Sometimes the Night Owl makes a prediction and even gets it right. So when I suggested that Apple would make Mavericks free in order to reach as many potential Mac users as possible, and stick it to Microsoft for charging up to $199 for Windows 8 upgrades, I bet some of you didn't believe me. Well, free also appears to be the watchword when it comes to Apple's newest apps.
So not only is Mavericks free, but so are the new versions of iWork and iLife, though you have to buy a new Mac or a new iPhone or iPad to get them without paying $19.99 for each app. More important, by bundling a free office suite with a new Mac or Apple mobile gadget, Apple provides a nearly complete solution for most new Mac users, who may not have to buy very much software to be productive.
This maneuver also strikes at the heart of Microsoft, which wants to change you for most anything you get from them, although it's true that Office does come with a Surface tablet. Not that many people care.
Predictably, there were refreshed versions of the MacBook Pro with Retina display. The 13-inch model becomes thinner and lighter, weighing in at 3.46 pounds. The other changes are mostly predictable. Apple adds the Intel Haswell chip, Iris integrated graphics, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and a pair of Thunderbolt 2 ports. Battery life is said to be up to nine hours.
But one of the best reasons to buy the new 13-inch model is that the price is reduced by $200 to $1,299. That's just $100 more than the remaining legacy 13-inch MacBook Pro with a fixed hard drive, optical drive, and standard display. The 15-inch standard MacBook is gone except for the closeout bins.
The 15-inch Retina display model gets a similar treatment as far as new parts are concerned, but retains the existing form factor. The starting price is also reduced by $200, at $1,999. Both models are shipping today.
But if you were waiting for the new generation Mac Pro, prepare to wait till December. Also be prepared to pay a lot more for this tubular workstation. The very basic model is $500 more than previously, listing for $2,999 with 12GB of RAM, Dual AMD FirePro D300 graphics with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM each, and a 3.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon E5 processor. For another $1,000 you get a 3.5GHz 6-core version of the chip with 16GB of RAM, and the FirePro D500 chips with 3GB VRAM each. Both are limited to 256GB PCie-based flash storage, but you can get up to 1TB if you're willing to pay a bundle. I expect a fully equipped Mac Pro will go out the door for somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 with 64GB of expensive 1866MHz DDR3 EEC memory, and the top-of-the-line processors.
I don't expect a Mac Pro to be a best seller, but it ought to have appeal to the professional users who cherish such a beast, and need to perform such chores as 3D rendering and video editing.
So far, so good, and nothing terribly surprising other than the more aggressive MacBook Pro with Retina display pricing. But everyone was waiting for new iPads, and Apple pretty much met expectations. I say pretty much, as you'll see in a moment.
So the thinner, lighter 9.7-inch iPad, dubbed iPad Air, becomes a larger twin brother to the iPad mini. The side bezel is 40% thinner and total volume of the tablet is 25% less than its predecessor. It weighs just one pound, as opposed to 1.4 pounds for the previous model. Apple claims the iPad Air is the lightest full-sized tablet ever produced.
As with the iPhone 5s, the iPad Air sports a 64-bit A7 processor with M7 motion coprocessor, but no Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The other spec improvements are relatively minor. It's all about size and performance, and pricing is the same, starting at $499. As with all other iOS gear, memory upgrades remain overpriced, at $100 increments for each jump in storage capacity.
And, as predicted, the iPad mini will have a Retina display, but it won't come cheap. Compared to $329 for the original, the new model is $399, a $70 increase, and that might be off-putting for some customers who will cite the far cheaper Android tablets in comparison. As with its big brother, the iPad mini gets the A7 and M7 chips and modest spec improvements otherwise.
If the new price is a bit out of line for you, Apple is offering the original iPad mini for $299. The aging iPad 2 also remains in the lineup at $399. The new models go on sale in November, and it appears the iPac mini with Retina display will be constrained at launch, since it won't be available until later in the month.
Predictably, Wall Street wasn't overly impressed, with the stock price dropping somewhat during the day. All in all, the media presentation was slick, and filled with information, demos and videos advertising the new gear. I watched the event carefully, but it didn't seem to have the same level of excitement as previous Apple events.
Nothing was said about a new Apple TV, or any other product. But it may well be that, if the Apple TV is refreshed, it'll be a minor upgrade in the scheme of things and will be launched with nothing more than a press release. The 2012 Mac mini also remains in the lineup, though I suppose it might also get a Haswell implant before long.
However, Apple does look good for the holiday season, even though nothing spectacular occurred during the media event.
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