Apple product leaks have become normal as of late. New surprising announcements have been few and far between over the last couple years as the biggest star of the tech world has continually broken sales records and become the world's #1 brand.
Their products have become ubiquitous when it comes to smartphones and tablets. Apple is everywhere and it's tough to ignore. So, as per usual, the Fall Event for Apple has brought the usual "refresh" of certain hardware lines along with a few surprises. Oh! Also the possible death knell of the paid operating system. Let's dive in.
The first is the iPad Air. It weighs in at just 1 pound and is the thinnest full-sized tablet they've ever produced. This is the first major redesign of the tablet since the iPad 2 as well. The promotional videos that can be found on the Apple website show it as being about as thin as a pencil. The iPad Air ships on November 1st for $499 for the 16-GB Wi-Fi model and $629 for the cellular capable model. The original iPad 2 is still hanging around at $399 as well. The announcement of the Air also gave further fuel to the fire of an iPad Pro in the future as well. A 12.9 inch tablet for professionals? Do it.
Perhaps even bigger though? iPad Mini with Retina Display.
We're now just at year since the original Mini released. The iPad Mini, even without the Retina display it's bigger brother sported last year, has sold like crazy. It accounted for 60% of quarterly shipments of Apple tablets just within a year of release. Sure it was cheaper but cheaper doesn't always mean better as the iPhone 5C has shown.
The 7.9-inch Mini now features a Retina display. It should have had that at launch but it obviously didn't deter too many people from buying it then. It sports a lovely 2048 x 1536 resolution, an A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and the usual improvements over the last generation. It starts at $399 for the 16-GB Wi-Fi model and $529 with mobile data. The original is still available at $299 and will offer a nice option for those looking for a smaller tablet.
So, basically, with these two devices Apple is ready to set the entire market on its head again and sell a billion more of these things. These things are going to be hard to find come holiday season once release comes in November.
The usual hardware refresh that most events bring also occurred with the 13-inch Macbook Pro getting an update. The biggest update is, by far, the Retina display. The crisp clarity of it's larger counterpart is now available in the smaller form factor. It's lighter than before (now 3.46 lbs), thinner (at 0.71 inches) and, of course, faster with a 4th-generation dual-core Intel Haswell chip with a much faster GPU that benchmarks up to 90% faster. Not bad. It also gets up to nine hours of battery life. Little additions such as faster Flash storage, increased Wireless protocol capability and Thunderbolt 2 are included as well. It is available today starting at $1299.
The 15-inch Macbook Pro also received an update with the new Intel Crystalwell chip, better discrete GPU and the usual bells and whistles. The base price has also dropped from $2,199 to $1,999.
The more professional Apple user has been waiting for years for an actual legitimate update to the Mac Pro. It has been affectionately referred to as the "Cheese Grater" Mac and it's bulky tower has served us well for years. The new Mac Pro, announced earlier this year, is finally coming this December. It is clearly aimed at video editors and designers with a small cylindrical design (1/8th the volume of the prior Mac Pro model) and it also happens to be the first Apple assembled completely in the USA in a few decades.
Software was also on the list of updates with the latest release of Mac OSX, Mavericks. It is also completely free. Mac OS hasn't exactly been expensive in the last few years but to just give it away? It's a change that shows they know where their profit centers are at and it isn't operating system software. A model being adopted around the industry.
Last but not least is iWork. The oft-maligned productivity suite that has always been in the shadow of Microsoft Office has been updated for the first time in, well, years. Clearly the design aesthetic of iOS has crept into the core of the suite but also there is a much larger emphasis on collaborative work, integration with cloud services and it's also free to anyone who purchases a new iOS device or Mac. If you're a prior iWork user the update is free otherwise it'll cost $60 total on desktops/laptops, $30 on other devices. Far cheaper than the alternative and a BIG step forward for Apple if they are, indeed, looking to grab a real foothold in the enterprise sector.
Apple, for years now, has been seen as a huge innovator within the technology landscape. It isn't that they've necessarily reinvented the wheel but taken what has already existed and made it far better and profitable. Apple releases the Macbook Air and the entire industry follows suit with Netbooks and Ultrabooks. The iPad is unveiled and, not long after, the industry starts to push out tablets at a near alarming rate. Steve Jobs initially saw the iPad as more of a consumer device meant for fun things. The landscape has changed drastically and having something that is just meant for one purposes anymore seems passé. This event was an interesting glimpse into the trajectory of the company.
Tablets aren't just "fun devices" anymore. They aren't used only within the home or personal use. Businesses all over are making use of "Bring Your Own Device" policies and that means more mobility devices such as iPads within the workplace. Apple has said, without really saying, that there is a change coming. iWork is part of that change but the name change for the iPad is intriguing. I'm not Carnac. I can't just put an envelope to my head and guess where the industry is going but it seems I'm not alone in thinking that this is but the first step towards Apple's entry into the enterprise space.
Apple wants to continue to grow and the natural target has to be business. This has been the stronghold of Microsoft for so long, though, that it is going to be an uphill battle. Microsoft's own tablet, Surface, continues to get better with each iteration and with Office integration built right in it's tough to count Redmond out of the fight. This was a big event in terms of hardware announced but, maybe more than that, an interesting beginning to what could be a far larger conflict between the old rivals, Microsoft and Apple.