✱ October 23rd

Apple is clearly differentiating themselves from the competition even more than in the past, and that’s a good thing. The product line has grown substantially, without becoming convoluted. Apple has however returned to some old habits that won’t affect to the bottom line, but can be slightly annoying. Premium prices with lower specs is something that Apple has done in the past, and seems to be doing again. Here are my thoughts on what we saw in the presentation.

The new iMac

This thing looks gorgeous. I was dumbfounded when Phil Schiller showed it off. It looks super sleek, and offers a nice range of build options. The new Fusion-drive sounds promising, but this type of thing has been done before to mixed reviews. My guess is that it’ll be just fine, and will get better with future versions. The price here seems quite aggressive. At $1299 you’re getting one of the best desktop computers on the market. Some will scoff, saying that you can build your own desktop with better specs at a cheaper price, but if we’re being realistic, you can build whatever you want; you’re not, nor will you ever come close to this type of fantastic quality. When you buy into the Apple ecosystem you’re buying quality products. Period. The latest iMac is the perfect example of that. Can’t wait to see this thing in person.

The iPad 4th generation

This was a bit of a shock to me. On last week’s Hypercritical, Dan Benjamin eluded to the possibility that Apple could use this opportunity to add Lightning connectors to the iPad 3rd generation. Dan was right, and Apple took it a step further.

Sporting a souped up A6X, this model should see far fewer hiccups than its predecessor. It also has improved networking capabilities, which are welcomed. The new iPad seems like a nice iterative update, that while iPad 3 owners may not like, the masses will continue to gobble up. The looming question among nerds is “What about March?”. I have a feeling that the March iPad event will be shifted to another product or dropped all together, but we’ll see. I don’t think Apple is going to release new iPads every six months.[1]{: #fnref:1 .footnote}

13” MacBook Pro with Retina display

Here’s where I got a little confused. The 15“ version is a flagship-level laptop, but I don’t feel like the 13” is nearly in the same class. Now I’m no expert on chipsets, but it seems strikingly odd to me that Apple would choose to go with an Intel GPU here.

Maybe it’s physical limitation, or that Apple was satisfied with the improved performance of the integrated Ivy Bridge chips, but I would’ve much rather seen a discrete GPU. Considering the current generation MacBook Air performs well in general, but chokes on GPU intensive tasks, I worry that the 13” rMBP will suffer some serious performance issues. When you couple the massive amount of pixels with running graphics intensive apps like Photoshop or Final Cut Pro X, I have major concerns.

Maybe my concerns are completely unwarranted, but we’ll have to see once these laptops are in people’s hands. All I know is that I was immediately turned off by the choice of graphics chip. Again, I could be way off base here, but I have a suspicion that I’m not.

iPad mini

Everything we expected, with a bit more polish. The design is in line with the iPhone 5 and rightfully so. This little device is a beauty from photos and hands-on sessions posted around the web. There was nothing shocking here. Some are upset at the lack of a retina screen, but Apple’s decision makes sense. The screen should be sufficient as is at 1024x768, which is the same resolution as the iPad 2, but crammed into a smaller screen. While it won’t be ultra-sharp, it should suffice as a good portable tablet.

My main problem here is the price. I’m not saying that Apple shouldn’t have chosen to charge a premium; they always do, but they’ve decided on a very weird spot to enter the small tablet market. At $329 it’s arguable that this is not at all an impulse buy. I was certain that Apple would want to come crashing into the party with other 7–8” tablets, but they clearly aren’t headed that way. I feel like by pricing the mini at $329, Apple is both shying away from products like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire, while also attempting to start a new class. I’m reminded of how they brought the MacBook Air to the market. The first iteration – while beautiful, was miserably overpriced. The trend at Apple seems to be to bring a new product in at a high price, iterate it, and drop the cost as they can. The original Air came in at $1799 (if I’m remembering correctly) with grossly underwhelming specs. You were paying for form factor, and I feel that that’s the same proposition with the iPad mini.

Now before you get your panties in a bunch, let me clarify that I don’t think by any means that this product will not be successful. I think it’s going to see huge sales, especially with the holiday season looming. But it can’t be ignored that sales will definitely be less than if they targeted even a $299 entry point. I know for me, having a family, $300+ feels much different mentally than sub-$300. At $249-$299, a purchase feels somewhat impulse-based, while $300+ feels like an investment.

The iPad mini seems like a solid device which will sell well, and will also be much improved over time. But I feel certain that $30 less of an asking price would not only boost sales significantly, but also impede the sales of similarly sized devices.[2]{:

fnref:2 .footnote}


I could be wrong, but this is the first time I can remember Tim Cook actually introducing a product. I don’t mean heading up presentations, but actually revealing a new offering. He’s usually one to give general numbers, and the state of affairs, but yesterday we saw Cook introduce iBooks 3.0. Assuming I’m not forgetting another time he’s done a product intro, this seems big to me. As we all know, Steve Jobs was the showman of the company, and clearly that hasn’t been Tim Cook’s bag. That’s not a slight, it’s acknowledgment that Apple lets folks shine where they shine best, and Cook’s an operations guy. But this felt different yesterday. My guess is that the executive team is helping to shift Cook to the spotlight; to being the face of Apple. We’ll see if this increases over time, but I definitely think it’s the right move.

  1. {: #fn:1} Adam Hyland made a great point regarding this event business on this episode of The Impromptu that I actually disagreed with at the time. Starts around 19 minutes. My wrongness is aroung 25 minutes.  ↩{: .reversefootnote}

  2. {: #fn:2} I am certainly no Horace, so I could be totally off-base with my whole argument. Hooray for feeling the need to qualify what I’ve said!  ↩{: .reversefootnote}