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May 26, 2024

Apple plays catch up with some new releases

By Ian Yu | October 25, 2012

Tech giants have vied for attention this week with many major announcements and unveilings, and Apple did not want to be outdone. At their media event on Tuesday, Apple recapped the successes they have enjoyed thus far with the iPhone5 and iOS6, the revamped iPod lineup, and the new software features to boot.

While Apple’s traditional success has been in its ability to lead the field with its innovations, the company now seems to be taking note of what their competitors are doing as well. Take the following releases from their event today:

iPad mini: An indication that Apple is now in the midst of playing catch-up to the rest of the industry, they have announced a 7” version of the iPad after months of excruciating speculation. Analysts say that the launch of a smaller iPad could double the market for smaller tablets around that screen size range, but this field is already crowded with Amazon’s Kindle and a plethora of Android-powered tablets from the likes of Samsung, Lenovo, and other manufacturers.

While I personally see little advantage to a smaller tablet other than the easier portability, this may very well have been an inevitable choice for Apple. With their competitors servingup highly-portable tablets, Apple’s release of the iPad mini indicates they have taken a hint from the competition.

Investors also expressed some skepticism with the pricing for the iPad mini, overshadowing Apple’s release of the rest of their new products, especially with the timing so close to the holiday shopping season. Shares of the tech giant fell more than three percent on NASDAQ following the media event, with investors fearing that lower-priced models running on the Android OS would make the iPad mini’s $329 price figure far from competitive.

Fusion Drive: Solid State Drives (SSDs), similar to the flash memory you rely on for thumb drives, may very well be the future of data storage for laptops and desktops. Their smaller size makes them the primary storage for the Macbook Air and many of the competing Ultrabooks, but costs make them pricier and limit the size compared to traditional hard drives. To complement the fast speeds of SSDs with the larger capacity of hard disk drives, Apple is combining the two into their “Fusion Drive” with a combined capacity of one terabyte.

Apple has thus followed in the steps of hard drive manufacturers who have experimented with hybrid drives for the past several years. PC manufacturers have embraced them in their products. Windows Vista and Windows 7 have software support for hybrid drives, and my own laptop has a hybrid drive, albeit the proportion of SSD to hard drive is more ambitious in the Fusion Drive than what I have.

On the flip side, here’s the direction that Apple will likely lead its competitors:

Retina display: While my roommate will be disappointed by the lack of a retina display in the new iMacs, Apple’s introduction of a 13-inch Macbook Pro with an ultra-high resolution display meets anticipations in the tech sphere. Even though the costs for packing such a high pixel density into a screen can only be justified by Apple, PC manufacturers will eventually find a way to deliver a similar display punch with more competitive pricing. In the meantime, the market for PC’s doesn’t have an HD display as its baseline.

(The death of) Optical Drives: To be honest, I forget the last time I used a CD or DVD to install software or even purchased software anywhere other than directly from the manufacturer online. Although the Macbook Pro and the non-Retina Display Macbook Pro models will continue to have an optical drive, the thinner profiles of the new iMacs and the Retina Display Macbook Pro means that you will need a peripheral drive to read CDs and DVDs. Many Ultrabook models have similarly scrapped the optical drives to meet Intel’s standards, although some makers have retained an optical drive. Time will tell how much longer optical disks remain in popular use for software distribution and general storage uses.

While the PC industry may follow Apple along these footsteps, Microsoft may try to flip the tables on the touchscreen interface front for laptops and desktops. We’ll have to wait and see if consumers and tech critics will warmly receive this emphasis in the upcoming release of Windows 8.


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