So after hearing that “conventional wisdom” about the Mac dying or just being ignored spouted again and again by some supposedly knowledgeable tech pundits, it does appear from the WWDC this week that this is just not so. Rather than cut back on OS X development, for example, Apple has accelerated it to an annual schedule. Or at least that’s how it seems in the path from Lion to Mountain Lion. I suppose we’ll know more if 10.9 is introduced next year.
Even better, the list of new features for 10.8 has swelled from 100 to 200, and the price has been cut by roughly one-third, from $29.99 to $19.99. All right, I had hoped it would be free, but since that’s cheaper than a dinner for a family of four at McDonalds, I have no problem with the new price. Also, the feature enhancement level seems on a par with most recent OS X updates, so where’s the beef?
Without going into detail about prerelease software, it also seems that two times is the charm when it comes to merging iOS elements with OS X. Lion came across as unfinished. There was more work to do, but Apple just ran out of time. It sure seemed stable enough, in passing, but not all the enhancements were welcomed. With 10.8, it’s clear Apple will not take the treacherous path Microsoft is traveling with Windows 8. With Mountain Lion, your Mac experience is still Mac-like. The extra features should not disrupt your workflow. You will discover lots of new features, but you can, as with Lion, just do things as you always have.
With Windows 8, there’s a host of relearning to do, and even though there’s a massive list of new features, Microsoft is forcing their users to study a lot. Intuitive is not a description that applies in many respects to the Metro interface of Windows 8. It’s no wonder that the enterprise may very well stick with the version of Windows they have now — and many are still running Windows XP, which was first released in 2001.
But it’s not just speeding up development of OS X that ensures the Mac’s near-future. Rather than rest on their laurels, Apple advanced the state of the art with new Mac note-books. While the arrival of the MacBook Pro with Retina display was predicted to a large degree in the weeks ahead of the announcement, it’s clear Apple has challenged Windows PC makers yet again. First came the MacBook Air, and, when PC makers couldn’t compete, Intel developed an Ultrabook reference platform that allows licensees to build what are essentially MacBook Air clones. Only they can barely compete with Apple on price, and haven’t set the world afire in terms of sales. People who buy Windows note-books still prefer the cheap stuff.
With the new MacBook Pro, Apple clearly has control of most of the world’s inventory of these new parts. It may take a while for component makers to catch up, leaving Dell, HP and all the rest with a few table scraps.
Understand that I was skeptical about a MacBook Pro with a much higher resolution display, but just about every single review I’ve read shows that it’s a winner. An expensive winner, yes, but a winner. Certainly charging $400 more than a standard and heavier MacBook Pro seems a huge mountain to climb, but the higher price makes sense. The display itself probably costs Apple around $100 more per unit. Add to that the cost of twice the memory of the $1,799 MacBook Pro, a graphics chip with twice the RAM, and a solid state drive. Suddenly it doesn’t seem so expensive. You can also expect that, as prices for the new flat panels and flash memory decline, the MacBook Pro with Retina display will eventually be priced comparable to the standard model. You can also expect that, as production improves, those amazing displays will ultimately find their way into all of Apple’s note-books. There are already rumors of a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display coming this fall.
The new MacBook Pro, therefore, is just the beginning, and it puts Apple another year ahead of the rest of the industry. It also bears evidence of some very smart engineering, other than making it almost impossible to service of course, which means Apple poured a fair amount of money into creating a revolutionary desktop replacement.
What’s more, as some were declaring the imminent death of the Mac Pro, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that there will be a new model next year, and there’s enough of a hint in his comments, taken from a letter he wrote to a Mac user, to suggest it won’t just be new parts in the same old case either. Apple could have simply dropped updated components into the current Mac Pro and it would have pleased many people. Instead, they changed a processor or two, and asked us to wait for something better. And it will come.
There’s also reason to believe that a new iMac is forthcoming later this year, if we take a recent set of leaked system benchmarks seriously. That Apple made it clear that the iMac upgrade wasn’t on next year’s timetable, such an upgrade seems a given for this year. The iMac is a good seller for Apple, and it’s clear they will want to continuing building them.
This doesn’t mean the PC industry isn’t changing real fast due to the impact of the iPad. But the Mac isn’t dead, and it’s clear Apple wants to continue to take it where it can go without holding back.