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Macworld, Intel and a Side of Fry's

Tuesday, January 18, 2005;

I'll be online today at 2 p.m. ET to talk about my trip to Macworld last week. If you can't join me this afternoon, please submit a question early.

Last week took me out to the Bay Area for the annual Macworld Expo. Two pieces ran last Wednesday based on my initial observations: "Apple Makes Tiny Steps For the Masses" and "Macworld Notebook."

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E-letter Archive

But I also filed some additional thoughts later in the week, which run below:

A 'Mini' Laptop, Please

I came this close to hurling my laptop against a wall in the press room at the convention center here Tuesday. This old ThinkPad, as I mentioned in last week's newsletter, has been falling apart rather suddenly. First, it started blue-screening when I woke it from sleep, then it started hanging when I closed its lid, then it began to drop any WiFi connection within five minutes. I couldn't have done my Web chat last week if I didn't have Linux installed on a second partition.

After seeing so many Macworld attendees happy with their iBooks and PowerBooks, I admit that I felt like a world-class chump for continuing to do battle with this machine. But Apple doesn't make a laptop lighter than the 12-inch PowerBook, at 4.6 pounds. My already-obsolete ThinkPad weighs only about three pounds, and many Windows notebooks measure still less.

Two pounds might not seem like a lot, but it is important if you'll be spending a week running around some convention center. If only Apple would make a laptop in that size -- er, if only Steve Jobs would think that was an interesting problem to solve.

So, Steve, how about it: Where's my 12-inch PowerBook mini?

iPod Extras

When browsing among the non-Apple parts of the Macworld Expo show floor (not a huge array of exhibits overall), I was struck by how many of them were tied into the iPod. At the simplest end, I saw dozens of iPod cases in every color and pattern imaginable. At the high end, two Mercedes-Benz cars were set up to demonstrate a new iPod car adapter kit the company will offer. In between were numerous gadgets to connect iPods to stereos, including a pair of Bluetooth adapter kits to be sold later this year by Belkin and Griffin.

The two quirkiest iPod add-ons, however, had nothing to do with that.

One was Talking Panda's $40 "iLingo" language dictionaries, which allow you to browse through categories of vocabulary ("simple terms," "greetings," "getting around" and so on). Select a particular term and its foreign-language equivalent is listed on the iPod's screen; press the "play" button at the center of an iPod's click-wheel control to hear that word pronounced.

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