October 28, 2012

Applesauce: All Things Apple – October 28, 2012

Apple releases all the things. Let’s see if we can break it down, nice and easy like, into some easy to swallow pieces. Hop into your favorite rocker, you don’t have to be a gerri to enjoy some Applesauce.

The surprise which was missing during Apple’s September iPhone 5 announcement was more than made up for this week during the “little” event at the California theater. While we pretty well “knew” Apple would be releasing a smaller iPad and heard tale of new Macs, the final product left us with 2 new iPads, 3 new macs and some new software as well. Interestingly enough, iTunes 11 never got a mention, a notable absence since this was Apple’s last event of the year and, at the time of the announcement, they were only 8 days away from their self-imposed deadline. Last week, I took the time to talk the entire iPad mini thing all the way through, something I hope I never have to do again. After several months of trying to figure it out and an official announcement, I’m still not sure I get it, but at least now I don’t have to figure it out. It’s here and, to be frank, it looks beautiful. I was convinced that we’d see a very education-focused event from Apple, with plenty of hoopla about iBooks and iBooks Author and maybe even some partnerships with textbook publishers. As it turned out, Apple was fine with a simple launch, announcing a smaller iPad with no Retina display. They also seemed fine with launching it at $329, a good $30 to $80 more expensive than most thought it should be. Moreover, Apple didn’t mind letting their Mac hardware open up the event for this new iPad mini, announcing 2 new Macs. Oh, and they also outdated a 7-month old device, a very interesting move. There appears to be no better way to sum up the iPad mini (lowercase “m,” mind you) than how Apple is broadcasting it on their front page: “Every inch an iPad.” There were some (namely, me) who thought Apple would need to give people more of a reason to choose this device over a full-sized iPad. It’s clear Cook and Crew believe that size really is of importance, and people will choose this device largely based on it’s slightly smaller size over its price. And to be honest, Apple’s in a position to price their devices however they want. iPad is overwhelmingly the best selling tablet. On stage during Tuesday’s event, Tim Cook even brought up the statistic that iPad has been outgrowing the PC laptop market and sold more units in Q2 than any PC maker (Acer, Dell, Lenovo, HP, for example) sold of their entire PC lineup. Once again, Cook explained it best: “People love their iPads.” So, with such a dominant player in the market (91% of all tablet web traffic, mind you) it’s likely people will come to the mini party just for the trusted name. Schiller explained their decision to Reuters just hours after the announcement. It seems many on Wall Street were disappointed when he announced the new mini would start at $329 instead of a more “competitive” $249 or even $299. “The iPad is far and away the most successful product in its category. The most affordable product we’ve made so far was $399 and people were choosing that over those devices,” said Schiller, referencing the iPad 2, of course. And it’s true…the iPad 2 continued to sell very well even after the new iPad (or 3rd generation) was released this spring. “And now you can get a device that’s even more affordable at $329 in this great new form, and I think a lot of customers are going to be very excited about that.” In other words: People were willing to buy last year’s product when it was $100 less. Of course they’ll buy this brand new thing for $170 less. As with any Apple product, no one really knows what they’re getting until they’re able to touch it, to feel the aluminum in their hands, to experience just how intuitive and responsive these devices can be. From reading the first hand-on reviews, it looks as if Apple has created something as beautiful and solid as the iPhone 5 with as much functionality as the Proper iPad. In many ways, it looks as if this is a smaller iPad 2, that $399 device Schiller was talking about. The mini comes equipped with the A5 chip and a screen with the same resolution as the iPad 2. Of course, the iPad mini is a bit smaller than the iPad 2, meaning this resolution will, in theory, look a little better than the nearly 2-year old iPad. Unlike the iPad 2, the mini get’s the iPhone 4’s and 3rd generation iPad’s 5 megapixel shooter, not a bad camera by any stretch. The mini will also get LTE wireless connectivity, a feature which many were either dubious or completely doubtful about.

The iMac has a baby bump

The folks at 9 to 5 Mac and iMore had been talking up a new iMac for a better part of the year. In fact, 9 to 5 Mac in particular had been drumming up rumors of a new iMac since this summer. Remember when WWDC rumor season had hit a feverish pitch? That’s right, 9 to 5 Mac had started the wacky rumor that Apple would release an update of damn near everything they sell. As it turns out, they weren’t COMPLETELY wrong, they just got their timing off a bit. So, in the midst of a steady stream of iPad mini and 13” Retina MacBook Pro rumors, the idea of a new iMac became somewhat drowned out by louder noises. There was some mention of it (and a new Mac Mini as well) but for the most part, many (including this writer) expected there to be almost no mention of a new iMac during the presentation. In fact, just before Tuesday’s event, 9 to 5 Mac even said they hadn’t heard anything further about an iMac to be released that day. If you have a chance, go back and watch the unveiling of the latest iMac. This is Apple at its best. This is the way Apple wants to unveil everything they do. There had been some buzz, but few paid attention to it. So, as the crowd waited on pins and needles for a new iPad, Schiller was able to flash the word “iMac” on the screen, then play a gloriously slow animation of this beautiful, thin machine rising up from the bottom of the backdrop. It caught everyone by surprise, taking their breath away in the moment of it all. It was everything Steve would have wanted.

It’s a beautiful machine. Just as with every truly monumental and beautiful thing they make, Apple’s come up with fancy, new technologies just to build the thing the way they want. They created new machines to carve out MacBooks from a single piece of aluminum. They began measuring iPhones by the nanometer, and now they’re using something called “friction-stir welding.” To be honest, this could mean anything and very few people would know the difference. Schiller explained it as a process wherein the pieces of aluminum are actually bonded on the molecular level. According to the Web site, this is the same process used on airplane wings, rocket tanks and other things that “simply cannot fail.”

Sure, Sounds good to me.

It is interesting, however, how careful Schiller and Apple have been to ensure that only certain angles of the iMac are seen both during the presentation and on the Web site. Yes, this thing looks thin, but its also got a nice little pooch on the backend of it, too. No one is going to think that an entire computer of the iMac’s caliber would be able to fit into a 5mm package, but I challenge you to find a picture of said bump on the Web site. Nearly every picture, save for the diagram showing size and weight, shows off nothing but that thin, 5 mm edge. It’s funny, really. We all know that bump is there, and anyone could walk into an Apple store someday in November and see it themselves, but Apple trying so hard to hide this little blemish is like the pregnant teenage girl who wears bulky sweaters into her third trimester. Everyone knows, she just doesn’t want to admit it yet. And just like a pregnant teenage girl, no one really knows when these iMacs will be delivered to us. Phil only said “November” for the 21” iMac, and “December” for the 27” model. There’s a broad window there, and these things could come at any moment within that window; Maybe sooner, should they be really ready to poke that massive chin from Apple’s curtain.

(This metaphor got very weird…)

Like everything else Apple does, “November” and “December” likely means they’ll arrive somewhere in the last few days of the month, and interesting move considering the holiday shopping season. If iMacs are as popular as Apple says they are, it’d be nice to have both models available on Black Friday. Who knows, maybe the 21” will be available the week before and the 27” in the first few days of December?

The iPhone is never to be faster than the iPad

Based on the liveblogs I was following during Tuesday’s announcement, the 4th generation iPad was a complete surprise. Some had predicted Apple may have released a slightly revised iPad with not much more than a Lightning port. This New new iPad is much more than that, and more of what Apple has become loathed and loved for: The Incremental Upgrade. Although, at some point you have to ask yourself exactly what is wrong with an incremental upgrade to a product at the top of its market? The iPad has been sitting at the top since its 2010 release, and only this year have their been any decent tablet competitors, namely the Nexus 7. This Google tablet, though it earns positive reviews, is still on a different plane than the iPad with it’s smaller screen, lesser internals and notoriously vulnerable operating system. Apple could release a brand new iPad packed to the gills with technological advancements and every patent they’ve ever filed in a body that took Sir Ive 10 years to master, but for what reason?

While there aren’t any real data points to study just yet, it’s likely the leap from A5X to A6X processor will be more than noticeable. In fact, this processor upgrade combined with the new, faster wireless radios could make this thing not only feel twice as fast as the 3rd gen iPad, but 4 times faster than the iPhone 5. And to be honest, isn’t that how it should be?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always felt a little uneasy about the fact that my iPhone 5 felt much more responsive than my iPad. Not that I’m complaining, of course, just felt like I was getting away with something truly great and at any moment, it could be taken away from me. Now, it looks like it has been. Schiller also took great pains to mention the new iPad has LTE with “Greatly Expanded Coverage.” He spoke with so much intention he almost choked on these words before mentioning this new LTE will work in new areas like Japan. Telstra also gets a mention on the accompanying slide, hopefully avoiding yet another debacle when this iPad is launched.

It’s an interesting move on Apple’s behalf to release a new iPad so soon. When the Verizon iPhone was released in 2011, many wondered when Apple would bring the two phones, GSM and CDMA, together in one release. There was a heavy debate between whether Apple would release what many thought would be the iPhone 5 just months after all these Verizon people had just gotten on board, or if they’d wait an entire year and jump on a January release schedule instead. They chose to skip a few months past their typical June cycle and began releasing in the fall. A new iPad just 6 months after its last releases seems to hint towards a new, fall cycle. This is the interesting part. Should Apple begin releasing iPads in the fall, that means next year Apple will release their 2 best selling products in the same quarter. While they’ll no doubt be able to sustain themselves throughout the year with other products, it does seem….weird that they’d lump so many products together in one season. They’ve set themselves up in a position where they’ll no doubt piss someone off, either the customer who is angry that they’re having to wait an extra few months for a new iPad or the customer who bought an iPad, by chance, just 35 days before Apple unexpectedly releases a new one. I’m sure there are plenty of these customers now, having just bought an iPad weeks ago only to have their brand new device rendered outdated with one simple announcement. Yes, it looks as if Apple is set to disappoint plenty of people in the future, but then again, when has that ever stopped them from doing what they feel is best? I’d like to believe there’s a very good reason Apple released this new iPad so early. We’ll just have to wait several months to understand what that reason is.

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