Apple seems to take a certain pride in defying expectations, and this week was no exception. The company blew the doors off of Wall Street’s projections, turning in a highly profitable quarter with both iPhones and Macs flying off the shelves, despite difficult economic conditions and their refusal to release an inexpensive computer to compete with the plethora of sub-$500 PCs such as netbooks. Even as Windows 7 is coming out to good reviews, Apple appears to show no signs of slowing down. It’s full steam ahead in Cupertino.
Apple promptly followed up their earnings report by announcing some great new products. Let’s go over them. (All links are to purchase pages at Amazon.)
The Magic Mouse is probably Apple’s boldest new release–it’s a complete rethinking of how a mouse should work. They have taken the touch technology they have been refining with the iPhone and the MacBook Pro touchpad and applied it to the entire top surface of the mouse. This means you can use all sorts of gestures–two fingers for scrolling, three for rotate, etc.–to be much more expressive with a mouse than previously possible. Score another point for Apple innovation. The Magic Mouse is available with Bluetooth wireless only, and comes standard with new iMacs.
Apple’s high-profile desktop computer was redesigned and improved, replacing the current 20″ and 24″ models with two new sizes, 21.5″ and 27″, each of which is available in two standard configurations ranging from $1199 to $1899, or customizable when ordered from Apple. The now-familiar aluminium-and-black-plastic case is now entirely aluminum, and the screen is among the highest resolution (1920×1080 or 2560×1440) you’ll find on a consumer desktop. Interestingly, these displays are even wider than the wide screens Apple has released to date, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (same as HDTV) rather than the 1.6:1 of their laptops and the previous iMacs. What’s under the hood is equally impressive, as the new iMacs feature Intel quad-core processors, and are expandable to 16 GB of RAM, making for a really fast and powerful desktop Mac. They come standard with wireless Magic Mouse and keyboard, which seems to be a clear direction for the company: everything wireless. In a word, these machines are awesome. If you are still using a G4 or G5 based Mac, this is the one that should make you think about upgrading.
This is the bottom of Apple’s laptop line (which is to say the middle of anyone else’s): the white plastic $999 computer. I’ve been a fan of the MacBook for quite a while and in fact use one every day, but the design hadn’t been updated in years and felt dated when compared with the current aluminum MacBook Pro line. This new MacBook has a more appealing design and is technically superior to its predecessor in almost all regards, including longer life battery, better performance, and larger trackpad which supports gestures. In fact, apart from the plastic case, the new MacBook is, feature for feature, nearly the same computer as the cheapest MacBook Pro (which costs $200 more). But beware if you need FireWire; the new MacBook doesn’t have it.
Better Mac Mini
Apple’s tiny, cheap desktop computer has been made faster, comes with more storage and memory, and is still available in two standard configurations: $599 and $799. However, Apple also introduced a $999 mini Server with two 500GB hard drives (but no optical drive) and Mac OS X Server pre-installed, presenting an inexpensive, attractive option to those otherwise considering a Mac Pro tower for the same purpose.
Better Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme
Apple put larger drives in their Time Capsule network backup system; it is now available in 1 TB ($299) or 2 TB ($499). They have improved it to allow for faster network backups when used with Snow Leopard, and expanded its wireless reach; this last improvement has also been applied to the the AirPort Extreme router, which remains $179.
All in all, pretty cool stuff. As always, if you have any questions about any of it, you know whom to ask.
And a quick aside to those of you who have been asking: Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) has now been out long enough for us to have confidence in it, and at $29, it’s a worthwhile upgrade to Macs that support it. There are a few pieces of software that don’t work with it, so if you have any doubts, again, give a shout.