Apple 2.0

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Apple's new MacBooks: Spy photos from Taiwan

October 9, 2008: 10:53 AM ET

[UPDATE 2: New, improved spy photos emerged on Sunday. See here.]

[UPDATE: Invitations for the rumored Oct. 14 special event -- "The spotlight turns to notebooks" -- arrived Thursday noon.]

It's becoming clear, at least to some Apple watchers, that Oct. 14 will come and go without On Thursday, Apple e-mailed reporters with invitations for the rumored show-and-tell at which Steve Jobs is supposed to introduce a new line of MacBooks -- the aging notebook computers that now account for 30% of Apple's quarterly revenue. (See All eyes on the MacBook.)

But we're getting close, judging by the frequency with which spy photos are starting to emerge. There's even a leaked price list that has Apple selling MacBooks for as low as $800 (see below).

The latest set of pictures, posted by a Taiwanese blogger at Apple.pro and republished by MacRumors, may very well be fakes, but they are consistent with reports that Apple has switched to a new manufacturing process that carves the shells of its notebooks out of a single "brick" of aluminum. (See Has Steve Jobs built a secret MacBook factory?)

Accompanied by Chinese characters that, roughly translated, invite readers to look at "three mystical pictures transmitted greatly peacefully," the photos purport to show "the fable joins MacBook which the aluminum shell helps the C shell."  (link)

The photos are pasted below in their original form:

Note that although these images are similar in several respects to the image at right, posted earlier in the week by Engadget, they are clearly from different machines (or different Photoshop sessions). For example, the space between the keyboard holes and the outer edge of the computer in this image is wider than in the images above.

Meanwhile, Duncan Riley at The Inquisitor claims to have got his hands on an official price list for the new machines. According to his source:

"Apple retail stores have been given price sheets that list 12 price points for the new range, with prices between $800-$3100. Current lines only have 8 price points, 3 Macbooks starting at $1099, 3 Macbook Pros and 2 Macbook Airs." (link)

Riley adds that Apple retail outlets usually receive price lists 10 days before products hit the market, which would push the launch date into the third week of October. Several commentators dispute Riley's 10-day rule and suggest that we shouldn't expect to see the new machines before November.

Why would anyone with inside information share it with these rumor sites, given the speed and severity with which Apple (AAPL) punishes leakers? You have to wonder. Foxconn, Apple's Taiwanese manufacturing partner, is said to be even more strict about these things, which may explain the cryptic message posted below the Apple.com images:

下班後小心別被磚塊打

This, according to Babel Fish, roughly translates as:

"After getting off work, careful be not projected on by the brick bat."

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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