Saturday, June 16, 2012

Less than excited about Apple updates

It's been almost 10 years since my last Apple developer's conference. (IIRC I last made the pilgrimage in 2003, 18 months before my Mac software company went away). So I have to rely on news accounts of the announcements Apple makes, like the ones CEO Tim Cook and friends made Monday.

A week ago, I thought there might be something there for me, since I’m in the market for a tablet, a smartphone and an updated (Mac) laptop. However, nothing announced at WWDC will cause me to open my checkbook.

The most hullabaloo was about the “MacBook Pro with Retina display” (not to be confused with the “MacBook Pro”). It’s a cool idea to have a 2880 x 1800 15" laptop (vs. half that for the conventional 15" MBP), but I’m not pay $2200 for no stinkin’ laptop, even if all the opinion leaders are doing so.

And it’s not just the prospects of paying more for less. As David Pogue put it:

Remember, too, that this MacBook Air-inspired laptop lacks both a DVD drive and an Ethernet jack. Apple says that Wi-Fi is everywhere now, and if you want to watch a movie, you can stream it from the Internet.

Frankly, that’s a typically too-soon Apple conclusion. Wi-Fi isn’t everywhere, and lots of movies aren’t available legally for streaming. (Ever fly on a plane? You can’t stream any movies at all if the flight doesn’t have Wi-Fi.) As a workaround, you can buy an external DVD drive ($80) and Ethernet adapter ($30).
While Apple might have been right about dialup modems — in a similar move nearly a decade ago — it’s wrong about the end of Ethernet. I will be using Ethernet for the next 5+ years at work — my office is not near a hotspot — and probably at home too so I can do backups over the network. Wi-Fi alone won’t cut it.

Supposedly there is a ThunderBolt to Gigabit Ethernet adaptor available, and a ThunderBolt to FireWire (for my legacy HDDs) is due Real Soon Now. Support for USB 3 is a plus since that’s what the cheapest new HDDs have.

So I might be tempted to get the regular MacBook Pro at $1200, but — like the “with Retina display” cousin — it requires a new MacSafe2 adaptor, rendering all my existing power adaptors obsolete. Since I need at least 3 adaptors (home, work, briefcase) I’l either need to spend 4x for new bricks or $10 each for the “MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter.”

So yes, Apple saying “we’re changing our peripherals strategy” gives me pause. But the reality is that the 2013 model of the MBPwRD or MBP or MBA wthat ill probably suit me better than this year’s model. Since I need a minimum of 250gb — about half that of David Pogue — that means either a spinning disk, paying a huge premium for solid state disk drives, or waiting for next year’s models.

There were no iPad announcements: no update to the 10" (not surprising), no long-rumored 7" model. I’ve been tempted by a possible 7" but the 10" would duplicate too much the size and weight of my laptop. At this point, our teenager seems likely to become our first iPad owner (since there’s no reason for her to start with a laptop if the form factor is on the way out).

Similar, this month’s announcement brought no iPhone LTE, just a vaporware iOS 6 with new web-based service: better Siri, and non-Google maps. The improved OS is nice, but better hardware — true 4G capabilities — are what everyone’s waiting for.

And that brings me to the announcement that is most likely to cause me to part with my money: a discount iPhone announced the week before WWDC. The (unsubsidized) iPhone on Virgin Mobile offers the cheapest data plan option around, worth $500+ over the life of a typical big carrier contract. Who knows: five years after writing about the iPhone I may actually get one.

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