Macintosh is 30 years old. If this were "Logan's Run", January 24 would be Last Day. Or the 1960s, time to ditch the computer because, you know, don't trust anyone (or anything) over 30. Declaration: I am a Mac user, which surely surprises the long line of people accusing me of being anti-Apple. My Mac sojourn started on a Winter's day in December 1998. I've abandoned Apple a few times since, even briefly boycotting, but always come back.
My first Macintosh sighting was August 1984. I spent the summer in Chapel Hill, N.C. and often hung out on the University of North Carolina campus. The college book store displayed the Apple, which I found remarkable. I wasn't a computer geek, nor am I one now, but nevertheless found the device charming. A decade later, I started using a Windows PC and for a while was a Macintosh bigot. I particularly enjoyed ribbing the graphic designers with whom my wife worked when their Macs crashed, wiping out hours of Photoshop or QuarkXpress work. "Get a PC!" was my common retort.
Since the beginning of 2013 and until late-December, countless new tech products have tried to outdo their predecessors and the competition, and woo potential buyers, with more features than before (some of them gimmicky, some of them useful), distinct form factors, lower price-tags, wider ranges of color options (like the Lumia series and, later in 2013, the iPhone 5c) and any differentiating factor that can make you say "I'll buy it".
Needless to say, there have been quite a few disappointing new products launched throughout 2013. Going back to CES, we can take a look at some of the best examples of "what were they thinking", starting with a potty that tries to leverage iPad apps to teach your young child how to use one properly. But, at the same time, there are some tech products that were also launched in 2013, and have managed to stand out (in a good way). In this article I will walk you through my favorite ones.
After getting the new 2013 Apple MacBook Air I looked into how I could get it to run Windows 8.1 seamlessly, as my aging HP laptop does. While my needs for using Windows software have decreased dramatically, I do still need a couple of applications every now and then, that either are not available for OS X or do not work as well as I would like them to on Apple's operating system. My first thought was to use Boot Camp, which allows to run Windows 8.1 natively on the MacBook Air, and other Macs.
My experience with Boot Camp has been far from ideal, as some features that I have grown to love in OS X, like the touchpad and the efficient power management, do not work as well under Windows 8.1. This is to be expected because Microsoft did not design its new operating system to run on Macs, but rather PCs, and the drivers provided by Apple are, also, far from perfect. No matter what is to blame, users wanting to run Windows 8.1 will find a way to do it, despite the shortcomings. After my Boot Camp experiment, I decided to try Parallels, one of the best known virtualization software for Macs, to test how well Windows 8.1 can run next to OS X, in a virtual machine.
One of the biggest advantages to owning a Mac, and one of the main reasons why I purchased a 2013 Apple MacBook Air, is the option to run both OS X and Windows natively, without using virtualization software. Apple actively supports Microsoft's PC operating systems by releasing drivers, firmware and documentation, that Mac users can leverage to install Windows and make the best out of a different situation -- after all, Windows is not designed to work on Macs.
The portal to running Windows on Macs is Boot Camp. The OS X software is designed to simplify the process for users, by offering an easy to follow wizard that can be used to create bootable Windows USB drives (and DVDs for older Macs), download drivers, partition the internal drive to make room for the new OS and kick off the installation process. It is very, very user-friendly. Well, most of the time...
For an exclusive Windows user, the prospect of owning a Mac has been an exciting to-do to cross off my enthusiast bucket list. I have owned two iPhones and one iPad, and have enjoyed all three, but I have never bought a Mac nor have I used one extensively. I have always been curious to see what's on the other side, but some constraints, one of which was Windows-only engineering software, prevented me from looking at any Mac with serious consideration. Luckily, or not, things have changed, and at the beginning of September I bought a new 13.3-inch MacBook Air, hoping to see what all the fuss is about.
I'll admit to being quite passionate about new devices, and always looking to get to know the basics before they arrive at my doorstep. Yes, I too scour the InterWebs searching for the tiniest of details. I just can't help it (and no, I do not believe that I am a control freak). But this time around I decided that the MacBook Air (I'm going to call it MBA from now on) needs a fresh take. Before it arrived, my impressions were that the hardware will not be a surprise (why would it be?) and that the software will take some getting used to. I thought everything was going to be smooth sailing once I settled in... and I was wrong.
History repeats itself, as another Apple product has connectivity issues -- three years ago it was the iPhone 4 and now the new MacBook Air is affected. Disgruntled users have taken to the company's support forum to report the Wi-Fi connectivity woes, which appear to persist even on replacement units.
According to a number of reports, both MacBook Air models -- the 11.6-inch and the 13.3-inch versions -- are affected, including those which feature factory upgrades. Users say that the Wi-Fi connection randomly drops after a period of activity, with the problem mostly being reported when relying on non-Apple-branded routers. Judging by the posted replies, none of the solutions presented thus far appear to fix this.
Microsoft Surface Pro gets even stiffer competition from new 11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air -- which one would you buy?
To the untrained eye, this comparison appears to be moot. After all, the Surface Pro is a tablet and the 11.6-inch MacBook Air is, indeed, an ultrabook. Traditionally, the two types of devices rarely have anything in common. Tablets offer touchscreens, portability and great battery life while ultrabooks usually fail to deliver the same level of versatility. So how can one pit the Surface Pro against the smaller MacBook Air?
As my colleague Joe Wilcox explained almost seven months ago, the two devices actually have a great deal in common. The Microsoft-branded tablet kicks off at $899, can be coupled with a dedicated keyboard, has expansion ports, runs a fully-fledged operating system and, to its disadvantage, delivers pretty appalling battery life. The Apple-branded ultrabook packs similar hardware specifications, starts at $999 but offers a built-in keyboard from the get-go. And, in the meantime, the fruit company upgraded its device to Intel "Haswell" Core processors which provide a tremendous bump in battery life. Now, more than ever, choosing between the two is a very tough call.
Today's closing bell brings answer to a question oft-asked over the past two weeks: "Will Apple profits fall for the first time in about a decade?" Not since 2003, when the fruit-logo company recovered from economic woes that sapped global PC shipments everywhere, has profit receded. Now we know.
For fiscal Q2, Apple reported $43.6 billion revenue and net profits of $9.5 billion, or $10.06 a share. Gross margin: 37.5 percent. A year earlier, the company reported revenue of $39.2 billion and $11.6 billion net quarterly profit, or $12.30 per share.
Second in a series. Out of fairness, I follow up my long analysis "The enterprise will never embrace Apple" with some advice for the company. There's room in the enterprise if only Apple made more effect. None of these suggestions is outside the reach of CEO Tim Cook and the core leadership.
Perhaps Apple stays out of the enterprise game because the top brass knows that they have little expertise in the general directions that big business is heading. Their lack of desire (or capability) for true Active Directory integration, for example, is already public knowledge. When it comes to virtualization and the move to virtual desktops, Apple has no public strategy for allowing (or supporting) such an infrastructure on OS X devices, at least first party. To put it plainly, Apple's overall game plan for cozying up to the wants of enterprise is nearly nonexistent.
First in a series. If there is one company that clearly doesn't care about the corporate world, it is Apple. As iOS continues to forge flagship status as Apple's core offering, OS X gets second-class-citizen treatment in every possible way from the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. While the enterprise reluctantly builds out BYOD (bring your own device) initiatives to support usage of Apple devices at the workplace, this is a far stretch from openly embracing iOS or OS X as viable corporate platforms. Apple's presence in the boardroom is due to bottom-up organic acceptance as opposed to top-down purposeful planning.
By even conservative estimates, the enterprise IT market is massive, and growing steadily as the recession continues to recede. IDC recently pinned US corporate IT spending for 2013 at $474 billion, a 6 percent increase over the previous year. And globally, Gartner says that this figure is closer to $2.679 trillion, which represents a 2.5 percent year over year bump. Yet while Apple's sales in phones and tablets continues to stay consistently solid, the company's attitude towards enterprise hasn't changed one bit. For lack of a better description, top Apple executives just "don't care".
Yesterday, I spent about 45 minutes at Microsoft Store San Diego, which was busy -- sight not seen since Kinect's November 2010 launch. Shoppers came to see Surface, and there were lots of questions and explorations of both tablets, although clearly Pro was the draw. Unfortunately, only the 64GB model is in stock, which somewhat muted sales, or so I observed.
If Surface is a failure, as so many bigmouths on the InterWebs claim, what company wouldn't want one like this? There are many measures of success in retail, and just getting people in the door is one of them. Once inside, shoppers may buy something, or walk out feeling better about the brand, leading to sales of something else later on. "Jesus! Can you believe that Microsoft? Baby, you shop here for my birthday!"
Today, Apple announced a number of changes in the pricing and hardware department for the company's MacBook laptop lineup. The Mountain View, Calif.-based corporation lowered the price for the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display and for the top-of-the line 13-inch MacBook Air and beefed up the specs for the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.
If you were holding off on buying an Apple MacBook now is a good time to reconsider. The fruit-logo company slashed $200 from the price of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, which now starts at $1,499 and $1,699 for the base and top model, respectively. Apple applied a similar treatment to the 13-inch MacBook Air in 256GB trim, which now goes for $1,399, $100 less than before.
If you ever wanted Apple's tiny laptop, cash in your savings or dig out the credit card. Best Buy has a short sale going, discounting MacBook Air by $200. That means price starting at $799.99 today and tomorrow for an 11.6-inch model with Intel Core i5 processor and 64GB SSD. Double the storage for another 100 bucks.
The promotion, part of Winter Doorbuster Days, is Friday and Saturday. Best Buy discounts other goodies, but MacBook Air stands out for the price, which lowers the entry cost to joining the Mac Fan Club. But Best Buy also sells the Samsung ARM Chromebook, for $249.99, also with 11.6-inch panel, similar size and weight and comparable (if not better) ergonomics. And Best Buy can't stock Chromebooks fast enough. While the company doesn't release sales data, social network chatter reveals bounty hard to get. So can we just blame Chromebook for Best Buy's sale?
I'm not an investor or financial analyst. But I do have a measure of commonsense. Lots of people are asking about Apple's falling stock price and why it is. You don't need a MBA or ponder price-earnings ratios to, by commonsense, see what's happening. Apple is undergoing a long-overdue course correction. It's the new normal, baby, get used to it.
Analysts making wild-eyed predictions just months ago about $1,000 a share or bloggers banging keyboards about $1 billion market capitalization are nutty fruitcakes. Apple cofounder Steve Jobs is gone, so they made their own Kool-Aid and spiked it. They're the only thing getting high here. Apple is laid low.
Apple ended 2012, Tim Cook's first full year as CEO, with a whimper. Analyst, blogger, reporter and social commentator puppy-love adoration gave way to persistent angst-questions about what's next and why the stock, which soared in September, soured through most of fourth quarter. Shares closed at $549.03, 22 percent down from the 52-week high. I can only describe 2012 as Apple's year of iteration and wonder where will be innovation this year. After all, the bitten-fruit logo company has a reputation to live up to.
By the financials, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is the golden child. Starting in 2010, money poured in faster than the US Mint could print greenbacks. Apple takes in more cash than any other tech company ($156.51 billion during fiscal 2012), commands the largest market cap ($516.47 billion) and sits on a cash horde of at least $120 billion. But these capital gains come from past strategic investments, lucky timing (transition to the so-called post-PC era) and brilliant brand revival marketing and product execution. For the long haul, I predict that 2012 will be remembered as the year Apple stumbled -- as companies often do at the height of success -- and in this case following the tragic loss of its visionary cofounder.