As the year draws to a close, I wanted to deliver some brief commentary on my thoughts and feelings regarding the current state of things. The good news is that in large part things in the Apple world are going great and the product lineup is stronger than ever (no surprises there). There are however a few things which could use some improvement and since this article is my own opinion I’d like to share my thoughts with you. Just like Festivus, it’s time for the annual airing of grievances. So without further ado, click here to read our commentary on the State of the Mac…
Apple Released OS X 10.9 Mavericks a few weeks ago and they decided to give it out for free. I think that was a brilliant move and I can tell you that I’ve never seen a quicker adoption of a new OS from our local customers. My only real gripe here was that initially Mavericks was showing up in Software Update and many customers blindly chose to accept it not realizing they were installing a whole new operating system. There were the typical new OS hiccups and to this day Mavericks and Gmail still have a cantankerous relationship. This is expected to get smoothed out with 10.9.1 update, which is due very soon. Minor issues aside, I really applaud the decision to make the OS free.
Customers are much more likely to upgrade, and it allows us to recommend it to those looking to embrace all the modern goodies found in Mavericks. Being a Mac owner just became a whole lot more valuable. I am also very pleased to see what was formerly known as iWork (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) also available free on new Macs (See our story on this here.) Having these Apps means that many customers can avoid purchasing Microsoft Office, saving that expense AND getting better programs in the process.
I much prefer Pages to Word for my own word processing work and Keynote is by far the best presentation software out there. Numbers however is the weakest of the trifecta. I use Numbers often when working with spreadsheets however I still prefer Excel. Hopefully Numbers will continue to see improvements and my feelings will change.
The iMac was thoroughly revised at the end of last year and it wasn’t until early this year that all the pent-up backorders were filled. That made the start of the year a bit rocky. I’m not sure why the backorder was so bad; I believe it was because of shortages in the beautiful new screens which adorn the 21.5” and 27” iMac. With that behind us, the iMac did see a minor revision in late summer and it just served to solidify it as the best desktop computer of all time. Apple teased us with the new Mac Pro, yet still has not yet begun shipping the all cylindrical black computer. This machine is expected to ship sometime in December. When it does, I wholly expect that it will take desktop computing to an entirely new paradigm of power. It’s refreshing to see Apple so willing to break the mold and come out with a radically new and improved product. It is so sleek and powerful I’ll be happy to keep it right on my desk for all to see. The venerable Mac mini hasn’t seen much love this year from Apple and did not get any updates. I suppose when you consider that it’s still just $599 for a brand new Mac mini there still is enough value to forgive the lack of a revision in 2013. Even with the improved iMac and upcoming Mac Pro, desktop shipments shrank again in 2013 and estimates are that notebooks will continue to outsell desktops by a margin of about three to one - which brings us to…
Since notebooks sell so well compared to desktops, it should come as no surprise that Apple’s notebook lineup is…well, simply amazing. The 15” Retina MacBook Pro is honestly the best notebook on the planet; hands down. The screen is unbelievable and the speed of the SSD and improved processor make using it a thrill ride. Even the 13” Retina MacBook Pro received major upgrades this year, making it the ultimate choice for someone either looking for a slightly smaller powerhouse or needing to stick within a budget. Speaking of budgets, both Retina MacBook Pros saw atypical price drops this year, making all that speed and beauty even more within reach. While still not using a Retina display, the MacBook Air was on the receiving end of lots of great enhancements this year as well. Thanks to the new Haswell processors and battery improvements, the 13” model now gets a whopping 12 hours of runtime on a battery charge, yet also comes in at a slightly lower price. The Air’s claim to fame continues to be weight; coming in at just 2.96 pounds for the 13” model. Both the Air and the Retina saw major improvements in speed when Apple switched over to PCIe-based technology. This change extended the performance gap between legacy hard drives and modern era SSDs. Speaking of legacy products, my only gripe in Apple’s notebook lineup is the fact that what I call the “Classic” MacBook Pro did not get any performance upgrades or price drops. As a matter of fact, the 15” model was simply clipped off the books, if you want a 15” notebook from Apple you will have to step up to the Retina. While I do believe the Retina MacBook Pros represent the state of the art in modern notebook design, the “Classic” model was our best selling notebook in large part because of its price and capacity. I would like to have seen either a price drop or performance improvement. Oh well you can’t win them all. Classic model aside, the current Mac notebook lineup is the strongest it’s ever been.With all the updates taking place in the last few months, now is the perfect time to experience one for yourself.
I know this article is titled “State of the Mac” but that’s mainly because “State of Apple” just didn’t have the same rhythm to it. The iPad and iPad mini are huge fixtures in the Apple landscape, so no discussion of Apple is complete without discussing them. I’ll quickly roll in comments about iOS here as well.
Apple released iOS 7 a few months ago and like the new Mac OS, it did so at no cost. Customers were quick to adopt iOS 7 and it clearly was the most radical change to iOS since it’s introduction. Lots of people had a “who moved my cheese” reaction to iOS 7 however, in the weeks since I think people have come around to the new iOS and began to appreciate all the improvements to interface, design, and performance.
The iPad also saw a major revision with the newly branded iPad Air. This new 5th generation iPad is—like the 15” Retina MacBook Pro—head and shoulders above everything else in it’s class and a major upgrade to the iPad. Having used it now for a few weeks, my favorite feature is the considerable weight reduction as compared to the previous generation. It’s also nice that it’s not only lighter but physically smaller and thinner. In typical Apple fashion, all that wasn’t enough; they made it a whole lot faster and more powerful too. Yet somehow, they kept the price the same as the 4th-generation units. The iPad Air is a slam dunk product and one I can’t recommend more strongly. If you have been sitting on the sidelines of the iPad juggernaut, now is the time to join in. Even if you have an existing iPad, the iPad Air is so good that it’s an upgrade you won’t regret. The iPad mini also saw an upgrade a few weeks ago with Apple adding the beautiful Retina screen in its diminutive tablet. Apple also gave it the same crazy-fast and powerful 64-bit A7 chip that powers the iPad Air and iPhone 5s. For those of you who thought the entire iPad segment would escape this round-up without a critical comment fear not; I’ve got two gripes with the iPad mini. However like the mini itself however, they are small ones. First, while the Retina screen is gorgeous, I do not feel the difference between the standard mini and the Retina mini is that vast. This is a testament to just how good the display on the standard iPad mini really is/was. Apple has dropped the price of the iPad mini slightly: to just $299 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model. and I predict that it will be the best seller of the season because it’s an incredible value and the difference in the screen, while noticeable, is just not that dramatic. I feel the difference in screen for the full size iPad was like night and day, with the iPad mini it’s more like 9am and noon.
My other gripe is that Apple won’t be able to produce enough Retina minis to meet the holiday demand. That’s frustrating for us and our customers. We have several loyal customers who ordered Retina mini’s right away and to date we have only received a small trickle of them. I’m happy to report that just before I sent this newsletter we received tracking on a pretty large shipment arriving at Visionary and we are very pleased that we will be able to make a substantial number of customers happy very soon.
So there you have it. My own unfiltered thoughts about Apple’s products and the current state of things. There is a saying that we only criticize the ones we love and of course I love Apple. All things considered, the lineup of products is unbelievably strong and loaded with value and innovation. It’s a great time to be an Apple customer and I’m sure that things will continue to improve as Apple innovates, enhances, and enriches our lives with their terrific products.