New iPhones, a new iPad Pro and a new Apple TV, were all unveiled last month during Apple’s Bill Graham Auditorium special event. Beyond iPhone it is difficult to gage exactly which product is garnering the most attention. Now that the iPhone has launched the magic behind the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil has yet to be fully discovered. However what is least known is Apple TV and what it will truly be capably of once it begins shipping late October.
The mysteries of Apple TV are numerous, and one unknown begins to pile atop the next. Why does Apple TV’s A8 processor have such a massive heat sync? Why is the unit thick enough to support Optical Audio Out, but it is no longer included? Why is 4K (UHD) and HDMI 2.0 not supported? Why did Apple not release their own optional game controller to kick things off? And of course, why no silver, space gray, gold versions? Did the crew that built the MacBook with one port also lend their hand with Apple TV? It is almost as if Apple is launching their very own Area 51 product. Here’s to trying my hand at unraveling some curious areas of Apple TV.
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.
On Tuesday, September 8, Apple unveiled an all new iPad, the iPad Pro. It sports a gorgeous 12.9" display, and works in concert with the amazing new Apple Pencil. iPad Pro combined with Apple Pencil will be a graphic artist’s dream. However, the media seems obsessed by one comment made by the late Steve Jobs in 2007. The media think they can play Jobs’ comment against Apple’s current leadership team to show how wrong Apple was in launching Apple Pencil, and get plenty of attention while doing so.
In January of 2007, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. The iPhone had no physical keyboard, just a 3.5" multi-touch display. It was, at the time, a radical approach. During the unveiling Jobs explained how users would interact with the device. A stylus was out of the question. Jobs infamously stated, "Who wants a Stylus? You have to get 'em, and put them away and you lose them. Yuck. No one wants a stylus." Jobs clearly mocked the idea of using a stylus. Or did he? With the advent of Apple Pencil, the media has climbed all over the idea that Jobs would never have approved a stylus for iPad Pro. They couldn't be more wrong.
What made the original iMac, iPhone, iPad — and now Apple Watch — shine is that they were game changers. An industry was going one way but then when Apple entered the market, boom! The industry shifted direction to follow what Apple was doing.
Lately things have not gone so well for Apple — not that they have been disasters, but for about 8-10 years there was nothing our favorite fruit company could do that wasn’t a gigantic success. iPhone, iOS SDK, iPad, Mac transition to Intel, OS X,... just to name a few. That does not mean Apple did everything right (kill Xserves for example), but overall their successes far outweighed any shortcomings.
However 2015 has been a different year for Apple. With much promise, Apple Watch was going to be that “new product” that everyone was wearing. It was supposed to be the year that whether you went to the mall, to church or to the airport, you would always spot several people wearing Apple Watch. Nearly five months in, that just is not the case. Apple Watch is for sale, but even Apple hid its sales numbers for the device in their last quarterly earnings report (expect the same for this quarter’s as well). That is not something you do for a product that is flying off the shelves.
When the MacBook launched this spring, it answered everyone’s questions about what Apple was going to do with the rumored 12-inch screen. Or did it? While the MacBook does use a unique 12-inch screen size (in comparison to Apple’s other notebook offerings) is that the only purpose for the 12-inch screen?
Some suggest Apple is working on a 12-inch iPad Pro device. This product would launch in the fall of this year in conjunction with the release of iOS 9 — which will allow for split screen computing. iPad sales figures have been disappointing in recent quarterly reports earnings. If these rumors are true, it appears Apple may be trying and reignite the iPad’s mojo with a larger device.
IBM is chief sponsor of the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, the grass championships at Wimbledon, England. For two weeks even novice onlookers tune into Wimbledon, as it scrapes into the consciousness of mainstream sports reporting. IBM is center stage, breaking into every commercial break. Even if a casual TV viewer, one cannot help but notice IBM. But Big Blue does more than just sponsor the tournament, they provide real-time statistics and graphics revealing where players are hitting each and every ball, their service success, and ball angles and heights. With Apple and IBM well into their $100 million partnership, it would be more than obvious the chair umpires would be officiating each match using iPads. That assumption would be wrong.
Chair umpires are using a Panasonic tablet. Specifically, Panasonic's Toughpad, deploying Intel Core i-series processing and Windows 7 or 8. Hawkeye, the system used to track the ball and validates whether the ball is in or out, is not infallible. In fact, it deploys non-high-speed 2D cameras, which must then estimate that track of the ball. Not exactly infallible. Why aren’t Apple iPads in the umpire’s chair, seamlessly working with IBM’s cloud technologies? Why use legacy 2D cameras, that cannot handle an ounce of low-light conditions, instead of showcasing iPhone 6+ and 240fps recording for Hawkeye?
When Apple unveiled the new MacBook in March, it both stunned and confused many in the industry. The new MacBook was not just a refined and smaller MacBook Air, but it was lighter with incredible hardware innovations. It also was not an updated MacBook Pro, but it had a retina display. And the new MacBook did not serve every laptop user’s needs, as it only had one port. The mix and match of technologies in the new MacBook push the very definition of “simplify”, but if you are a road warrior, a professional business person, or non-graphic related college student, it may just be the perfect OS X laptop. And yet the new MacBook may prove to be more than just the sum of its parts. Apple may have tipped their hat in showing us what the next generation iPad will be.
If you are looking to purchase a new MacBook, perhaps it would be best to order it online, but be prepared to wait until June to receive it. According to Apple's online store, MacBook orders are still backlogged by as much as 4-6 weeks, and they are unavailable at any retail location. Apple claims this is due to incredible demand, but is the backlog due to incredible demand or incredibly slow productions times leading to few, if any, available MacBooks?
Apple packed a host of new technologies into the new MacBook. Force Touch trackpad, layered batteries, a new keyboard design, and efficient retina display are all new Apple-led inventions that put the MacBook in a category unto its own and could be weighing heavily on production. But perhaps the biggest problem isn't Apple's new display, keyboard, trackpad or battery. What if the biggest hold-up in MacBook availability is because of Intel.