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  • A Mac-Like iPad Interface and Other Goodies from Apple

    June 6th, 2017

    You can essentially sum up the WWDC keynote as many of 2017’s predictions about Macs, the iPad, and operating systems being realized in one place. My own humble predictions were actually more conservative than I expected.

    So let’s begin: Some time back, in wishing and hoping for more productivity features on the iPad, one of my guests on The Tech Night Owl LIVE said it would be wrong to make it more Mac-like. Evidently Apple has another idea. So an iPad with iOS 11 will have a Dock that very closely resembles the one on a Mac. There will be a Files app that provides an interface with strong Finder-like influences. Consider drag and drop and other improvements to iPad multitasking and you’ll see evidence that Apple is definitely paying serious attention to finding ways to make it more productive. And using the macOS, in part, for inspiration.

    Certainly the iPad Pro lineup is not meant strictly for consumption. For that, you’d do well with a fifth generation iPad, which starts at $329.

    By far the most interesting development, however, was the evident demonstration of all or most of the Macs expected in 2017 at a single event. Everything will ship shortly, except for the iMac Pro, which is promised for December, meaning maybe a handful will arrive before 2018.

    I’ll admit it. My predictions were way off about the iMac. I assumed that the promised the Pro version would simply consist of a few special configurations with more powerful parts. With the introduction of the Intel Core i9 processor family, I expected Apple to use them. I didn’t anticipate that Apple would beef up the thermal capacity of the iMac — to the tune of up to 80% — and install most of the parts you’d expect for a Mac Pro. That includes Intel Xeon processors with up to 18 cores and up to 128GB of ECC RAM. It’ll also drive a pair of 5K external displays.

    While some might argue that the iMac Pro might be an expensive indulgence, Apple made the point of stating that the $4,999 entry-level model — with an 8-core Xeon, 32GB RAM and a 1TB SSD — is actually a couple of thousand dollars cheaper than comparable Windows PCs, minus the marvelous 5K display. Indeed, Apple has a corner on display technology. Even the LG UltraFine 5K monitor was designed in partnership with Apple, and LG reportedly supplies the panels Apple uses in its own computers.

    What this also means is that there will be iMac Pro configurations that cost more than $10,000! Consider the iMac’s humble origins, in 1998, when it debuted as a modest $1,299 consumer computer using PowerBook parts. And you can top out the regular 27-inch iMac for $5,299.00. How the world has changed!

    But what about the Mac Pro? Does the iMac Pro basically kill that product? Not so fast. Apple executives did promise a new Mac Pro — but not this year — at the early April confab with a handful of tech reporters. Very likely, it’ll become a headless iMac, with modular capacity and perhaps more ports. You’ll be able to swap out parts and it’ll receive regular upgrades. But it’ll probably follow the iMac Pro as a user configurable alternative, thus reducing development costs.

    The regular iMac received a predictable refresh, as did the MacBook lineup. The Mac mini? You tell me. I had hoped we’d see something new by now, or maybe Apple is readying something for a fast introduction later this year.

    After all those predictions about a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and its nearly edge-to-edge display, and a new version of the 12.9-inch model, there was little surprise in the announcements. These are the improvements you expected, though I might have hoped for a rethought Smart Keyboard, complete with a slide-out trackpad drawer. But that’s just my idea, and nothing stops third parties from developing one.

    macOS High Sierra includes, as I expected, the final version of the Apple File System (APFS), which is already available for iPhones and iPads running iOS 10.3 or later. That update was so seamless, you wouldn’t have noticed if you didn’t read about it. But the presence of APFS on a Mac will deliver some amazing improvements, including virtually instant copying, encryption and other goodies. I’m also wondering how Time Machine might change to accommodate all of the new file system’s inherent advantages. Will Apple do something to make it even easier for people to backup their data? What about being able to use a Time Machine drive as a startup volume? Possible?

    Fortunately, all the Macs that can run Sierra will be able to install High Sierra. But some of the features, such as Metal 2, will require the graphics chips in more recent hardware. It’s a decent tradeoff.

    For iOS 11, a predictable number of older gear will be cast aside. You’ll need an iPhone 5s or later, a 4th generation iPad or later, and an iPad mini 3 or later. And, oh yes, an iPod Touch 6th generation. Again, these system requirements are quite predictable.

    The improvements in iOS 11 are fairly extensive, and I notice some small, but useful touches, such as using bolder type for labels. I’m also anxious to try it out on Barbara’s iPad Air 2 and see how it manages its more Mac-like multitasking.

    And the promised Siri speaker is actually a $349 HomePod speaker that’ll arrive by December, but its integration with Apple services will extend its potential way beyond the competition from Amazon and Google. AirPlay 2 will bring HomeKit support to loads of compatible speakers around your home.

    The only other announcement that caught my eye was the forthcoming arrival of Amazon Instant Video on the Apple TV. The Amazon tweet says, “all Apple TVs,” which means it’ll work on my 3rd generation unit too. Good move. And maybe, just maybe, Apple will deliver an 5K Apple TV this fall.

    Now back to the endless speculation about the iPhone 8.



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    8 Responses to “A Mac-Like iPad Interface and Other Goodies from Apple”

    1. dfs says:

      I disagree. I strongly suspect that the iMac Pro IS the new Mac Pro. Otherwise there would be two redundant products cannibalizing each other’s sales. And (other than not being rack-mountable, which probably does matter in some studios and labs) what can a Mac Pro do that an iMac Pro can’t match? Let’s only hope that this iMac solves the problems in driving multiple monitors that bedevil the current models.

      The HomePod is a fine idea and potentially a great product. But I’ll hold off on buying until Apple makes three improvements: a.) make it function as a hands-free telephone, and b.) make it so that when two of these sense they are in the same room that start functioning as left and right stereo speakers — who likes monophonic sound? c.) give it a competitive price point. As the Smart Home becomes more common, folks are going to want multiple HomePods distributed throughout the house, and at the moment that would be a huge investment.

      Two things I wanted to hear yesterday and sorely missed: a.) a sophisticated dedicated phone app for the Mac that functions as flexibly as Phone Amego or Hands Off but works over your wireless network rather than Bluetooth, to replace the crude telephone function slapped on FaceTime as an afterthought and is capable of handling a landline phone via a USB modem. b.) a replacement for that starburst of apps on the Watch, which looks fine until you start adding apps in any number, at which time it becomes clumsy and ultimately unmanageable. Sometime Apple is going to have to wise up and add a hierarchical interface to the Watch.

      • Shameer Mulji says:

        The iMac Pro is NOT the new Mac Pro. There is a re-designed Mac Pro coming. Here’s Apple’s press release for the iMac Pro

        https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2017/06/imac-pro-most-powerful-mac-arrives-december/

        “In addition to the new iMac Pro, Apple is working on a completely redesigned, next-generation Mac Pro architected for pro customers who need the highest-end, high-throughput system in a modular design, as well as a new high-end pro display.”

        The iMac Pro is designed for Pro users that prefer an AIO design and want Mac Pro power in an iMac chassis. They’re not concerned with user accessibility / upgrade-ability.

        My gut feeling, and it is the gut feeling of many other bloggers, is that the original strategy was for the iMac Pro to eventually replace the Mac Pro but late last year / early this year, Apple changed their strategy and there now will be two machines aimed at Pro users.

    2. It’s not the new Mac Pro. Apple has already said that they are separate products in so many words. A new Mac display is also coming — both probably next year. Will that display be 8K?

    3. dfs says:

      If so, that seems like a remarkably bad business decision. These will be products in a head-to-head competition to occupy the same ecological niche in the Mac world, at approximately the same price point, and what I say about cannibalization will very likely turn out to be case. Most likely the iMac Pro will sell better and the Mac Pro will become even more of an exotic niche product than it is now. Result: Apple will be tying up an assembly line that could better be used for some other purpose.

      I don’t offhand see the value of an 8k display. Sure, it will appeal to those folks who automatically assume bigger numbers are better numbers (I once worked for a boss who had that very same idea, it made him a genuine pain in the butt to work for and his big numbers kept HIS bosses happy right up to the day they decided to fire him), but in the real world I can’t help wondering how much visible difference there would be between 8k and 5k. I suppose if someone were editing film for an IMAX theater it might matter, but for the rest of the world???

      • gene says:

        Not quite. The people who will buy the Mac Pro want something they can easily upgrade, not what’s essentially a closed box, such as the iMac Pro. Besides, Apple does’t mind cannibalization if it’s within their own product lines. So some people who buy an iPhone 7 Plus will not, in turn, buy an iPad mini.

        Peace,
        Gene

    4. As I said.

      Peace,
      Gene

    5. Joe S says:

      I am a big fan of the Mac Mini. Ape displays last a loooooooong time. I hope that the bottom end of the new mac pro is a good substitute for the Mac Mini.

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