Apple’s Mac lineup is stale, and that is putting it mildly. The Mac Pro is now a staggering 2 1/2 years into its lifecycle without a single upgrade. The MacBook Air has seen almost no changes, save for incremental processor updates since 2010. The iMac form factor has not changed since the fall of 2012. The newly minted MacBook and MacBook Pro's have seen only slight incremental upgrades this past year, and the Mac mini is a mere afterthought. What's going on?
The only significant new release to Apple’s Mac lineup has been the MacBook (of which I use and love), in April of 2015. It recently received a slight Intel processor update. Wow... In fact, all Apple has been keen to do the past few years is release Intel processor updates to products, with the MacBook Air still living in an ancient design, with what can now only be described as a horribly low-resolution display. Apple’s Mac lineup has become a cash cow with little invention, but that may be about to change.
Call it a sophisticated workstation, call it a silent powerhouse or video editing marvel, but now-a-days, do not call it relevant. Apple has again let its cutting edge flagship Mac Pro tower languish into obscurity due to a lax approach to updating, reminiscent of predecessors. How relatively lax you may ask? Since its release on December 13, 2013, the Mac Pro has had not three, not two, not one, but zero updates — as in none.
The good news, according to financial site The Motley Fool, is that the long overdue refresh may be arriving soon. Today is supposedly the day Intel will release its 14nm "Broadwell EP" lineup. As workstation class chips go, the Broadwell-E looks to be impressive as ever, sporting up to 10 cores per processor, with an overall 18% raw speed increase. But Intel has seen delays with this processor refresh, and as of yet there has been no press release for the processor. Will Intel suffer upon us yet another delay, thus delaying the Mac Pro update?
Sometimes you can learn just as much about a company by what is not said as opposed to what is said. Case in point is Tim Cook & Co.’s most recent special event held this past week. At the special event we were dazzled by an updated iPhone line and a new iPad Pro size. Like a magician, Apple said, “Look over here!” However, what one product line — product category — did Apple not talk about at all, as if it didn’t even exist. Macs.
Every model in the Mac product category is now over a year old — even their newest items. Some Macs, like the Mac Pro are now over two years old. It seems like the Mac line-up has been relegated to cash-cow status and therefore Apple is putting as little effort (aka little money) into Macs as possible and reaping as much margin and cash as possible. Or is something else afoot?
If you are in the market for a new Mac, now is probably the worst time in recent history to purchase one. Following Apple for over two decades now, it is clear that the culture of our favorite fruit company allows it to only really focus on one major project at a time. While the iPhone is on an annual update schedule, Macs updates have fallen by the wayside like the ugly step sister from the fairytale Cinderella.
I know, I know,... the turkeys have not yet entered the ovens, and I am talking about Christmas. Shame on me. But as we finish off the month of November and move quickly into the gift-giving (er, getting) season, my mind wanders to what could be and what should be in the Apple server space.
Until 2011 Apple made a very sturdy, ultra-dependable server solution: XServe. It did all the things a good server would do: RAID, redundant power supplies, 1U enclosure and all around robust hardware (fans, circuits, etc). The problem was Apple was not selling many and was about to make a major push to delivering consumer-based cloud services with iCloud. Inside the hallowed halls at Apple the decision was made to build Apple’s cloud on UNIX rather than OS X. While understandable that sealed the fate of the XServe.
Apple’s all-new iPad Pro has been breaking some land-speed records. Testing has revealed the iPad Pro’s processor runs laps around Intel’s Core-M chipset (found within Apple’s MacBook), while coming perilously close to Intel’s flagship Core-i5 series of chips.
The simplified history is Apple’s ARM-based designs have been moving north faster than Intel can move south into the mobile space. The question one must ask is, how long will it be until Apple equips their Mac notebooks with their own A-series processors? There are a number of factors that go into such a massive foundational decision, but the positives — assuming the A–series chips continue their northerly trajectory — should quickly outweigh the negatives.
Yesterday we awoke to some new Mac goodies and accessories. First a new 4K iMac was introduced and a refresh to the one year old 5K iMac. Both are welcomed editions and continue to show Apple’s commitment to the desktop. Of note is that for connectivity neither included the new USB-C port, but instead the familiar USB 3 & Thunderbolt 2 ports. Apparently USB-C is only going to be something we see in notebooks going forward.
Also included in the goodie-bag were some new accessories: a new keyboard, trackpad and mouse. The Magic Keyboard leverages the scissor technology introduced this spring in the new 12" retina MacBook. This gives the keyboard a lower profile and supposedly makes typing more accurate. The other major changes was a lithium-ion battery is built within, so there is no need to change out batteries. Instead a lighting/usb cable will recharge this bad boy when it runs low on power. The new Magic Trackpad 2 adds force-touch and the new Magic Mouse 2 has fewer moving parts and supports multi-touch. Both items also include built-in lithium-ion batteries, so Apple is eliminating the need for separate rechargeable batteries or off-the shelf disposable batteries. Because all accessories have built-in lithium-ion batteries, it means their prices have jumped from previous models they replace. But when you figure the cost of disposable batteries, or Apple’s rechargeable batteries, over the life of these items, the cost difference is negligible, yet the convenience/ease-of-use vastly improved.
Since Tim Cook has been CEO of Apple, the company has typically held four special events every year:
When I learned that another new photo editing application was coming, one that claimed it would be able to take on the juggernaut of the industry, Adobe Photoshop, I rolled my eyes. “First this software will need to be able to knock off Pixelmator,” I thought. I downloaded Affinity Photos immediately, and within one day of using the software I realized that Affinity was no competition for Pixelmator – it easily surpassed it.
The company in charge of Affinity is Serif LTD., located in Nottingham, England. Serif has been around since 1987, and has a host of web and creative editing tools, largely focused on the consumer and educational markets. If you have never heard of them, as I had not, there is a big reason for that. Until Affinity Photo, all Serif's software was built exclusively for Windows. However, with the Mac continuing to grow and stay firmly entrenched in the creative markets, Serif set off in a new direction. Affinity Photo was engineered from the ground up for OS X. There is no Affinity Windows counterpart. There no shared code or pallet design ported from the platform best forgotten. Affinity Photo is 100% OS X goodness, and already includes Force Touch capability.
WWDC 2015 is just around the corner, but one of the most interesting updates to the Mac product line will not be mentioned on Monday. Over the next year we can expect all new Mac models to begin incorporating Touch ID into their designs.
All new iPhones and iPads have Touch ID, and Apple Watch leverages the technology with Apple Pay abilities. Apple intends to extend the technology to Macs, eliminating the need for laborious passwords. Consider this Apple’s secure One Password solution, only faster, easier, more secure — better. Like iOS, upon reboot, OS X will require the user to type in their password to start using Touch ID (for security) but after that passwords for access to your Mac or Keychain can all be had with your fingerprint.