a traditional hard disk and replaces it with a 64GB Flash memory drive instead.

There are no moving parts in this machine - aside from the elegant hinge that opens it up - but you have to pay a great deal for the privilege. The Flash drive itself is charged at little over pounds 600. Ouch.

With every MacBook Air comes a disk with software that can be installed on any nearby computer that does have such a drive - then, ingeniously, your Air uses that other computer's drive wirelessly across the network.

Why watch DVDs, asked Apple boss Steve Jobs in his most innocent of tones, when you can rent digital versions of them from Apple's iTunes online store?

The Air also comes with a new trackpad that borrows multi-touch technology from the hugely popular iPhone.

Using two or three fingers on the pad, you can swipe your way through files and folders or zoom in or rotate images.It was an obvious next step to transfer this technology to notebook computers, and it's a good bet that it will make its way to Apple's other (cheaper) notebooks in the near future.

All these new technological innovations are great news for gadget fans, but the MacBook Air doesn't come cheap.the basic model with an 80GB hard disk (the same type found in iPods) and a slower processor than its normal Mac-Book counterparts is pounds 1,199. The Flash memory model costs an extraordinary pounds 2,028.

Flash memory is faster, has no spinning hard disk, and is far less likely to break than a hard disk. That's why it costs so much.

Should you buy a MacBook Air? Only if you need a notebook computer that is entirely wireless, and you rarely want to plug in extras like printers, cameras, scanners and so on.

Also, you'll almost certainly be needing access to another computer, if only to use its optical disk drive when installing software.

The Air might make a good secondary computer, but then so does the plain MacBook which has many benefits of its own. Another option is to wait. It's a good bet that the MacBook's best features will eventually make their way into other, cheaper machines.

They might then look like a better deal.

Huge numbers of websites ask you to have a username and password. It can be a headache remembering them all.OpenID is a project designed to solve that problem, giving people a secure identity that they can use all over the web for pretty much anything.

So far it's been supported by a small - but growing - number of web sites, but the biggest new OpenID service is from Yahoo! (openid.yahoo.com).

If you have a Yahoo! account, you can now have an OpenID to use elsewhere on the web.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 29, 2008
Words:557
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