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Macworld in San Francisco in the USA has kicked off and Apple has used the occasion to roll out a 2.5 centimetre notebook, which makes it the thinnest in the world, an online movie-rental service and a revamped TV device as the maker of the iPod and iPhone seeks to extend a sales surge driven by new products.

The $A2499 or $US1799 MacBook Air laptop is the “world’s thinnest notebook,” said Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, speaking today at the Macworld conference in San Francisco. The computer has an Intel Corp. processor that’s smaller than the chips in other systems, he said. It will begin shipping in two weeks.

Apple is counting on new devices and services to hook consumers as it expands into new entertainment and computer markets. The company uses the Macworld show to give a glimpse of its biggest products. Apple fell $7.60, or 4.3 percent, to $171.18 at 1:25 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading, signaling that investors had expected more.

“No big earthshaking announcements from Apple today, but lots of good news on growth and growth potential,” said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecommunications industry analyst attending Macworld.

The MacBook Air is less than 2.5 centimeters thick. The computer has a 13.3-inch display, a full-sized, back- lit keyboard and an 80-gigabyte hard drive. It also has a built- in camera for videoconferencing.

 

Rental Service

Apple also plans to rent videos through its iTunes online store, expanding its role as an entertainment distributor.

The rental service, which debuts in the U.S. next month, will have movies from “all major studios,” including Warner Bros., Walt Disney Co. and 20th Century Fox, Jobs said.

iTunes will have more than 1,000 films by next month, he said. The rentals will be available 30 days after a DVD’s release. New releases will cost $3.99, with older movies priced at $2.99. High-definition movies will be available for an additional dollar.

The online store, which already lets users buy videos, has delivered 125 million TV shows and 7 million movies, he said. Apple’s movie sales haven’t met expectations, Jobs said.

The company’s Apple TV product, a device that lets computer users watch videos on widescreen TVs, has been a “miss,” Jobs said. He introduced a new version that no longer requires a computer and lets TV viewers rent movies directly from iTunes.

Jobs said Apple didn’t realize at first that “it’s all about movies, movies, movies.”

The rental service will be available internationally later this year, he said.

 

IPhone Sales

The company also announced it has sold 4 million iPhones, exceeding some analysts’ estimates.

Apple sold almost 1.4 million in the first three months after the release of the Web-surfing mobile phone on June 29. It began selling the iPhone in the U.K., Germany and France in November, and has said it will offer the device to customers in Asia sometime this year.

The company was expected to sell at least 2 million iPhones over the holidays, according to analysts at Piper Jaffray & Co., Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. and Bear Stearns & Co.

After discontinuing the 4-gigabyte model of the iPhone in September, Jobs cut the price of the 8-gigabyte version to $399 from $599 in a move to spur sales.

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