Mac Gift Guide: 10 picks for your favorite Apple fan

Whether it's a new OS, a laptop backpack or a one-of-a-kind widget, options abound

Note: At present, iMovie '06 is required to use plug-ins because iMovie '08 is a complete revision and the plug-ins don't yet work with it. That's why iMovie '06 is left in place when iLife '08 is installed; it's also available as a free download from Apple.

Another solid gift choice: iWork'08 (US$79), which offers full compatibility with Microsoft Office and great tools for making presentations, newsletters and all manner of graphically rich spreadsheets. Although not the most exciting gift for many, iWork is a great idea for the workhorse in the family, as well as for moms and dads who may need, for instance, to manage soccer teams or other extracurricular school activities.

.Mac

Apple's .Mac service has been called a waste of money. In fact, just last year it was possible to get all the features of .Mac using various free services. But much can change in a year -- and in this case, it has. Now, in addition to an e-mail account, Web hosting and external storage space, .Mac offers an array of impressive extras.

One new feature already mentioned is the stunning Web galleries that create a shared space for people to easily share photos and video online.

Other additions include Back to My Mac, which allows Leopard users to instantly access all of the files on their computers (or simply share the screen) from anywhere on the Internet, as well as the ability to sync an impressive array of data settings (including e-mail accounts, contacts, calendars, System Preferences settings, Dashboard widgets and more) across several Macs. All of these make .Mac, which goes for $99.95 a year, a strong gift choice.

iPod, iPhone and accessories

No gift list would be complete without an iPhone and the latest iPods. Every iPod model makes a great gift and has its own set of advantages, whether in features, size or price.

The iPod Touch is, of course, the most impressive as it boasts the same touch-screen display as the iPhone and can function as a mobile Internet device when in range of a wireless network. However, the iPod Classic is also a great gift, particularly for users who have large collections of music, movies and photos that they want to carry with them.

The iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle work for the more budget-conscious. The Nano is now the lowest priced video-capable iPod ever available and is a great gift for anyone on the go who wants a small fully powered iPod. Prices range from US$79 for the iPod Shuffle all the way up to US$399 for the 16GB iPod Touch.

So much has been said about the iPhone, now just US$399, that there's little need to describe it. Without a doubt, it will make a great gift, and we've heard plenty of people of all ages (from teens to seniors) already asking for one.

The one thing to keep in mind is that the iPhone requires an AT&T contract. If you're buying for users who have existing cellular service on a different carrier, you may want to consider the length of time left on their contract and the availability of AT&T service in their area. (How you ask them about those topics without giving away your gift plans is up to you.)

IPod and iPhone shopping isn't limited to the hardware; there's an entire ecosystem of iPod and iPhone accessories that make great stocking stuffers. Pick from an assortment of cases for protection and transparent screen protectors like Power Support's Crystal Film Set.

Other possibilities include travel chargers, FM transmitters such as Griffin Technology's iTrip and Monster Cable Products' iCarPlay series to listen through a car radio, and all manner of iPod docks and speaker systems.

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Ryan Faas

Computerworld

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