Yesterday Apple held their Back to the Mac event. This is the event of the year where they release things that I actually get excited about (I know I give their mobile devices a lot of heck on here but I really do like their computers). There were several announced products; some I’m excited for and some that I could care less about.
First the stuff I don’t care about. They announced a new version of iLife and they are creating a FaceTime client for OS X. I don’t really use iLife and frankly I don’t need people to see me when I’m talking to them. With those two things out of the way let’s talk about the stuff that actually matters (to me).
The next version of OS X was announced. This one is keeping with the big cat naming scheme an has been titled Lion. This will be the eight version of OS X (they started with 10.0 and are now on 10.7). Apple made no qualms about saying 10.5 would be the last really big update for quite some time. 10.6 was mostly a maintenance update with a few new features and 10.7 seems to be the same thing. Apple is tossing in some iOS features into 10.7 and that seems to be the main thing. I’m sure there will be a lot of under the hood fixes to boot.
For quite some time Apple has had the MacBook Air. The Air was the product that I never really understood where it fit in because it was expensive and had a 13″ in screen which the MacBook and MacBook Pro line both had. Needless to say outside of thickness the Air really had nothing going for it. I have to admit the new MacBook Air models Apple announced yesterday actually seem to have enough advantages to be worth introducing.
My main laptop is a 15″ MacBook Pro. A 15″ screen certainly isn’t the most portable screen size on the planet but 90% of the time I have my laptop on a desk and really only need the portability to go from point A to point B. I like having a large work space and I find a 15″ screen to be the perfect combination of portability and work space. The problem comes when I’m in small and cramped areas like airplanes. Having a 15″ monstrosity on one of those dinky seat mount tables on an airplane isn’t pleasant. If the guy sitting in the chair forward of you leans back there is a good chance he’ll pinch the top of your screen which could very well damage it.
The new MacBook Air comes in two screen sizes; the familiar 13″ model which I still find kind of pointless and the small 11″ model which I find great. Of course the price of the 11″ model hovers around the $1,000 which is pretty damned expensive when you consider you can get a netbook for roughly one third of that price. There isn’t much to justify this additional cost beyond the Air has an Solid State Drive (SSD) drive that is supposedly “instant on” (which generally means almost instant) and the screen resolution is 1366×768 which is pretty damned good for an 11″ display. One of the things I really like about Apple’s laptops is the screen real estate. I was looking through some other laptops the other day and found most 15″ model laptops that are a decent price have a screen resolution of 1366×768. That’s not even usable in my opinion. So having an 11″ screen with a resolution equal to that of most cheaper 15″ laptops is pretty damned impressive.
Honestly I can’t justify plunking down $1,000 for a laptop that I wouldn’t use all that often (because mainly I’d want it for flying and I don’t do that very often) but I do see where this model fits into the product line. It also seems that Apple is treating this as an appliance since it doesn’t have a standard sized SSD. Most SSDs have the same form factor as a traditional hard drive. This is so you can easily upgrade an old computer but frankly there is no reason SSDs can’t be smaller than their mechanical brethren. Apple decided to say fuck backwards compatibility and toss in a bare SSD stick. This allows the laptop to be smaller but comes at the sacrifice of being easily upgradable. I wouldn’t be too worried about being able to upgrade a netbook that cost $350 but when you’re getting into the $1,000 range I start expecting to keep the computer around for a few years. Still I think it’s a pretty sweet product overall.
Finally the last think Apple announced is the new Mac App Store. The premise is simple, it’s the iTunes App Store for the Mac (well it’s not really an iTunes App Store as the Mac version is a standalone application thankfully). One thing Linux has been able to lord over Windows and OS X are centralized package managers. If you want to install an application in Ubuntu you just have to open the Add/Remove Programs menu, search for the application you want, select it, and click install. Once you click install the application is downloaded and installed onto your system automatically. This also allows the package manager to automatically update your software when new released are brought out.
Apple will finally have this ability in OS X with the Mac App Store. This new App Store will allow you to purchase, download, and install applications onto your computer. The part I liked most about this new App Store is the fact any application purchased on there will be authorized for all of your Macs. Valve’s Steam service does this with games; once you purchase a Steam game it’s tied to your account and you can install it on every system you can log into Steam with. If you go to a LAN party and need to use another computer you can simply log into Steam, download, and install any game you’ve purchased. Of course Apple is doing their traditional 70/30 split but if you don’t want to pay you can continue publishing your software as you have been. Overall I like the idea of a centralized Mac App Store.