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Macworld 2009: Apple smashes laptop battery barrier

Danny Bradbury

Apple claims to have cracked the eight-hour battery life goal this week, with a 17-inch laptop that can operate for a full working day without external power. But it made a big sacrifice, making the battery a non-removable feature.

Senior vice-president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller, who unveiled the new 17-inch Macbook Pro at the Macworld event in San Francisco, said that making the battery non-removable enabled the company to cram more lithium polymer material into a smaller form factor, increasing the battery life by three hours over the old model.

The battery, which holds 95 watt-hours of energy, can be fully recharged up to 1,000 times, said Schiller, adding that this was roughly three times the industry average. The average Macbook Pro user would get a five-year lifetime from the system, he added.

"It is PVC and BFR [brominated flame retardant] free, and we will also have a takeback and recycling programme," Schiller said, talking up the firm's green credentials.

The new Macbook, which ships at the end of this month, also comes with a 256Gbyte solid state memory option. Previous solid state options topped out at 128Gbytes.

Some exhibitors on the show floor seemed surprised that the company had not opted for a silver-zinc battery. This new generation of batteries, offered by firms such as ZPower, offer more capacity than conventional lithium ion, are 95% recyclable, and inherently safer than lithium batteries. The industry rumour-mill had indicated that Apple might debut a silver-zinc battery at Macworld.

Apple also attempted to muscle in on the online collaboration market with a new beta service called iWork.com. The service, accessed via the latest version of its iWork office suite (also launched at Macworld), enables workers to share presentation, word processor and presentation files. Individuals can then leave comments in files shared using the service, although online editing is not yet a feature. iWork.com also enables iWork users to upload and share files in Office format. It is currently free to iWork 09 users, but will eventually be a fee-based service, Schiller said.

This will be Apple's last keynote at the IDG-run event, and the first not to feature CEO Steve Jobs. He issued a letter this weekend dismissing concerns about his health and committing to stay on as CEO of Apple.

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