Last week, three of the biggest technology companies held special events. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT ) and Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA ) managed to inspire, while Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL ) instead fell flat, trotting out a new MacBook Pro that left it looking like a company that's losing its mojo.
Microsoft kicked off the big week with its Oct. 26 event in New York . The company showed off a new version of Windows 10 coming in spring that incorporates 3D as a key element.
It announced deals with OEM partners that will see affordable, self-contained 3D headsets produced that cost half what leaders like Facebook Inc 's (NASDAQ: FB ) Oculus Rift sell for.
And Microsoft went for Apple's jugular, targeting the core creative demographic with impressive new hardware. Its Surface Book laptop - that converts between laptop and tablet with ease - got an even more powerful version. But what really got people talking was MSFT's first desktop PC. The Surface Studio is designed to be an iMac killer and an answer to the Mac Pro, all in one.
It's big, beautiful and offers an innovative hinged design. With a stylus and the new Surface Studio's Dial add-on, it's a creative professional's dream machine.
Tesla Wows With Solar Roof Tiles and Bigger Powerwall
On Friday evening, Tesla wowed journalists with a mock neighborhood set up at the Universal Studios theme park. Model homes were equipped with new solar roof tiles from (proposed Tesla merger target) SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ: SCTY ) and a new high capacity Powerwall battery from Tesla.
The roof tiles are available in a variety of styles and solve one of the biggest problems with current solar roofing solutions: they actually look like slate and other roofing materials. They last two to three times longer than traditional asphalt shingles, are sturdier than premium roofing choices like slate or clay tiles, they resist snow and ice and they are 98% as effective as bolting on ugly solar panels.
The new Powerwall 2 battery from Tesla goes for $5,500 and offers the capacity to power the lights, sockets and refrigerator for a four bedroom house for a day.
The combined package of solar roof tiles and Powerwall offers a tantalizing vision for energy efficiency, green power and self-reliance.
AAPL's New MacBook Pro Falls Flat
In between Tesla and Microsoft was Apple's event, where the company was set to introduce an eagerly anticipated new MacBook Pro.
AAPL did indeed show off the new laptop . But rather than impressing with the Touch Bar feature and smaller form factor, the new MacBook Pro left many Apple fans wondering if the company has lost its way.
The laptop ditches all legacy ports - except the headphone jack, which AAPL got rid of on the iPhone 7, citing its lack of relevance in today's world. Creative professionals who rely on USB peripherals will have to buy expensive and clumsy dongles to plug in their collection of USB gear. No SD card slot, so photographers will need to buy and carry an adapter. Native USB thumb drive support is gone. You can't even plug in a new iPhone 7 to charge it using the new MacBook Pro without buying an adapter.
And while the Touch Bar has a cool factor to it, power users are scratching their heads. Many of these people use their laptop as a base station plugged into a big screen monitor … that Touch Bar would be out of reach and useless in this common configuration.
Adding insult to injury, AAPL also boosted prices by hundreds of dollars on the new MacBook Pro compared to the outgoing model and chopped the popular (and affordable) 11-inch MacBook Air from its lineup.
Three Events, Two Very Different Outcomes
After last week's events, Tesla (and SolarCity) showed a vision that's inspiring consumers. Microsoft continued to build on its newfound respect as a hardware designer and built on its turnaround from stale PC-era giant to forward-thinking innovator. Apple? The new MacBook Pro makes it look like a complacent company that's losing touch with its core users.
Perhaps worse, there's an impression the company is more focused on soaking its loyal customers on adapters - it costs an extra $19 just to be able to connect its own new iPhone ! - rather than providing the features they actually want and need.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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