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For a Fist Full of Apples

Last week and today Apple revealed several new iterations of mobile hardware. Let’s have a brief look as to what those mean for us developers who depend on Apple hardware both for our customers as well as to do our development on.

Generally speaking there was nothing truly revolutionary in it for us on either of these days. Is Apple stabilizing and focussing on were they are truly raking in the money? You bet.

No more revolutions, I fear.

MacBook Pro Refresh

Some people might have waited for newer nVidia chips in the new MacBooks, but those have to wait a bit longer. Rumor has it that Apple is really angry at nVidia for shipping faulty chips last year. So we’ll have to make do with AMD for the foreseeable future. But if you NEED new hardware then now is as good a time to purchase as any. And truth be told, having quad-core chips in the 15″ and 17″ MacBooks makes them on par with other hardware.

If you are like me then you have a 27″ iMac in your home office and use your MacBook Pro only when you travel. For the longest time I’ve been toying with the idea of replacing my clunky 15″ MBP (Summer 2009) with a MacBook Air because of the lightness and SSD. The new MacBook Pros did not materialize a hybrid SSD/HDD as was rumored. Instead you have the same option as before: large HDD or fast SSD. This puts me into the position of not having a clear cut choice.

With the new battery that I had installed I now have sufficient power to travel around in Austria, both in terms of endurance and the CPU necessary to work on Xcode projects on the train. I guess I’ll continue to use that and skip this iteration.

iPad 2 Announcement

Like clockwork Apple also refreshed the specs of the iPad a bit. A dual core CPU promises up to twice the speed and the new Apple A5 chip can render up to 9 times as much in terms of graphics. Still, the amount of storage is the same as with iPad 1. The only real hardware news where the two cameras. Mr. Ives wants us to believe that it’s completely redesigned, well if he says so. Oh yes, it’s somewhat slimmer and also available in white.

The extra power suggests that it is kind of the same leap as from iPhone 3G to 3GS. Another disappointed for me personally is that the resolution stayed the same and nothing was added to make it more readable in bright sunlight. iPad 2 is the same kind of indoor animal as its father. The white model might have a slight advantage here as it probably does not head up as quick, but apart from this it’s still useless in the sun.

One thing that IS great and only possible with the iPad 2 might as well be the single most important reason many people will get it: HDMI. Now you can mirror the display (i.e. all apps) into a TV, which makes it great for presentations.

Availability is March 11st in the US and March 25th everywhere else. Since there is no way to pre-order people are already starting to plan to stand in a queue in front of an Apple store to get theirs.

iOS 4.3

This minor update version is finally going to be released and will bring the personal hotspot feature for all existing iPhone 4 users. Sorry, only to these. It must be golden or be close to it because it is going to be released on March 11st, the same day the iPad 2 will hit the stores.

Other features that where specifically touted where the new JavaScript “Nitro” engine in Safari, improving responsiveness. Additional methods to beam media and video from and to iOS devices. Option to choose whether the switch on the iPad should mute or rotation lock.

That’s about all there is in a release, a tenth of the size of a full version. Speaking of which, iOS 5 was not mentioned at all, Apple is clearly saving this for the WWDC (probably in June), a date for which is also unknown as of yet.

Conclusion

Apple mentioned the extra power of the iPad 2 as the base of why they can now release iLife apps like iMovie and Garageband for iPad. But in reality those will probably run just as fine on iPad 1. Apple did not start fragmenting between generations, so I don’t see that happening here either. Generally speaking viewers were somewhat disappointed. But this can also be seen in a positive light! Steve Jobs is still alive (so the stock price is safe). And such minor improvements nicely preserve the value of what hardware you already own.

The more serious developers amongst us will probably feel that they have to get an iPad 2 towards the end of the month. “Must have it to test on”. But hey, there are still 3 weeks to go, probably easy to fit in a couple extra contracting hours to come up with the money for one.

If there is but one compliment that we can make Apple: they are consistent. Although hardcore Apple fans would probably see this as derogatory statement. Gone are the days of sheer amazement that accompanied every bit of news from Cupertino. Few attractions are able to come close to the news of the first viable tablet computer and its subsequent success.


Categories: Apple

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