Beaver County Times, Pa., Michael Pound column [Beaver County Times, Pa.]
(Beaver County Times (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 27--We've been seeing Christmas decorations popping up in stores for weeks already. And while I haven't noticed if workers at any of our local Apple retail stores are decking their halls, the mothership in Cupertino is definitely ready for the holiday shopping season.
Apple gave us a few more reasons to warm up our credit cards this week, with yet another product introduction that I wasn't invited to. And those nifty new iPads, MacBooks and Mac Pros -- the latter running a new desktop OS that we don't have to pay for -- would all look terrific under the holiday foliage of your choice.
What does Apple have in store for us, and what does it all mean?
In what can't be a terrible shock to anyone, given Apple's penchant for branding across product lines, the biggest deal of Tuesday's announcement was the iPad Air, a full-sized -- sort of -- addition to the line of tablet iThings. I say sort of because, as is the case with the MacBook Air lineup of notebooks, the new iPad is much thinner -- 0.29 of an inch -- and lighter -- just 1 pound, down from 1.4 -- than its predecessors. But with the decrease in size comes a faster processor and the same Retina display. Prices will range from $499 for a Wi-Fi only 16 GB model to $799 for a Wi-Fi only 128 GB model (add about $130 for 4G cellular models). And here's an interesting pricing move: Apple will continue to sell the iPad 2, at a deep discount of $399.
Apple's also giving us a new iPad Mini, this time with a Retina display. Following the same pricing pattern as the iPad Air, the new Minis will sell for between $399 and $699. And, as was the case with the older iPad, the original Mini gets a price cut, down to $299. That's still not as cheap as many of its competitors, but it's low enough that holiday buyers might take a look.
Apple's notebook line gets better displays, faster processors and a drop in price. They're still not cheap -- the 13-inch laptop starts at $1,300 and the 15-inch will start at $2,000 -- but again, the price drop could prove to be enticing to someone who needs a new computer.
The cylindrical design of Apple's new top-of-the-line desktop is stunning -- and for most of us, the price is as well; the made-in-America computer will start at $3,000. In and of itself, that's going to price most of us out of the market, but, apparently, that's OK. Apple definitely is pushing the Pro for people who need serious professional computing power. I would love to have one on my desk, but that'll also pay my mortgage for nearly six months.
The iPads and rest of the gear are the things that get the attention, but the software announcements that Apple made last week are especially interesting to me. Mavericks -- the new desktop OS, named after California's famous surfing beach -- was released into the wild just after Tuesday's session. And it's free. New versions of iWork -- Apple's productivity suite -- and iLife -- the suite that includes iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand -- are available as well. For free (when you're buying a new Apple product, an upgrade that will carry over to any old devices you're still lugging around).
Let's go back to that word: free. Outside of new versions of iOS, Apple doesn't give stuff away. Its entire business is built on the notion that we'll happily pay a premium for that shiny Apple logo and all the fun stuff that goes with it.
Is this a reaction? In my mind, the answer is probably yes. Android's free updates flow like water, and the cloud-driven suite of Google productivity stuff has never cost a dime. As Apple tweaks its cloud-based storage services, it seems to also ready to push the iWorks apps that power it. We heard a lot about the collaborative abilities of the work apps on Tuesday, and I have no doubt that Google, especially, is the target.
The cross-platform thing stretches to Mavericks as well. We talked before about how the last few desktop OS upgrades have included changes to mirror how iOS works; Mavericks, which I downloaded just a few hours before I wrote this Thursday, continues that trend.
With those barriers eroding, Apple is moving toward a single thing -- an Apple World, you might say -- where the hardware matters less than the stuff that drives them. I don't think we'll have to wait too long before there's one single Apple operating system that will work across all Apple devices, and those who buy in will have a seamless universe in which to work and play.
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