Apple smiles as unlocked iPhones abound

So if you’re Apple—and I realize that it’s unfair of me to make you pretend you’re a multinational corporation worth billions, but I’m cruel that way—what happens when you realize that many of the 5.4 million iPhones you’ve sold in the past 10 months haven’t been activated on the networks of any of your worldwide cellular partners?

Here’s what you do: You shrug. You made a lot of money on those 5.4 million phones. Yeah, you’re probably getting a kickback from those cellular companies that you won’t get from the unlocked phones. But presumably you’ve priced the iPhone hardware for a tidy profit all on its own. And that’s money you don’t have to share with the likes of AT&T, O2, or T-Mobile.

This strange story, the “disappearance” of iPhones from the markets in which they’re being sold, has been the highlight of the last two Apple conference calls with analysts to discuss their financial results. In January’s call, Apple COO Tim Cook said that “the number of phones bought with the intention of unlocking them was significant… We see this phenomenon as an expression of very strong interest in the iPhone globally, and in that way it’s a good problem to have.”

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The $2,500 solution

The cover story of the next issue of Macworld (you do know that we still publish a dead-tree edition, right?) is the latest in a decades-long tradition of stories about what to look for when you’re buying a new Mac. In working on this story, which I wrote with Senior Editor Jonathan Seff, I was reminded of the most peculiar thing about every Mac I’ve ever bought.

They all cost the same amount.

During the 1990s I bought four Macs. Those purchases spanned that decade, from my first Mac in early 1990 to a Power Mac in late 1999. And yet, each time I totaled up the final price tag, it was always within hailing distance of $2,500. (It brings to remind that scene from “Rain Man” in which Dustin Hoffman suggests that both a candy bar and a new car cost “about a hundred dollars.”)

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MacBook Air: Making the migration

One of the oddities of the MacBook Air is, as a system without a FireWire port, an optical drive, or an accessible hard drive, the act of reinstalling Mac OS X and migrating your files from your old system to this new one is more complicated than it has been in the past.

Without FireWire there's no "target mode," a feature that lets you mount a laptop's drive on another Mac as if it were an external hard drive. It's a feature that's been around for a long time (dating back to a SCSI version on old PowerBooks), and it's a convenient way to migrate files on and off of laptops, but the MacBook Air just won't do it. (And no, sadly, there's no USB equivalent.)

But Apple has taken the MacBook Air’s release as an opportunity to upgrade its Migration Assistant — which previously focused on transferring files via FireWire — and other software in order to make life easier for MacBook Air users and, presumably, other Mac users via some future software update.

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Introducing Macworld's Total Leopard

When it comes time to release a new version of Mac OS X, Apple doesn’t trot out a tired old marketing campaign that suggests that what’s good about this upgrade is that it’s new. Apple realizes, quite rightly, that most users don’t buy upgrades just because Apple makes them available. Two and a half years ago, when Tiger was the new big cat on the scene, Apple touted its “200-plus new features.” Now with Leopard, the number has grown to 300-plus. And yes, you can visit a page on Apple’s web site that contains a list of all 300 of them.

If you’re a Leopard user — or are planning to make the switch soon — I’m happy to recommend to you the latest book in our Superguide series, Total Leopard. Following in the footsteps of our popular everything-in-one-place guides to Mac OS X (Total OS X, Total Panther, and Total Tiger), Total Leopard is an information-packed 90-page book featuring just about everything you’ll need to know about Leopard—all features, great and small.

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The MacBook Air austerity program

The first thing I did upon realizing that I’d be reviewing the MacBook Air for Macworld was sigh heavily and curse my luck. Not that I’m not lucky to get to play with the MacBook Air—I’m excited about that. No, my sigh was one of realization. Realization that my current MacBook was stocked with a 160GB hard drive, a drive that was nearly full.

In order to fit my life into the MacBook Air, I was going to have to remove half the data from my hard drive in less than a week.

This is the story of my crash MacBook diet.

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MacBook Air has landed

And a shout of celebration was heard throughout the land, er, building: a MacBook Air has finally arrived at the Macworld offices. Our review unit from Apple arrived this morning, escored to the premises by a large, armored car. (Okay, it was a FedEx truck.)

As Macworld Lab Director James Galbraith began prepping the MacBook Air for testing, I was able to snatch it away for a few minutes in order to take some quick snapshots and get a brief feel for the difference between this three-pound beastie and the five-pound MacBook I usually tote around.

And so here, in a photographic style used by many of our nation's kidnappers (why, yes, I did grow up in a small town, why do you ask?), evidence that we have a MacBook in our clutches on this day, January 24. These photos were shot in an undisclosed location. Okay, okay, it was the table in my office.

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Wrapping up Expo

Macworld Expo is without a doubt the high point of the year for anyone who follows Apple. Every January, the most important people in Apple’s sphere of influence congregate in San Francisco to show off their latest inventions and pore over the details of Apple’s latest announcements. While this year’s announcements were not on a par with last year’s mind-blowing unveiling of the iPhone, they were still fascinating to behold.

MacBook Air

For Mac users, the talk of this year’s Expo was almost certainly the MacBook Air, Apple’s new super-thin lightweight laptop. But that talk wasn’t all positive; opinion on the show floor and online has been decidedly mixed.

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