13
Apr
10

Has Apple Forgotten the Mac? Umm, No.

Yay, more dumbassery from Gene Steinberg. Its yet another overly-long whine fest about how Apple is way too focused on one cash cow to the detriment of the other. I’m going to save myself the aneurysm and just respond inline.

You know that sales of new Macs are increasing at a speedy pace, generally faster than the rest of the PC industry. You also know that Apple’s mobile platform has long since surpassed the Mac in terms of total user base. With 80 million and counting, against roughly 30 million folks owning Macs, you might see reason for Apple to care less about the computing platform that made it famous

Granted, I’m sure there’s a bit more profit margin in a 64GB 3G iPad than an entry-level Mac Mini, but let’s face it: Apple makes an assload of money from selling Macs, and most of the Macs they sell are nice, profitable Macbooks. Hell, after today’s refresh, I’m saving all my pennies for a new top of the line Core i7 15″ Macbook Pro. You can’t tell me that Apple cares less about that than the 16GB 3GS I bought or the 32GB iPad I plan to buy this summer.

Also consider how Apple has promoted new Mac hardware. Pretty much all recent upgrades have been announced with simple press releases, even the iMac, said to be the hottest desktop computer in years. At the same time, Apple’s mobile platform and even the iPod both earn special media events, where the press is invited to San Francisco or Apple’s campus in Cupertino to get personal treatment and even time to get hands-on experience with the new hardware.

The new Pros got a chipset upgrade. Its a big deal for me, since I’m rocking a first-gen Core Duo Macbook Pro from 2006. One of the reasons I buy Macs is their lasting power. But get real, a CPU revision that everyone knew was coming doesn’t warrant a special event, especially not five days after the last one. Besides, its not like Apple doesn’t hold a week-long party to get everyone acquainted with its new cats.

All right, it’s true that new versions of the Mac OS also get the full treatment. Then again, special demonstrations plus lots of WWDC sessions are essential to help developers learn about new features and updates to Apple’s development environment. No way to avoid that.

So what are bitching about? Snowy isn’t even a year old and Leopard got two WWDCs.

Now in the wake of the unveiling of iPhone 4.0, there are reports that Apple has put off Mac OS 10.7 in order to allocate more developers to work on the mobile platform upgrade. Of course, it’s not that anyone outside of Apple can know for sure. There may be loads of reasons for a presumed delay, if one exists, and perhaps it’s just to give Apple more time to devise a load of sexy new features and make sure they are fully integrated into the existing OS structure.

Dude, 10.6 came out on August 29, 2009. Today is April 13, 2010. Snow Leopard is less than seven months old. OS X releases tend to hang around for 18-24 months, so fucking RELAX! This year’s WWDC will most likely focus on Snowy, iPhone OS 4 and iPad. I’m expecting that 10.7 LOLcat is going to include a bunch of UIKit, which will unify some OS X conventions between platforms. Remember, the iPhone OS and the Mac OS are both based on the same underlying OS. Hell, 10.6 already has a bunch of iPhone tech in it.

It’s not as if you actually need a new version of Mac OS X. Snow Leopard is still pretty new in the scheme of things, and the vast majority of apps still don’t support the most important new features, such as better performance with multicore processors and harnessing the power of advanced graphics chips.

That’s why new hardware always comes with custom OS builds that take advantage of new hardware. Always, at least since I bought my first New World Mac (12″ Powerbook that’s still alive and well) in 2002. Unless you’re arguing that Apple should release a general update that gives my 2006 laptop support for features it doesn’t now, nor will ever have?

Even the enhanced 64-bit support hasn’t lit much of a fire when it comes to companies who build the software that takes best advantage of accessing more system memory. In the forthcoming Adobe’s Creative Suite 5, out of over a dozen apps in the various production packages, only three —Photoshop, Premiere Pro and After Effects — are listed as providing 64-bit support. Then again, I doubt Adobe could offer any reasonable excuse if these high-power apps didn’t gain that capability with this revision, since the Mac was bypassed in CS4. At that time, by the way, Adobe’s excuse was that Apple just completed its Intel migration, and thus there wasn’t enough time to take advantage of Apple’s revised development tools. Then again, Adobe does a lot of cross-platform stuff, and didn’t Steve Jobs poke holes into that approach because he regards the results as “sub-standard”?

Yeah, sure. Because its not like Apple hasn’t been begging Adobe and Microsoft to use Cocoa since 1998 or anything. Neither company supported native Intel hardware until they had to, and neither made the switch to Cocoa until Apple killed 64-bit Carbon. That’s hardly Apple’s fault. As for Adobe’s cross-platform stance: CS4 is ass on both Windows and OS X. It ignores UI conventions for both platforms in favor of its own. It ignores standard OS key commands on both platforms. Adobe’s security is crap and it makes updates (and installation) far more difficult than they should be. And people wonder why Apple doesn’t want Adobe to have any control over the iPhone platform.

When it comes to Mac hardware, it’s not as if speed bump upgrades have been coming at a fever pitch. On the other hand, Tuesday morning’s MacBook Pro upgrade — a step that vindicates the pithy email from Steve Jobs telling a customer not to worry about the long delay since the last refresh of this model — does indicate that Apple is still in the business of delivering compelling upgrades.

Why would Apple update hardware at a “fever pitch?” That wouldn’t make people nervous about buying Macs because something new is always around the corner or anything. Kinda like how Droid owners who paid $200 weren’t at all pissed about the Nexus One or the fact that the Droid could be had at Amazon for $50 two months later? And the rumors that Intel was having trouble delivering Arrandale and Clarksfield chips couldn’t possibly be true, especially considering the lack of such chips showing up elsewhere?

Although the announcement arrived in press release form, in keeping with their recent posture, it does offer the promise of up to 50% faster performance. The graphic chip dilemma, the response to the conflict with NVIDIA and Intel over the former’s license to build integrated graphics for the latter, was resolved in possibly a less satisfactory fashion. Basic graphics are now handled by an Intel HD Graphics chip, with the option of using the discrete NVIDIA GT 330M when you need superior performance.

So what was Apple supposed to do about that? Intel changed its licensing scheme, which forced crappy Intel integrated graphics on everyone using Core iX chipsets. Apple did exactly what everyone expected them to, which was pretty much the only thing they could have done.

As with the previous model, pricing for the cheapest MacBook Pro starts at $1,199. The 17-inch version, the only one containing an ExpressCard/34 slot, lists for $2,299. Battery life is estimated at eight to nine hours, due to the greater power efficiencies of the new parts.

I have an expresscard in my port. Its a card reader for my SD cards. Just for some perspective, I tend to spend between $2000-$2500 on my laptops, which last me for around four years. I expect to spend around $2200 on my next machine. In 2002, that $2500 got me a 12″ Powerbook with a 32GB HDD, 640MB RAM and 866MHz PPC chip. This year, $2200 will get me a 15″ Macbook Pro with a 2.66 Core i7, 4GB RAM and a 500GB HDD. Plus all the extra goodies that unibodies have. Not too shabby.

Now as to the OS itself, remember that Apple exists to make a profit, not to upgrade its personal computer operating system on a fixed timeframe. That upgrades comes when they decide that they can provide value in a new version, perhaps sell lots of upgrades and, more to the point, push out more Macs that take better advantage of the new features. If sales are moving along at a good clip, and Mac users aren’t filling Apple’s Feedback pages with loads of complaints about a long-in-the-tooth operating system, I suppose there’s no real incentive for them to move forward any faster.

It. Has. Been. SEVEN MONTHS. Since Snow Leopard shipped. Apple ships new major OS releases when it has enough new APIs ready and in good enough shape for public consumption. Developers are still learning how to use the goodies in 10.6. I can just imagine the howls from everybody if Apple tried to ship 10.7 this year. “Apple’s screwing users for charging for a new OS again!” “Apple’s screwing developers be dumping too much on them!”

Then again, maybe the rumors about a delay in 10.7 are just that — rumors. Maybe Apple is working full steam ahead on getting the new version out according to an internal timetable that, of course, we know nothing about. Yes, it’s true Apple delayed Leopard’s arrival to finish the first iPhone OS, but don’t assume history is about to repeat itself.

Rational people shouldn’t be expecting to hear anything about 10.7 until next year. Even if we do hear about 10.7 at this WWDC, it’ll likely involve a vaporware presentation about new major features, but there won’t be any beta or new code. 10.7 won’t be “late” at all, even if there’s no new information at all this year. While I’m at it, when’s Windows 8 shipping?

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