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Friday, February 24, 2006, 05:15 pm PT (08:15 pm ET)

Magnet madness to hit Intel iBook line

Only Apple could take a phenomenon as ancient and rudimentary as magnetism and make it seem so profound.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based Mac maker has slowly and subtly been adding magnetic innovations to its computer systems over the last six months and now looks ripe to add yet another.

This past October, Apple introduced an iMac G5, which bundled an Apple infrared remote, giving users control over their music, movies and photos from up to thirty feet away. The company designed the device to stow away neatly (and magnetically) on the side of the computer when not in use — a simplistic luxury that was also adopted in the design of the company's new iMac Core Duo.

Several months later in January, Apple unveiled that its first Intel- based notebook, the 15-inch MacBook Pro, would also sport a new magnetic technology, dubbed MagSafe. The MagSafe power connector makes charging the notebook’s battery easier and safer by magnetically coupling the power cord to the MacBook Pro.

The new power connector was designed to safely disconnect from the MacBook Pro when there is strain on the power cord — helping to prevent the notebook from falling off its work surface when the power cord is inadvertently yanked.

If reports are accurate — and they are believed to be — Apple's forthcoming line of Intel-based iBook consumer notebooks will use magnetic technology in yet another fashion.

In addition to adopting the MacBook Pro's MagSafe power connector, the notebooks will also shed their traditional latch technology in favor of a purely magnetic latching system, people familiar with some of the Intel iBook's design elements have told AppleInsider. Instead of using a magnet to capture a small metal latch when the notebook is close, the new iBooks will use a stronger magnetic system that will adhere the notebook's display component to its base without the need for a movable latch, these people say.

The Intel-based iBook, which may make its debut under a new product name such as MacBook, is rumored to be the most heavily redesigned Macintosh to come out of Apple's industrial design labs in the last two years.

The notebook reportedly resembles a shrunken MacBook Pro, based around a 13-inch high-resolution display, but clad in iBook white. Like Apple's iMac Core Duo and MacBook Pro, the new iBooks are also expected to pack a built-in iSight video camera, Apple Remote, and Front Row media software.

Although processor specifications for the upcoming iBook line remain largely unconfirmed, logic would point to the notebooks adopting a 1.67GHz Intel Core processor, either Solo or Duo.

According to sources in the Far East, the Intel iBook has been scheduled for a manufacturing ramp early in the Spring. Still, there remains a slim possibility it could see an introduction alongside an Intel-based Mac mini and the long-rumored iPod Boombox audio system at next week's special Apple media event in Cupertino.