Thoughts and Observations Regarding This Week’s Apple Event Introducing the iPad Air and Retina iPad Mini

John Gruber, probably my favourite Apple pundit, gives his thoughts on the latest version of Apple.

The march of time is inexorable. Product by product, keynote by keynote, we are seeing the post-Steve Jobs Apple emerge. The “This never would have happened if Jobs were still around” vein of Apple punditry will be with us for decades to come. Most of it is deeply misguided. But some of it rings true. Apple today is a different company than it would be if Jobs were still there. No one denies this, inside or outside the company.

…I do think it’s a tangible sign that Tim Cook means it when he says that Jobs’s advice to him was never to ask “What would Steve have done?” but instead to simply ask “What is best for Apple?” and judge for himself.

I think the biggest mark of Tim Cook’s work is product consistency. Steve Jobs’ rhythm was to crank out new products every couple years. While he was around, Apple products struggled to keep pace with each other in terms of product features, apps, data syncing, release schedules. Now we are seeing Tim Cook’s operational expertise emerge: iOS, OS X, iPhone, iPad, MacBook were all announced this fall, where they were previously scattered across the year; iOS and OS X continue marching towards each other in terms of features and design; iCloud is syncing everything for everyone, with the inclusion of iCloud Keychain this fall; iPads and iPhones are using the same A7 processor; MacBook battery life is approaching that of the iPads. No, there wasn’t a new Apple TV released. No, the iWatch isn’t here yet. Tim Cook isn’t bringing disruptive innovation to the table like only Steve Jobs can, but he’s introducing sustaining innovation like Steve Jobs never seemed to have the patience for.

One of the most confusing parts of the event was the continued existence of the aging iPad 2 and iPad mini. Gruber mentions that schools and business want the larger iPad, while the iPad mini represents the lowest priced option. Further, if you frame it within Tim Cook’s push for product consistency, it makes perfect sense. Check this double vision.

  • iOS and OS X
  • iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S (back in the day)
  • iPad 2 and iPad 4
  • MacBook Air and MacBook Pro
  • MacBook Air 11 and 13
  • MacBook Pro 13 and 15
  • Macbook Pro and MacBook Pro with Retina Display
  • iMac 21″ and 27″

Here are some of the latest offerings.

  • iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s (and iPhone 4S)
  • Lightning and 30-pin connectors
  • iPads with A7 and iPads with A5
  • iPad mini and iPad 2
  • iPad mini with Retina Display and iPad Air
  • Mac mini and Mac Pro (their goal was to make the Mac Pro as quiet as the Mac mini)
  • iOS and OS X (free updates)
  • iCloud Keychain for iOS and OS X
  • iWork and iLife work universally across, iOS, and OS X

This list isn’t exhaustive, and it’s not perfectly consistent. For instance, there are multiple iPod lines: iPods touch, classic, nano, and shuffle. There’s no MacBook Pro 15. There are three categories of iOS devices and three for OS X. Some are colourful, some are just bright and dark, some have three colours, some one. All things considered, the product line is simple to understand, and the newest installation of Apple products are a serious extension of this bipolarity.

I’ll always remember how, when the original iPhone was released, Nokia was selling something in the range of 30 different phones. Take a look at Apple’s competitors. Samsung has 26 screen sizes for phones and tablets (that article is over a year old), Toshiba has 13 different series of laptops, and Lenovo has 18.  Some say they’re offering choice — I say they’re shotgun blasts, spray-‘n-pray. Apple offers a grand total of 5 notebooks.  For all manufacturers, I’m ignoring all the many options you can add like processor clock speed, RAM, etc. because there are too many to count. Is it better to consolidate efforts behind fewer products or buy products from a company that segments the market into 18 segments? Do they base their market research on personality tests? (I think I’m an ENTJ.) If you worked for one of these companies, how would you feel about your vast expertise, late nights, and stress eating contributing to one of a dozen or two offerings in an already saturated market while the one company eats your lunch? I suppose that could be good for reducing your stress eating. Worked for Dell, right?

“But Jon, who cares? They’re all making money!” It’s fine if they’re all making money, but for my loyal readers, understand that Apple offers better support for fewer products for longer lifetimes if you’re in the market for one of their devices, even if newer ones are less repairable across the board. iOS 6 provides support back to the iPhone 3GS (four years), iOS 7 the iPhone 4 (3 years), OS X Mavericks the iMac mid-2007 (5 years). Android devices can only dream of this type of support. Not only that, but they all play better together. Apple itself plays better together. The Apple Campus 2 is all about collaboration, and the iOS team reportedly borrowed engineers from OS X in time for the big reveal. Yay teamwork.

Free OS X, iWork, and iLife aren’t going to make a lot of people switch from Windows, but it provides tons more value for existing users and people already caught in Apple’s halo. Frank Shaw is thumping his chest, and Microsoft has done that before. Windows won the market share war against Mac OS long ago, but give Apple props for still playing. Try iWork, and tell me it isn’t easier to use than Word. I’m surprised about all the negativity surrounding Apple offering a suite of products for free.

I say all this with a bit of smugness, but it comes more from a place of concern. You should get the most for your hard-earned dollars, and I sincerely believe Apple gives you the best value and experience. If you have special requirements, then you’ll know what you want. I’m pretty sure Windows is the only way to go for games, but I spend more of my time watching TV. There’s Boot Camp, VMWare, and Parallels for Windows compatibility. I think you get better value from their products. As the dedicated IT department for my friends and family, this post is my way of making all our lives a bit easier. Apple product names are more human too; Android not so much. A technology company that cares about the experience for real people, namely, the people who are going to ask me how to use their poorly designed device? I’m sold.

Understand that through all this, I’m not an Apple fanboy. I’m a fan of using the best tool for the job, balancing both short- and long-term goals. I used to be a Windows-only person, and I wasn’t even doing anything necessarily Windows-intensive. Now, here I am Boot Camping Windows 7, installing Mac OS X Mavericks the day it’s released, and using RaspBMC (based on Raspbian (based on Debian)) as my main home theatre device. I give credit where credit is due, and I criticize Apple where I think it’s appropriate. For instance, iOS should just embrace its role as ripping off jailbroken features so it can out-innovate its competitors. Look at all these features that we now recognize as part of iOS. Compare the timelines and know that Apple stole all that.

Apple products are expensive though, but I think they’re worth saving up for. Otherwise, in the notebook department, you’re buying some Windows 8.1 laptop at Best Buy for $600, but you hate the non-standard keyboard buttons or the multitouch gestures or the intense heat or weight. Ultrabooks are supposed to be comparable options, but their designs are not nearly as well-balanced; you’ll always find at least one major dimension lacking. If it isn’t price, it’s rigidity. If not the screen, then the heat. So there. At least all you have to worry about is your money with Apple, and it’ll take at least a couple more years to amortize than with a competitor. The cost-benefit analysis works out even if you don’t value actually enjoying the products you use.

Wrapping this all up, Tim Cook is streamlining, and Apple is still doing great. This initiative isn’t new, and he’s stated repeatedly that he believes in collaboration. Steve Jobs opposed iTunes on Windows, and iCloud, released shortly before his untimely death, continues to receive feature after feature. He’s tightening the belt, building bridges, and creating the second half of the foundation that Steve neglected in creating new products.

If Steve Jobs’ tag line was “it just works,” then Tim Cook’s is “they just work together.”



Christian. Audio. Technology. Go-Getter. Concise.

Posted in Technology

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