Apple's iPhone and iPads have been such hits that the company is now looking for ways to bring some of their cachet to its laptops and desktops.
Apple Inc. offered glimpses on Wednesday of an updated Mac operating system, called Mac OS X Lion. The company highlighted features that borrow from the lighter-weight iOS that runs on its mobile gadgets.
The company also unveiled two new versions of its MacBook Air ultralight laptops.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs drew laughs when he introduced the new models by saying, "We asked ourselves: What would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up?"
Lion _ Apple uses names of big cats to differentiate between versions _ is expected to arrive next summer. Lion will include a built-in store selling Mac software, similar to the iTunes store that sells apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
Those devices have been successful in part because of the tens of thousands of games and other programs available as free or paid downloads in the app store. Apple may be looking to a Mac app store to boost interest in its computers, which make up a tiny but growing percentage of the personal computer market. In the second quarter, Macs accounted for about 4 percent of PC shipments worldwide, according to the research group IDC.
Apple plans to vet Mac programs before they'll be sold in the store. Software developers will be able to submit apps for review starting in November, and the Mac store will be open for business in the next 90 days.
Lion also mimics the iPhone and iPad user interface in a few ways. Mac users will be able to move from the main desktop to a "dashboard," or screen with a clock, weather report, calculator and other widgets, by swiping a multitouch mouse or trackpad. People will also be able to drag one program icon on top of another to create a new folder, which smartly names itself based on the type of applications that are inside.
Before the event, rumors swirled that Apple would add a touch screen to its Mac laptops. But the company stuck to its stated belief that it doesn't make ergonomic sense to make people reach out and touch a vertical surface.
Apple's new MacBook Air laptops have something else in common with iPhones and iPads, however: They store all their information in flash memory. Apple did away with a CD and DVD drive in its first MacBook Air, and it ditches the hard disk drive in this edition, too. That will speed up the time it takes to boot up the laptops or wake them from a sleep state.
The laptops are 0.68 inches thick at the back and taper down to 0.11 inches thick at the front edge. They come in two sizes, one with a screen that's 13.3 inches diagonally and another with a 11.6-inch screen. The larger one clocks in at 2.9 pounds and can be used for seven hours, thanks in part to a low-voltage processor from Intel Corp. that consumes less power than ones running in standard laptops. The smaller one weighs 2.3 pounds and is rated to last five hours. Both can sit on standby for 30 days.
Prices range from $999 for a smaller one with 64 gigabytes of flash memory storage to $1,599 for the larger model with 256 gigabytes of flash.
Apple is also bringing FaceTime video chatting to Macs. The feature debuted this summer on the iPhone 4 and has since been added to the iPad. A test version is available now on Apple's website.
Apple is also releasing a new version of iLife, its set of programs for managing photos, editing videos and music and doing other tasks.
The company added more ties between its iPhoto program and the popular social networking site Facebook. When people look at pictures they've published on Facebook, for example, iPhoto displays comments friends made on that site.
Other new features include a full-screen view for managing photos, slick new slideshow templates and the ability to e-mail customized photo-postcards straight from iPhoto.
In iMovie, Apple improved audio editing and the ability to easily piece together movie trailers.
ILife '11 will come installed on new Macs and can be purchased as an upgrade for $49 starting immediately. The previous 2009 version cost $30 more.
Apple's stock increased $1.04 to close Wednesday at $310.53.
Mintz reported from Seattle.