Just when we thought we had
) all figured out, the company still manages to surprise us. Not
only that, it surprised us in the way it surprised us.
Yesterday, Cupertino ventured upstate to San Francisco and held its
annual fall press event to showcase its newly revamped iPad line as
well as some incremental updates to the MacBook Pros, a brand new
Mac Pro desktop, and new versions of its Mac OS X operating system
and app suites.
All in all, the event was pretty lackluster,
if not expectedly so
. The larger iPad got a new suffix (Air, specifically) due to its
slimmer, lighter design. The MacBook Pros got negligible processing
upgrades that reduce the lag and stutter from previous models. And
the Mac Pro, although sleekly crafted, is so prohibitively and
mind-bogglingly expensive at $2,999 that it would be hard to
justify buying one even taking the pesky Apple Tax into
When it came to the hardware debuts, nothing especially stood out
from the pre-conference predictions -- neither in announcement nor
spec. However, a few unforeseen revelations came from the
unlikeliest place: software.
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Now, for the past few years, Apple's flagship and best-selling
device has been its iPhone, which has also dictated who the company
would consider its chiefest rival. We're so used to hearing Apple's
top brass sniping at
) over issues like fragmentation and app numbers that it's hard to
remember the company ever having a bigger foe. But with a few
changes to software availability, as well as a number of cutting
remarks over sales, Apple effectively rekindled its rivalry with an
old and ailing opponent:
Continuing its tradition with a new desktop OS version each year,
Apple announced the immediate availability of the terribly named
Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks to the public. The last few upgrades have
been very reasonably priced, with Snow Leopard and Lion costing $29
and the price of last year's Mountain Lion dropping to $19.
However, Mavericks has lived up to its nonconformist moniker by
having a shelf price of nothin'. That's right: The upgrade to the
latest Mac OS X version is being treated like an iOS or Android
update and is absolutely free to the end user.
This makes Microsoft Windows the
desktop operating system that costs the user anything to own.
Apple engineering VP Craig Federighi commemorated the occasion on
stage by saying, "The days of spending hundreds of dollars to get
the most from your computer are gone," which is a not-so-subtle jab
at Redmond. The mobile landscape has shaped and led where computers
will take us, and the idea of paying for an OS is absolutely
antiquated. Aside from the frequent early adoption bugs, Apple has
eliminated the excuse not to upgrade -- which stands in stark
contrast with the millions of people hesitant to run Windows 8.
Speaking of antiquated, when was the last time you paid for a word
processing app suite? With the number of free, open-sourced, and
multi-platformed desktop apps, like OpenOffice and LibreOffice --
not to mention the increasingly powerful and reliable Google app
suite -- there's been little reason to fork over any money for
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Well, Apple apparently saw where the users were headed and, in an
effort to stem the tide to free alternatives, the company up and
decided to make its iWork suite free for Mac and iOS users. "Others
would have you spend a small fortune every year just to get their
apps," Apple services VP Eddy Cue said next to a screen bearing the
obscenely high $99 subscription fee to run Office 365 on an iPhone.
And with iPhone slowly and steadily replacing
) on the mobile enterprise front, Apple could corner the market on
work productivity, wiping out the headway Microsoft has made over
the last few decades.
As we've seen before, Apple's not above kicking a competitor when
it's down, but the biggest jab at Redmond seemed a bit cruel.
As he geared up to introduce the new iPads, CEO Tim Cook laid into
the admittedly poor decisions that Microsoft has made under Steve
Ballmer's leadership. Although he didn't mention any company by
name, it didn't take long for the audience to realize Cook was
referring to Microsoft and not Google.
"Our competition is different: They're confused," Cook said. "They
chased after netbooks. Now they're trying to make PCs into tablets
and tablets into PCs. Who knows what they'll do next? I can't
answer that question, but I can tell you that we're focused."
The products in question, of course, are the Microsoft Surface
tablets -- which have languished in sales numbers and market share
compared to the iPad and Android devices -- and the fumbled
integration with Windows 8. True to Cook's words, Microsoft's
latest OS can't really decide if its touchscreen Metro interface or
the classic Windows desktop is its default. Versatile,
multi-purpose interfaces are one thing, but it would seem Windows 8
botched them both. So it's not surprising that the experiment
hasn't paid off with adoption rates, but for Apple, it's like
in a barrel to go after the company for that.
Overall, yesterday's event featured many similarities to the ho-hum
some might even say "boring"
-- iPhone 5S/5C unveiling. But it bore enough unexpected turns and
corporate jabs to keep us on our toes.
And everyone loves seeing two old adversaries go at it again.
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