Stevenote day. Few days of the year inspire as much ambivalence for me—save for spending the holidays with my family. For those uninitiated PC enthusiasts out there, here's how things tend to work: every few months, Steve Jobs takes the stage in a black sweater and pair of Levi's. He talks about how well Apple is doing, shows a new television ad, and usually makes some jokes at Microsoft's expense. All of those entertaining (and sometimes groan-inducing) moments aside, the main appeal of Steve's keynotes is always the introduction of new Apple products. After pointing the spotlight at iPods about a month ago, today's focus was the aging MacBook lineup. Before I get into my thoughts on the day's announcements, I think it's time I give full disclosure on my Apple support and why I'm always so torn whenever these events roll around.
Despite being accused of "drinking the Kool-Aid" when I bought my first and only Apple product (a black MacBook) a little over a year ago, I like to think of myself as an equal-opportunity computer user. I use both Windows Vista and Mac OS X every day on my desktop PC and laptop, respectively. I can work just as well in either OS, and I recognize the flaws and benefits of each—I simply use whichever tool is better suited to the task at hand. Because I find myself unable to become a zealot for either platform, I always end up watching any industry events with great interest, regardless of whether they're focused on Microsoft or Apple.
So, why the ambivalence, especially when today's event focused on the only product line from Apple that really interests me? It's simple: new gadgets are fun to ogle, but no one likes watching a product in which they've invested money become obsolete. Many would say this is a silly argument and a computer's capabilities don't change just because something new comes out. It still surfs the web, creates documents, and lets me communicate with friends just as well as it always did, no matter what shiny new revision is sitting in Apple Stores. Unfortunately, that rebuttal isn't accurate, especially when it comes to Apple's products. Hardware capabilities drive software, and since Apple has such tight control over its platform's hardware, it tends to be a bit more aggressive with system requirements. The simple fact that all new laptops from Apple are using far superior Nvidia chipsets means that soon enough, I'll start finding software my poor Intel GMA 950-powered MacBook won't support. There are already effects in Apple's Keynote presentation app that my MacBook can't use, and I'm dreading what I'll be missing out on in Apple's next software releases as GPU horsepower becomes more and more critical to daily computing tasks. In the end, every keynote leads me to weigh the pros and cons of my hardware against the new generation, as well as the cost upgrading entails. This is exactly what Apple wants, but at least for now, my MacBook is still up to snuff. The rational side of my brain has won out against the "ooh shiny toy I want it" consumer-whore side, at least for one more Stevenote.
With my personal dilemma out of the way, let's move on to some of the more interesting announcements (and non-announcements) I noticed from today's event:
When all is said and done, this was actually a pretty good Stevenote. We got some compelling new products, some interesting Apple decisions to debate, and of course, just enough left out to have us waiting for the next event. But before I leave you, I've got one more minor gripe to get off of my chest: this is the second year in a row that Apple's updated laptops a month after school starts. While using students to clear out your stock before a refresh is a great idea, it's almost insulting to update the SKUs just a few weeks later. Knock it off and just save the updates for Macworld Expo in January. That way, we at least get a quarter of use out of our laptops before they're obsolete.
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