When Apple introduced their new products today, it left little doubt that they are in an evolutionary period of their product cycles.
Yes, the new iPad Air is a great design, thinner, lighter and more powerful but still pretty much in the same basic form factor. The new iPad Mini now has the Retina display, a technology that has been in MacBooks and the iPad for some time but is a welcome upgrade to this popular tablet. They also now have Apple’s 64-bit A7 chip, making them the fastest tablets available this fall.
The MacBook Pro 15-inch breaks new ground by using Intel’s latest Crystalwell chips, the most powerful and energy efficient mobile processor on the market. The extended graphics in this model give it new powers that will make Apple’s high end customers drool.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro gets the newest Intel Haswell chip, which means both new laptops will get better battery life and still deliver very powerful solutions to business and consumers.
And OS X Mavericks, with its 200 new features and offered as a free upgrade to all Mac customers will be a big hit. With it being free there is no reason for anyone with a Mac to not upgrade and give themselves the immense power that OS X Maverick can deliver to them.
There were some strategic ommisions too. Neither tablet had Apple’s new fingerprint security technology inside although I suspect that this is more due to the fact that all of their fingerprint modules are going into iPhone 5S and getting enough units to use in their tablets was not an option yet.
Some had thought they would also do a special keyboard cover/case but I never thought that that would happen. The key reason is that there are dozens of those on the market already and unless they could do one that was spectacularly innovative, sleek and unique, they would not enter this space. Rather they would put more time and energy in advancing the technology and capabilities of the iPad and MacBook Pro’s this time around.
I also saw three very nuanced yet extremely strategic things shown at the event that are really worth noting.
1-Giving the new iPad the Air designation.
I don’t think this is an accident. More and more people are using the iPad like a laptop when they attach a keyboard to them. I use my iPad with the Logitech keyboard cover all the time and for all intents and purposes this has been my convertible or 2-in-1 like those now showing up on the Windows platform. While Apple has not embraced this convertible or 2-in-1 idea, it is clear to me they understand the potential of a product like this and could easily create their own unique branded version of this concept in the future. Giving the iPad the Air designation could set this up in the mind of consumers and business users by getting them to think of the iPad Air more like a laptop in the sense that it can be used for productivity as well as consumption. This leads to the second point worth noting.
2-The iPads now have PC class processors in them.
Putting their A7 64-bit processor in the iPads can also be seen as strategic. While both tablets are still skewed towards consumption, the new iPad Air, like the other larger iPads, will be of greater interest to business and IT given their faster speeds and overall upgraded performance. This could be a big deal when it comes to IT purchases. While refreshing tablets has been rapid compared to laptops, the upper end tablets with LTE and 64 gigs of memory are pricey and are now looked at for longer life cycles in the enterprise. With the fastest processor and the great software that will be written for 64-bit IOS 7, the new iPad Air will be even more attractive to IT directors that want to future proof their tablet purchases. Even with the lower system memory, the 64-bit processor will be viewed by business users much more positively than the current crop of 32-bit processors in all other tablets being considered by IT today. At the very least it will get Apple even more attention in these markets and help them grow the iPad business in the enterprise.
3-Software was almost more important than the hardware announcements
OS X upgrade is free. Updated apps like Garageband, Pages, Keynote, Numbers and many more Apple suite products are now free. And many of the apps look and act exactly the same and are synched in the iCloud identically so that users can’t even tell if they are using a Mac app or a IOS app unless they look down and see what device their are using. All of these push Apple’s software prowess into the forefront and give them an even greater edge over Android and Windows 8.1 especially when it comes to tablets. Don’t underestimate how important the software announcements made today are to Apple’s over competitive position. This is a big deal for them and their competitors.
While some people will be disappointed that these products are evolutionary, not revolutionary, keep in mind that Apple does advance products as part of their upgrade cycle and this is a key year for that. However, given the rumors that they are working on an iWatch, a new Apple TV and perhaps one other disruptive product I am hearing might be in the works, I suspect that 2014 will be an even more interesting year for Apple.