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.
2015 has not been a great year for Apple, but the year had started with great promise. Apple Watch was to be Cook’s new product category, helping balance Apple’s sales ledger from heavy iPhone success. It was to be Cook’s version of the introducing the first iMac, iPod, iPhone or iPad to the market. However the Apple Watch launch was blundered like no other in recent Apple history. Within hours, Apple Watch inventory was depleted from online sales, leaving nothing for in-store purchases — on the first day! You could come in, try on a Apple Watch, decide which one was right for you, select additional bands, and then go over to a Mac and order online with a delivery not to happen for the next 2 or 3 months. Awful. What should have been a great success, and caused huge lines in the malls across the country turned out to be a big, big dud. Since then Apple has built up the inventory to match a marginal demand, but Cook and company missed their big opportunity that the iPhone had upon its first day of sales.
I have bemoaned Apple’s laptop lineup before, but every time I look at it, I still cringe. I can not imagine someone going into an Apple Store today and clearly understanding the reason (and the difference) between a 13" MacBook Air and a 12" MacBook. Or between an 11" MacBook Air and the new iPad Pro.
Tim Cook is running all about this week talking about the iPad Pro as his new notebook. He claims all he needs is his iPad Pro and his iPhone. Fine, fantastic. But while he is euphorically trying to restart growth in the iPad line up, he is, at the same time, furthering muddling the notebook line up, making the consumer choice confusing. Sometimes I long for the days where the authoritarian Steve Jobs would say you can have a notebook and it comes in these three models — that’s it. Jobs loved simplicity and Apple’s product lines almost always reflect that. Everything was easy to understand. The differences between each model was clear, including the pricing, and therefore made the choice simple for the purchaser.
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.
Anyone remember this bad boy display? The original 15" LCD Studio Display, complete with a translucent frame. Well times have certainly changes since its introduction in 1998, but it seems the display department at Apple is stuck behind the times. It is almost as if Apple does not want to sell their current display or even play in this market, which is a lost opportunity for additional revenue.
iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad — all the non-OS X products in Apple’s stable have been revved and the product line is clean and clear. For example, there is no product overlap between an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus — or even between those and the previous iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Also there is no overlap between iPad models or between Apple Watch models. Within each of these product lines if you have a specific need or want, the choice of which product is right for you is fairly straightforward. That is unless you are in the market for an OS X powered notebook.
This is where things get messy and rather quickly. Usually bigger size means more money. But not with Apple’s notebooks. There is the entry model MacBook Air that leads the pac for price conscious consumers starting under $1,000 USD. But both standard 13" MacBook Air models are at least $100 less expensive than the smaller, entry level 12" MacBook. The MacBook offers more state-of-the-art technology than the Air’s (new keyboard, Force Touch trackpad, retina display, USB-C and multiple colors), but in consumer’s minds 12" is less than 13" so shouldn’t it cost less? Making matters worse, if a customer asks which one is more powerful, confusion can quickly ensue. The MacBook and MacBook Air use different chips, thus the MacBook Air is more powerful, and has powerful upgrade options, than the lightweight MacBook.
On September 9, during Apple's San Francisco special event, Apple’s Sr. Vice President, worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, took to the stage and introduced the iPad Pro. The latest and largest tablet of its kind from Apple delivers an incredible 12.9", 5.6 million pixel display, and weighs only 1.5 lbs. Accompanying the iPad Pro is a versatile accessory called Apple Pencil along with an optional Smart Keyboard. While the iPad Pro left the audience quite pleased, Schiller made one comment that was likely to have left Intel speechless.
Since Tim Cook has been CEO of Apple, the company has typically held four special events every year:
Last week I wrote about whether Tim Cook was the right guy in 2015 to lead Apple forward. I then followed with an article about the stock being in a dulldrums. While comments to both stories were not necessarily positive, both postulations may be true. Sometimes people do not like to hear the truth, especially when it goes against their preconceived ideas. Change is difficult for most, and adjusting to reality is often something people prefer to avoid.
The fact is Apple is in a funk this year. While OS X will add some nice do-dads to its plethora of features and iOS 9 looks to be a welcomed update as well, it hasn’t been since the iPad’s launch that Apple’s luster was shining bright. Sure the stock has done amazing things since the beginning of this decade as has Apple’s savings account. Tim Cook has proven to be a very good manager of what is. Incremental change over time with the direction of the company in an upward direction. But while good for the first four years of the 2010 series, year number five is proving a bit more difficult.
Since its climb in February of 2015 from around $110/share, Apple’s stock has been hovering between $120-$130/share for four months now. Never mind continual profits or record iPhone sales quarter after quarter. No, no. Don’t be confused that actual performance of Apple will translate into actual growth in the value of the company.