Thoughts on the Apple Event

I’ve been asked quite a few times today which Apple announcement I thought was the biggest—the blockbuster release that people would be talking about for days and weeks to come. That’s actually a very difficult question to answer, given the scope of the announcements.

If there was any event in recent memory that demonstrated the depth and scope of Apple’s products, it had to be this one. Every new product tied into the last and the next announcement in one way or another. Whether iOS or Mac, software or hardware, the connection was there.

The new iPads were clearly the products that everyone was waiting on throughout the event. I had some time after the event to play around with the new devices and gather some quick thoughts.

The iPad Air is everything you would expect from something with that name. Clearly an iPad in looks and functionality, but it’s also so light and seems less bulky than the previous generation iPad. It’s hard to imagine that Apple could make the iPad any thinner and lighter than it was, but they did. You can tell just from picking up the iPad Air that it’s different—it’s that obvious.

The iPad mini has been my most used iPad since it came out and I don’t see that changing. The most requested feature for the mini is here—a Retina display.

I never found the display on the iPad mini to be bad at all, and I used it all the time. However, there is no doubt that having the Retina display will make the reading experience1 much better. Of course, having the new A7 chip means the iPads are really powerful too, so no apps are going to be able to slow them down.

I was kind of surprised that neither iPad included the new TouchID fingerprint sensor. I must admit, I thought they would have it.

The new Mac Pro is just a beast of a machine. Much smaller than previous generation Mac Pros, but packing so much power. Everything about the Mac Pro, from the processors to the GPU and the I/O screams professional. I can’t wait to get this thing in my studio—it will be the first “desktop” Mac to actually sit on my desk in many years.

What’s amazing about the MacBook Pro is not that they made it faster or that it has faster graphics or that it has better battery life. What’s amazing is that they did all three.

For me, battery life is becoming one of the most important considerations for my portable computer. I’m tired of trying to find a plug wherever I go to top up the battery and I’d be willing to sacrifice a bit of power for better battery. Luckily, it doesn’t look like I’ll be making any sacrifices with the new MacBook Pro.

The last item on the list from the presentation is software. You may look at the software announcements and think they aren’t that significant, but this is huge.

Apple took iLife and iWork on iOS and Mac, and made them free when you get a new device. Then they took the new version of OS X Mavericks and made it free too.

Everything you need to operate a Mac or iOS device is free. Spreadsheet, photo, music, presentation, word processing, and movie-making software, all free.


I can’t wait to get my hands on all of these products to test them out, but I think Apple really made a statement today about doing what’s best for its customers. That’s what it’s all about.

  1. I use my iPad mini mostly for reading emails and surfing the Web for work, so sharper text means a lot to me. 

  • Just discovered that if one uses OS X Server, one has to pay for and download an entirely new version of Server for Mavericks.

    • tylernol

      spending $19 when baseline Mavericks is _free__ seems okay by me.

  • Joseph Blake

    Everything about the Mac Pro screams professional except the compromises they made in the name of the form factor.

    • what about the form factor isn’t professional?

      • site7000

        The lack of internal storage space means that everything must go through TB2 connectors, which are slower than internal connections, plus there is the added cost and ungodly mess of putting everything outside the computer.

        • I can understand that.

        • Aaron

          What internal connection is faster than TB2?

          Also, with TB cables, you can put the external stuff out of the way.

        • Sebastian Paul

          The new Mac Pro is only a fraction of the size of the old model. I think you could actually remove all the parts from a G5 Mac-style Mac Pro and have a little fun with a saw and fit a new Mac Pro + many Thunderbolt periphals in the old case.

          And no – TB2 isn’t slower than most of the internal connections. SATA? Nope, that’s only 6gbit/s.

          The only way to have faster internal connections than TB2 would be to use PCI Express.

          • site7000

            Bingo. For pros, it makes no sense to be cut off from PCI Express. And why only one CPU socket? And fewer memory sockets? As for putting everything out of the way, it already was out of the way with the previous, bigger chassis. Look at the back panel of the new Mac Pro. There’s a ton of ports that are going to get rapidly filled. Cables, cables, cables running to boxes, boxes, boxes.

            Apple may be aiming at a bigger market with the updated Mac Pro, but like their pro software, they aren’t really focused on the true pro market anymore. It’s not a matter of blame; it’s just an acknowledgment of what they’re doing.

          • Sebastian Paul

            Thunderbolt 2 has a bandwidth of 20gbit/s and is kinda external PCIe 2.0 x4.

            As the 2012 Mac Pro had two x4 slots and two x16 slots, at least one of the x16 slots occupied by a graphics card.

            So we have two x4 slots and maybe one x16 slot available for expansion cards on the older model.

            Those two x4 slots will be replaced by Thunderbolt 2 on the new model – and the x16 slots will be replaced by two integrated GPUs.

          • Billy Razzle

            Most pros have tons of stuff coming off the back of their computers anyway.

          • Sigivald

            Do Pros care so much about marginal RAM costs that the 64 gig limit will be punitive in 4 slots rather than 8?


            (A spotcheck of third party ECC of the right speed shows 16 gig modules at $150…)

          • Joseph Blake

            Who cares how small it is? It’s a professional workstation that is designed to be under your desk. I don’t even like the slimming of the iMac line just for the sake of slimming it, but doing this and using size as a selling point on a professional workstation just doesn’t make sense.

    • tylernol

      if you want to go fast, you go to serial lines these days. Both for internal and external. tb2 is a super fast serial line. You would be hard pressed to max it out.

      • site7000

        Can’t agree. GPUs normally use 16x slots. A 16x PCIe 3.0 slot provides about 126 gigabits of bi-directional bandwidth, and a 16x PCIe 2.0 slot provides about 64 gigabits. Thunderbolt 2.0 provides only 20 gigabits in theory and less in practice. AnandTech showed in an article about the 7970 last year that PCIe 3.0 x2 would bottleneck a 7970: What happens in a couple years when the GPUs require even more bandwidth?

        • Sebastian Paul

          What? The new Mac Pro doesn’t have regular PCIe-slots for graphics cards, so this doesn’t matter at all.

          Whatever connection/port/whatever Apple is using to connect the GPUs to the rest of the system, it is neither a regular PCIe x16 slot nor Thunderbolt.

          And about PCIe being a bottleneck for the Radeon 7970: In all tested games except for Battlefield 3, the performance took a hit when the GPU was connected via PCIe 3.0 x2 and in BF3, this was even noticeable with PCIe 3.0 x4. BUT: The differences were in the low single digits, nobody will notice if Metro 2033 runs at 96fps or only 93.

          And even more important: Do you understand that PCIe speeds double each new generation? PCIe 3.0 x4 slots have the speed of PCIe 2.0 x8 slots and they had the speed of PCIe (1.0) x16 slots.

          The first PCIe (1.0) GPUs were available in 2004!

          You could use a 2011 Radeon 7970 in a mainboard from 2004 and would suffer only marginal performance hits (at least due to PCIe bandwidth, it’s obvious that the CPUs and RAM of that era would pose a problem)

          So yeah, if Apple were using Thunderbolt 2 to connect their two GPUs in the new Mac Pro (but they don’t!), owners of the Mac Pro might notice bandwidth problems in games (something the Mac Pro aren’t made for), resulting in 3% lower framerates. In the year 2020!

          Awww, too bad.

          • site7000

            I don’t dispute that the new Mac Pro is a great gaming machine and maybe your point about gamers only needing the two GPUs connected internally is sufficient, but that has nothing to do with the pro market needing additional GPUs. Being forever limited to TB2’s 2.5 GB/sec is a significant limitation.

          • Sebastian Paul

            No, I never said that the Mac Pro is meant for games, I just responded to your claim that TB2 wouldn’t suffice for graphics cards – tho the GPUs in the Mac Pro are NOT connected via Thunderbolt AND PCIe speeds are not really that important for GPUs.

            In another comment you mentioned that it is a bad thing that the Mac Pro only has a single CPU socket.

            You seem to miss, that the Mac Pro is meant for a different kind of tasks. It is meant for OpenCL, running on the two integrated GPUs. Running applications optimized for OpenCL should give much better performance on a 2013 Mac Pro with a single CPU (6-12 cores) and 2 GPUs than on an older Mac Pro with dual CPU sockets but only a single GPU.

    • DanielSw

      Compromises! Baloney! Just the opposite!

      What about all the bozos screaming for a “mini tower”? This is the answer for them. This is their mini tower.

      As for the rest: six Thunderbolt 2 ports will provide very flexible expansion capabilities; 8 and 12-core processor options, too.

      And the small form factor gives everyone is a far quieter machine, and at the same time, more efficient cooling with ONE fan. It’s sheer engineering genius to locate all three circuit boards around a common “chimney” heatsink.

      • Joseph Blake

        Except that there’s no PCI-e slots for expansion cards (video capture, networking, storage).

        It is a very novel engineering design, but small and cute isn’t what a professional workstation demands.

        • DanielSw

          So, there’ll be expansion card chassis for those who need them, and Thunderbolt will eventually be optical for bandwidth. Why do you think Apple/Intel created the whole Light Peak technology in the first place?

        • Sigivald

          Networking and storage? Why, it’s almost like Thunderbolt can handle those, without needing PCIe slots.

          Or like Thunderbolt can … attach… PCIe slots externally.

          What’s missing, exactly?

  • The free with a new device part was lost on me. Does that mean everyone that already have devices still has to pay 40-50 dollars for all of the apps if they don’t already own a?

    • Lorenzo Orlandi

      Old versions of any iLife or iWork app on both Mac and iOS should be upgradable for free. You’ll only have to shell out cash if you never owned the apps.

      • Gotcha. Seems they sold it as “we’re champions of free” but it just a free update or free after a $299, minimum for an iPad mini last gen, purchase.

        It’s still a good deal but came off different in the preso; well, at least I took it differently maybe it was clear to everyone else. 🙂

  • Huge, indeed!

    I want the new Mac Pro so bad.

    Only i cannot afford it so soon.

    The New Mac Pro + Modo + Maya = A Very Happy me!

  • jtr3

    The new Mac Pro certainly has the potential to be a beast, but I must admit I was bummed with the baseline price/performance. As a 3D artist, and moving into 2014, the idea of a workstation-class computer starting off with only a quad-core processor and 12GB of RAM seems weak and not worth the price of entry.

    A top-of-the-line iMac with more RAM, a comparable CPU, the same 256GB of flash storage, and a single 4GB GPU clocks in at ~$2,750. The baseline Mac Pro is $3,000 plus anther $1,000 for a current 27″ Thunderbolt Cinema Display. Yes, it has ECC RAM (which might possibly matter if it’s crunching literally 24/7), dual GPUs (with half the memory per chip), and the potential for greater throughput. But is that what an extra $1,250 should get you, eeking out a win against an iMac? (We’ll of course need to see real world benchmarks to conclude anything).

    I like the Mac Pro, I want the Mac Pro. But I think the 6-core tier should have been the baseline for ~$3,000. As it is, unless your applications take advantage of OpenCL (sorry CUDA, also known as all the major 3rd party GPU renderers for 3D apps) you’re wasting a large chunk of that premium price tag.

    I’m sure video editors will love it, but even they should expect more than a quad-core for $3,000.

  • N8nnc

    I expected Touch ID, too. My guess is that they weren’t sure that it could launch without glitches and wanted to handle problems only on the iPhone. This is perhaps another rationale for the 5C. You take risks, but you sure as hell don’t bet the farm on any one thing.

  • tylernol

    I suspect touchID is not in this line of iPads because it is supply chain constrained this year. Next year it will pop up after they improve yields and manufacturing capacity.

    • rattyuk

      It points to the sensor being in high demand and so targeted for the flagship iPhone. The A7 seems to be coming off in excellent quantities though.

  • tylernol

    I find it extremely impressive that Apple has brought the iPad Mini up to the same hw parity as the iPad (AIR) – both have retina displays, and both are running the A7. I was expecting retina on the mini but expected Apple to bump it to an A6 or A6X.

  • What are your thoughts on the iPad 2 being inserted into the lineup?

    I think this was the worst announcement. It’s 3 versions old at this point and doesn’t handle iOS 7 too well [at least my wife’s doesn’t]. The iPad 4 seemed appropriate to drop to $399 and the 3 lower just left alone.

    Is it because 3 & 4 are retinas?

    • japtor

      My guess (beyond just better margins for everything) is that it has something to do with the SoC and screen. Those iPads were the only things to ever use the A5X and A6X, and nothing else will ever use them. With the iPad 2 you have the same A5 as the iPad mini, iPhone 4S, and iPod touch (and AppleTV but that’s a technically modified single core version).

      As for the screen, it’s probably the priciest part and similarly isn’t going to be used for anything else going forward. Keep in mind it’d be going from a $499-$929 model range down to the $399 price point, so there’s a potentially big hit on margins right there unless the screen got a whole lot cheaper quickly.

      Hopefully the new big retina screen becomes a standard since it’ll probably be used for a while. And I guess the A7 could be the new A5 eventually, in the sense of being a sort of standard minimum spec used across the line (…which might leave the A6 left out cause it’s the last 32-bit part).

      • Good comment.

        I’m not advocating for the demolishing of the 2 but to announce it as a great deal felt disingenuous to their user base at best. By no means should they be “pushing” users to a 3 version old device, IMHO.

        • Agreed! Especially when next year they release iOS 8 and it’s (most likely) not compatible with iPad 2 :-/

          • Exactly. It may work on the 2 but it would probably be limited, as is the case for generations that old.

    • rattyuk

      There are many legacy companies and education depts. that are heavily invested in the 30 pin connector. The iPad 2 is there for them. Also they are probably giving quantity discounts on the device. The point being is that the enterprise and education are slow ships that don’t turn on a dime.

      • You do realize the iPad 3 is a 30 pin, right?

        • Billy Razzle

          They don’t make the “3” anymore.

    • Prion

      It makes sense when you consider the huge installed base of iPad 2’s being used in point-of-sale, education and corporate markets. The retina screens, faster chips and design upgrades are arguably less important for these customers. I imagine Apple has no problem moving a high volume of iPad 2’s when the price is lower than the new models and the buyer can budget out software and accessories with less concern about a frequent and expensive upgrade cycle.

      As for iOS 7 on the iPad 2 I’m certain Apple will be tweaking iOS 7 in order to improve some of the performance issues with these older models. Already the latest iOS update (7.0.3) has an improved option to disable motion animations, having installed it on my 4s and disabled motion animations this latest update feels a bit faster and smoother in use overall.

      • A huge install base means nothing in reference to new sales. Those same folks would buy a 3 over a 2 if the 3 was $399. Just saying.

        7 isn’t horrible on the 2. It has some bugs for sure that I haven’t seen on my mini. I do agree they will do their best to address these things but I doubt 8 will have full support but it might and 9 is probably a for sure no-go.

        • Jasper

          They haven’t made new iPad 3s in a year. The A5X in particular is just a ridiculous chip to fab and they’re not going to start up production again on those.

          The iPad 4 has a lightning connector and doesn’t fit in the existing jigs and cases for applications like museum signage, POS terminals, hell, the dynamic Apple Store signage are iPad 2s. There is a ridiculously large market for precisely and only the iPad 2. They could lower the price a bit further, but not much. They won’t sell many to con sumers any more, but they’re not trying to.

          There is no reason whatsoever for these people to want an iPad 4 even if it was at the same price as an iPad 2, iPad 3s can’t be made any longer, and the margins on the iPad 2 are insanely great.

          • “the margins on the iPad 2 are insanely great” … exactly! It is about their pockets and not consumers.

            I’d much rather them keep the 2 as an option but not in a primary spot than to push it as the “years past”, best 30 pin option.


    • Billy Razzle

      The iPad 2 wasn’t “inserted”. They’ve never stopped selling those. The reasons they keep selling them are simple…people keep buying them, and they make a good profit off of them.

      • I never said they stopped selling or should stop.

        I get why they want to keep them on the market but where is the 3 and 4:

        • Billy Razzle

          You did say “inserted” which at least implies that they weren’t there before.

          The “3” was replaced by the “4”, the “4” was replaced by the Air.

          The “2” is the entry level full sized iPad. The main part of every iPad is the screen, so the major differentiator of the models is the screen. Resolution from “2” to Air, & size from Mini to “Full”.

          Dropping the “2” for a cheaper full sized retina iPad would be more difficult to upsell.

          I think there’s a chance that this is the last year for the “2”.

          I think next year could be “Mini 1” – “Retina Mini” – “Air”.

          • You incorrectly took an implication that isn’t there. I mean they inserted into the new lineup as in they have 4 spots, inserted 2 new, 1 from last year, and the iPad 2.

            I agree on the upsell. A cheaper 3 or 4 would make the Air a “why?” scenario unless they cared about tech specs or weight.

          • Billy Razzle

            Inserted does not = stayed or kept.

          • lol. Seriously man?

            [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]

            4 slots. Insert a device into the lineup. There isn’t anything super intelligent to glean here. It is as straightforward placing a product in the slot.

            Nothing more.

          • Billy Razzle

            If you look at it as being an entirely new lineup of empty slots to fill, then you could word it like that.

            The way I look at it, the new products replaced the older products in their slots or were “inserted” into new slots beside the “2” & “Mini 1”. The “2” would then stay in its same slot in the lineup.

            Either way it’s just semantics.

          • I look at it like FIFO.

            So last year it was the 3 and the 2. Then it was the 4 and the mini. Now it’s the Air and the 2. That’s off.

            But either way…my opinion…well, the Verge and iMore agree [don’t get the 2].

  • Adam

    Jim, I have to disagree with your statement that “It’s hard to imagine that Apple could make the iPad any thinner and lighter than it was.” After all, the 3rd and 4th gen iPads were thicker and heavier than the iPad 2, so of course it was possible to imagine that they could (and even should) be thinner and lighter, eventually.

  • So you know what we didn’t hear a word of at either Apple event? iPod.

    Nothing about the touch, nano, shuffle, or classic. Maybe some of them will just get a quiet spec refresh, maybe classic will finally get dropped, etc. But since it’s almost November, any move they’re going to make needs to happen in the next week or two, right?

    Real sign of the times, though, that iPod is such an afterthought.

    • Billy Razzle

      The music event was in September. There should’ve been no expectation of iPod news at this event.

  • Gag

    I’m glad more and more people are pointing out that the new iPads should have had Touch ID. Before the iPhone 5s announcement, I never thought I’d care about something like touch ID but given that I use my iPad mini just as much as my iPhone, it’s something that really matters. Paying 70 dollars more for a retina display doesn’t sit well with me but it would have been justifiable if I also got touch ID. As analysts are pointing out, Apple has gone back to defending margins so I’m almost certain the iPads will get touch ID next year. On a side note, there were barely any iPod updates this year. What’s up with that?!

  • lkalliance

    This is probably not an issue worth squawking over, but my OCD just begs me to bring it up…it feels like Apple’s branding and product positioning is getting more and more diverse. I guess when Steve Jobs famously pared down the Mac catalog to just four machines (one “consumer” and one “pro” for desktops and for laptops), that made a lot of sense to me.

    (I remember the days of the myriad of form factors and models and numbers)

    I guess that cleanness appealed, and also made deciding easier. But now it’s begun to fray a little. Consider iPhones, iPads and laptops:

    iPHONE Upper tier is “s”, has all the latest tech and luxury branding Lower tier is “c”, has good tech and differentiates on color

    iPAD Upper tier is “air”, has all the latest tech Lower tier is “mini” and ALSO has all the latest tech

    MACBOOK Upper tier is “pro”, has all the latest tech Lower tier is “air”, has less tech but better in key areas of weight and battery

    To me, the iPhone is the purest play. You either get the upper tier (luxury, performance, costly) or you get the lower tier (less performance but more affordable and fun). The purchasing decision is very clear.

    (though there is that $199 price overlap: which do you want, the luxury and higher tech or the extra 16GB?)

    Not so on the other two. Is the iPad mini a lower tier? IS there a lower tier? Yes, there is: the original mini or the iPad 2, though the branding isn’t there like in iPhone. So really there are THREE tiers of iPad.

    What I would have found interesting to see is if they organized the iPad line like they had the iPhone line:

    iPad s (like the current air): available in two sizes iPad c (the iPad 2 and original mini, with colorful plastic cases!): also available in two sizes.

    That makes a lot of branding sense to me, and perhaps Apple could reap the same rewards for the “iPad c” line as they do with iPhone 5c: lower cost enclosure, better profit margins.

    Then you let the laptops be as they are, which is fine, as they are not iOS devices.

    There seem to be some people that scoff at the iPhone 5c in its colors…but I’m not one (I bought a blue one). I think it would be a good branding win for Apple and would make it feel not like a decision between old and new, but rather upper tier and lower.

    • Jasper

      Upper tier is the iPad Air and is full size, the lower tier is the mini which is (just) smaller. Why would all the lines break in the same way, always with tech specs? (BTW, I was expecting the full size iPad to have an A7X.)

      The iPad 2 isn’t properly in the lineup at all — it’s just there for supplying long term contracts. Things like the aero cockpit contracts, education contracts, museum signage and POS application contracts, etc.

      It’s not really intended that any consumer would buy an iPad 2.

      As for MacBook Pro and Air, those two primarily shake down by size and weight, and in addition also by price and tech level.

      One of the things I noticed as well is that while the number of models has grown, the number of shared components has grown dramatically. For instance it is looking like the front camera may now be the same unit (maybe modulo a cable on it) in both iPhones and both macs, and the rear camera may well be shared between all four except the 5S. The A7 chip is shared between three models. It probably still has varying amounts of ram, in a PoP in the 5S and separate packages in the iPads, but still. Flash, of course — Apple is among the largest Flash and lithium ion consumers, in the world. M7 appears in several. Etc.etc.

      • lkalliance

        They do still sell the iPad 2, in that I can go and purchase it, as a consumer, if I feel like it. I think if I’m going into an Apple Store, and considering the purchase of an iPhone and/or an iPad, it’s extremely straightforward to say:

        Top tier: A7 (or latest) chip Mid tier: Older chip, but different (more fun?) and certainly cheaper-to-produce enclosure

        They’ve already done that with the iPhone, and I as a consumer think to great effect. The tradeoff is clear and direct. I would love to see the same with the iPad. The “mini” ceases to be a distinction. I’ve heard and read more than one opinion that the iPad air feels very much like a larger iPad mini. So instead of an “air” and a “mini” it’s just an “air” (or an “s” or whatever…just some moniker to contain the entire line) and it comes in a choice of two different sizes. Because right now, that’s the reality: same chip, same pixels in the display, same version of iOS, everything the same except for the size.

        Then if they encased the original mini in the same kinds of plastic, colorful enclosure, they perhaps capture some slightly less price-tolerant consumers and get better margins off of them. Same could be done with the iPad 2. Again, marketed as the same single brand, that comes in two different sizes.

        (I hasten to add that I don’t have any background in understanding if these are achievable from an engineering or manufacturing perspective)

        That would appeal to me a lot, and would perhaps inspire me to buy one.