High Variance

A Few Comments on Apple's Big October Event

Apple’s big October product announcements are now behind us and I’ve read more blogger reactions than I care to admit. Even I’m surprised that I still have a few somewhat original thoughts of my own to share. Instead of simply being an “iPad mini” event Apple announced a whole slew of products. While some folks predicted some of the “extra” stuff, I don’t think anyone expected the sheer quantity we saw. That said, I’m most excited about two products Apple did not announce:

  1. A new Thunderbolt display: The new iMac is beautiful and I can’t wait until they translate it into a stand-alone display. Less glare and pixels closer to the glass will be terrific. It will also give Apple a chance to add a few ports that they neglected on the first rev: USB 3 and analog audio out. And imagine how thin it will be when it doesn’t have to also house a whole computer?

  2. The Fusion Drive: I know, I know, they DID announce this as an option for the new iMac and Mac Mini, but I’m hoping they will sell it separately so I can stick one in my 2010 iMac. I really like the idea of having the speed of an SSD and the size of a traditional HD without the hassle of managing the pair. We’ll have to wait for the iFixit teardown to see if it has a new interface (and is thus incompatible) and something tells me even if it has standard wiring, Apple will want to reserve this feature as reason for folks to upgrade their old (but perfectly usable) iMacs. I can still dream.

There’s been a lot of talk about how Apple is making a mistake by pricing the iPad mini at $329 and leaving breathing room for the other cheaper small tablets in the market. I think Apple priced the product as high as possible such that they will sell all the mini’s they can make before the holidays. If they didn’t, they would simply be leaving money on the table. When their supply chain gets up to speed some time in the spring, I predict they will drop the price below $300.

I have very mixed feelings about the new iMac. While it’s gorgeous and powerful, I’m not sure I agree with the sacrifices Apple had to make to achieve its super-model-thin curves. Most iMac owners spend the bulk of their time in front of their iMac where they never even see the curves–my own is right up against a wall, and I’d have to lean over and around my desk to appreciate the sides and back.

Apple loves to be first to cast old standards aside: Remember when the iMac dropped the floppy drive? I think they were the first PC maker to stop using special keyboard and mouse ports and just rely on USB. And just a month ago they said goodbye to the venerable Dock Connector. Now they want to do the same thing to the optical drive. For a notebook, this makes perfect sense: In the last year there was exactly one time when it would have been nice to mount a CD on my Air and that is certainly not enough to justify the added weight and bulk of a drive. At my desk, I do rip the occasional DVD or used CD. And I’m certainly not throwing my iMac in my bag when I head out on the town. But maybe Apple’s right. Maybe folks should just keep an ugly old SuperDrive in a drawer for those rare occasions when they need it. Then they can appreciate beautiful design every day. Even if it means leaning over their desks to do so.