Apple has refreshed its MacBook Pro laptop line with three new models based on Intel's Sandy Bridge processors, at the same time releasing a developer preview of Mac OS X Lion which borrows features from the iPad.
Available immediately, the latest MacBook Pro models come in a 13in, 15in and 17in format with more powerful graphics and a new I/O technology called Thunderbolt that offers dual 10Gbit/s data channels for connecting high-performance kit such as Raid arrays.
Meanwhile, the Mac OS X Lion preview adds new features to Apple's operating system such as a grid of application icons called Launchpad, and a bird's-eye view of everything open on the system called Mission Control.
Apple's new MacBook Pros start at £999 for the 13in model with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 processor, while the 15in and 17in models have quad-core Intel Core i7 chips and are priced from £1,549 and £2,099 respectively.
The company claims that the new models perform up to twice as fast as the previous generation, and that the 15in and 17in models feature AMD Radeon GPUs that automatically take over from the built-in Intel graphics when higher performance is required.
However, potentially the most interesting new feature is the Thunderbolt I/O technology, which has been co-developed with Intel under the codename Light Peak.
Thunderbolt, which is being cast by the two firms as a potential successor to USB and FireWire, provides two 10Gbit/s data channels per port and supports the DisplayPort and PCI Express protocols.
Apple expects the technology to be widely adopted as a new standard for high performance I/O.
While the new MacBooks come with Apple's existing OS X Snow Leopard platform, the OS X Lion preview hints at some features in the forthcoming release, including influences from Apple's iPad tablet.
Mission Control provides a zoomed-out view of everything running, including thumbnails of full-screen application windows and the Dashboard widgets, allowing the user to access anything with a single click.
Launchpad presents a grid view of available applications, like the home screen of the iPad, and is aimed at making it easier to find and launch programs, Apple said.
OS X Lion also supports multi-touch gestures, Apple's new Mac App Store and numerous enhancements to other aspects of the platform.
Apple said that the final version of OS X Lion will ship to customers this summer.
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