Intel is a monster, or at least it has been. For nearly three decades Intel has owned the desktop-class and server semiconductor markets. Ever since the DOS PC emerged Intel gained rapid traction into desktop computing. While others, such as AMD, constantly struggled to meet demand, Intel understood capacity and high yields were key to market dominance and never left PC manufacturers wanting. No one had a better silicon fabrication process in the industry. Intel's marketing was equally brilliant. Before the tag line "Intel Inside" no one really knew or cared much about microchips used within a computer. After all, the only interaction a user had was with a keyboard, mouse and display. Suddenly, everyone was asking for a computer with Intel inside.
Intel was so confident of their own ability to shape the future based on their self-serving direction, they no longer needed to own a large portion of ARM, so they sold it off as it was useless for the long term. Intel also decided there was no need to quickly move to 64-bit processors. Intel failed to understand they had built, and were living in, their own arrogant reality distortion field. But AMD knew it, and 2003 stunned the industry by offering their 64-bit backwards compatible 32-bit, Athlon processor. It saved AMD as a company and Intel suffered it's first major stumble. Mobile computing arrived soon after, with Apple commissioning Intel to design a processor for their secret handheld needs. Intel balked, finding it a financially useless pursuit. Thus, Apple launched iPhone with an ARM processor. Due to Intel's blunder, the mobile world runs almost entirely on ARM designs, with Intel nowhere to be found other than under piles of failed ATOM processors. Today Intel finds their bread and butter personal computer market about to be shaken like never before by Microsoft, and quite likely, Apple.
On Tuesday I wrote an article with the premise that Microsoft, from their marketing arm to product offerings are mirroring Apple amazingly well, surpassing Cupertino's technologies in many ways. Immediately, Apple apologists were decrying the Surface Studio as a wannabe, gimmicky iMac, and that the price was unjustifiably high.
Yesterday Apple launched the all-new MacBook Pro, with innovative touch bar, complete with built-in Touch ID. The new technology looks well refined and thoroughly thought out. Touch bar makes sense in hundreds of different use cases and the rest of the MacBook was given highly effective refinements throughout. Apple may have stemmed any creative pro tide away from it's notebook shores with the new MacBooks, but there is still trouble within Apple's desktop offerings. The competition knows it and is attacking in full force.
While Samsung is in Galaxy Note 7 never happened mode and the media is getting over digesting Apple's latest iPhone 7 and Apple Watch offerings, Apple is bustling about preparing for their October 27, special event. This time it's all about the Mac – F I N A L L Y!
We've previously discussed how walking into an Apple Store is like stepping into a computer museum, but Phil Schiller should be all about delivering some welcome Mac news. But which Macs will get updates and how major, or minor, will those updates be?
Apple's Mac lineup has been languishing over the past few years, and their may be valid reasons as to why. Perhaps Apple been preparing to migrate away from Intel to their own A-series processors? Or would iPad's be ushering in a new area of computing relegating Mac's to back of the line? Any number of rumors have given chase as to why Apple's overall Mac lineup has become extremely stale, but it appears Apple is staying firmly Intel for their next generation processors, and thus a slew of long overdue Macs should should be unveiled during an October special event.
Apple is planning a major Mac invasion of new technologies, but it does not explain why this has been long overdue. Two big distractions may have been causing Apple's innovative Mac engine to sputter on 3-cylinders the past few years.
If you walk into any Apple Store looking to buy a Mac, it is like stepping back in time two years — and those two years are not just regular years, they are technology years. In comparison to regular calendar years, technology years have like a 10:1 ratio. For example, this would like be walking into your local car dealership and the most current model they were selling was from 1996!
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.
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?
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.
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.