Big Picture: What Does Today’s Apple Event Mean?

BY Tris Hussey

Published 23 Oct 2012

Well that was exciting wasn’t it?

If you missed the event (it was live streamed this time!) you should be able to watch it here, but for those of us who did watch the event—you already know that Apple has done it again and has further stepped up its game on (almost) its entire product line. With updates to the 13 ” MacBook Pro, Mac mini, iMac, iPad (that was a surprise!), and iPad mini there’s a lot to take in. So what does it all mean?


Optical Drive, oh how we loved ye…

Apple is doing what it did to the floppy drive—just innovating it out of relevance and existence. The new Retina MacBook Pros don’t have a Superdrive. The new iMac doesn’t either. Mac mini? Nope. Only the “old gen” MacBook Pros have a Superdrive and I’m betting by next year Apple will toss those in the next refresh as well. It’s pretty rare that I need to use an optical drive (which is good, since the one in my MacBook Pro is kaput), my wife still needs one occasionally for her voice students—even that is becoming more rare. Flash storage is fast, cheap, and reliable. Yeah I have a bunch of music CDs I’d still like to import, but…maybe I won’t miss them too much.

Of the storage technologies that we are kissing goodbye to, I think the CD/DVD is going to be one that we might (might) miss the most—in the short term. As floppies were being phased out, flash drives were getting cheaper and bigger and CD/DVDs were pretty easy to use. However I think lots of us still use CDs and DVDs now and then for movies and music. Data transfer? USB flash drives win the day there.

So, Apple is trying to put the nail in the coffin of the optical drive and getting us to use something better (cloud storage or flash drives), and it’s about time.

Holy crap that’s thin!

Has anyone stopped to think about how freakin’ thin Apple has been able to make all its core devices? Talk about manufacturing innovation that really makes a difference in day-to-day device use. I was looking at a PC laptop today in someone’s office and thought—wow, what a clunker—thin, plastic, probably heavy. Apple is pushing the boundaries of how thin devices can be made and eventually these developments will trickle down to more and more devices from more and more manufacturers.

Form follows function, follows use, follows design

When I was thinking about whether or not an iPad mini was good or bad, I was wondering about apps (Apple solved that elegantly I think) and I was wondering how Apple would balance size with use cases. Well I think if you watch the recent iPhone 5 ad that shows how the screen size is still matches the average size of an adult hand, you can figure out that Apple takes size seriously. The iPad mini at 7.9″ is big enough to still enjoy content, but small enough to be more portable. As I wagered Apple would focus on content consumption (books, surfing, games, movies, music) rather than creation (documents, email, etc). Sure the mini is going to be just fine for creation and I think its size makes it a great video recording device (maybe still a wee big for pictures, but smaller), but it’s going to be a consumption device primarily—and that’s spot on.

As far as the 4th Gen iPad, well that was the rabbit that Tim pulled out of the hat wasn’t it? My 3rd Gen iPad—which I love—is now the old dog. Interesting that the venerable iPad 2 is kept at the low-end option and the 3rd Gen devices are now destined for the discount bin. Smart move though, get more devices with the new Lightening connector into the market to push demand for more accessories.

The push for books and publishing

I hope you noticed how long Tim Cook spent on talking about education, schools, books, and publishing. This is where Apple is going to harvest the seeds of iPad (and growing MacBook/iMac) dominance in the future. If you become the de facto standard tablet then publishers will focus their energies on taking advantage of that. Other tablets? Well they will have to adapt or die. I’m betting that Apple will start working on licensing models for iBooks on Android within a year. If you can take the immersive experience that iBooks Author can create and expand it beyond just the iPad to other tablets and reading platforms, then you have a publishing powerhouse. Just like Apple has done for music, they will repeat with books.

Everyday, all day, everyone

The last thing I will say is that Apple is further cementing its position as the company whose products, tools, and devices are part of how we go about our daily lives. Even if you don’t own an Apple product, you’re influenced by them. It’s a pretty powerful thing to consider that Apple sold more iPads alone in Q2 2012 than other PC companies sold…anything. If that doesn’t make you stop and think (and competitors shudder), I don’t know what will.

For more on today's announcements, check out the rest of the posts here: