Hiltmon

On walkabout in life and technology

There’d Be Something Called a Mini

My thoughts on today’s announcements by Apple.

13” Retina Macbook Pro

The 13” Retina Macbook Pro looks good, is priced high as expected, and is probably going to sell very very well. But the 8GB RAM limit and the lack of an external graphics card to drive the Retina display is puzzling. The 15” has an external NVIDIA GT 650M and can go up to 16GB RAM, that makes it a pro machine. The old 13” Pro had the same limitations, odd.

Apple now has three 13” laptops in the market, the 13” Air, the 13” Pro and the 13” Retina Pro. This seems like product proliferation to me after years of keeping the product line simple. My wife has the current 13” Air and it’s the best laptop I have ever used. The only reason I can think of them keeping the old 13” Pro is price until they can get Retinas cheaper, but I cannot imagine who would buy one.

Mac mini

The little achiever gets one heck of a speed bump, better connectivity and lower power consumption. I know many people who are replacing their old Mac Pros with these because they perform better. Maybe I should too. A 2TB server in an Airport Express box that uses almost no power is a brilliant deal for a grand.

iPad 4

As an iPad 3 owner, I do not feel robbed or ripped off by the release of the iPad 4. Firstly, Apple has been needing to shift the iPad launch schedule for a while to meet Apple’s busiest buying period, the end of year holidays. The old schedule had them competing old iPads with newer devices. Secondly, the new iPad 4 is an incremental update, it fixes some of the performance and heat problems with the iPad 3, but does not significantly change the product. It’s what the iPad 3 should have been. And it takes big brass cojones to kill your most successful product after 6 months, others would have waited the 18 months. My iPad 3 will be just fine until the iPad 5 ships this time next year, and for a whole lot longer.

Again, I do not understand the keeping of the iPad 2 in the lineup, unless it is somehow still selling at that price point. Once again, too many choices, and why would someone buy an iPad 2 when the iPad mini or iPad 4 are not far off in price.

iPad Mini

I still believe the new iPad mini is going to be the must-have gift this season. The iPad 2 internals are excellent, the size and weight are brilliant, and the screen size and pixel density means that all current iPad apps work just fine. It really is just a smaller, improved, iPad 2 with full access to the whole ecosystem. I was hoping for a Retina screen, that will happen in the next year or two as the price of Retina screens comes down.

I also think that Apple has something in the pricing, its a lot higher that the competition who are selling far cheaper products at no margin. Apple wants the middle and top end of the market and has priced the iPad mini at the sweet spot just above the market followers (where people buying any other tablet will receive raised eyebrows and hints of cheapskateness or insanity), and where they will sell every one they can make with enough margin to make a hefty profit. Too bad Wall Street analysts are too stupid to work out that margins are good.

But I won’t be buying one. One cannot go back once one is used to Retina on the iPhone and iPad 3. Unless I get a contract to develop software for it, that is.

iMac

By the power of Grayskull, this device is gorgeous. Except for the chin, but that will go in the next revision. I’m not talking about the thin edges or the pregnant hump in the back, I’m talking about the screen. They have finally melded the display with the front glass like they did on the iPhone and iPad and solved the glare issue. If only they released this screen as a standalone, I’d finally replace the old Cinema HD Display.

Pricing and performance means the new iMacs are wicked fast, but note only the 27” has upgradeable RAM. Apple has every right to brag about having the best desktops in the market.

Fusion Drive

The new Fusion Drive idea is interesting, and if it works as advertised, it’s great. The way I figure it, this is not one of the hybrid drives which have SSD caches to boost performance. They simply have a separate SSD and HDD in the computer and software, probably Core Storage, auto-allocates files to drives based on usage of them. This kind of allocation algorithm has been available in expensive server storage systems that have SSDs, fast HDDs and slower drives for years, good to see it come to the Mac. I am hoping that I can take the SSD and HDD combo in my laptop and make it a fusion drive, or add a SSD to the Pro, but we’ll see if that ever happens.

iBooks

The other big release today is iBooks. It’s about time someone realized that eBooks can be read with infinite scrolling instead of skeuomorphic pagination. The addition of textbook features for formulae, new widgets and new templates are a nice. But the biggest feature is the in-place update of iBook textbooks. No-one else does this, and for text books, it’s a must so kids are always up to date. I do hope this applies to all the other tech books I buy from now on at the iBookstore.

Summary

All in all, the rumor sites guessed it all except for the new iMac and Fusion Drive. And Wall Street killed Apple stock because they just don’t get it as usual. There was no mention of new displays, the Mac Pro, the new iTunes, a TV, jet packs, quantum batteries or warp drive, nor was any mention expected, yet both analysts and pundits reported these as failures.

Tim Cook and Phil Schiller put on an great show and released a suite of products that any other company would die for. I think Schiller actually had to rush parts of his presentation because they had too much material.

I’m looking forward to Microsoft and Google’s attempts to get even close to this standard. And to seeing their stocks plunge as they also fail to announce their own jet packs, quantum batteries or warp drives.

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