Thoughts about Apple's October 2012 event

New iMacs and MacBook Pros

I think everyone welcomed updates to long neglected Macs in Apple's line-up. The biggest one being the new iMac and MacBook Pro 13". Only the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display is a big enough update to warrant upgrading from the previous generation. If, like me, you have a 2011 iMac, you probably aren't going to rush out for the new iMac.

The new Nvidia GTX 680MX GPU in the top of the range 27" iMac is a new chip that isn't even released yet, it looks like it should have around 80% of the performance of the desktop GTX 680 (already one of the fastest GPUs available). There are no longer any Macs that come with AMD Radeon graphics (unless you count the Mac Pro).

If you have deep pockets, the MacBook Pro 13" with Retinal display is now the best choice laptop for most users, displacing the MacBook Air because of it's incredible display. It does have some major shortcomings compared to the 15" model, the lack of a quad core processor, 8GB RAM limit, lack of a discrete GPU, but if you can live within those bounds its form factor is very appealing.

Mac mini gets some stage time

The Mac mini has had an interesting update. In the past the updates are unannounced and silently appear on the website, this time Phil Schiller announced a big update to the range with Ivy Bridge, USB3, and a big upgrade to the mid-range model. Previously only the server model came with a quad core processor, and at quite a price premium. Now for £679 you can get a Mac with a CPU as fast as those in the MacBook Pro 15", and in many ways faster than the current Mac Pros. Add your own SSD and 16GB of RAM and you have a small, compact, but very powerful computer. Just try not to play too many games on it.

The iPad mini

The biggest surprise of the iPad mini is probably that it's named iPad mini. That was the only thing left to imagination after all the rumours and leaks. The iPad mini reminds me a lot of the iPod mini's launch, a smaller and lighter version of an existing product. The reduction in weight will make the biggest difference, my current third generation iPad's 650g heft is significant and the price to pay for having a retina display. Other advantages include a much smaller battery that will help charging times, and hopefully a longer battery life as well.

The pricing has lead to more questions than answers. It was obvious that Apple couldn't compete with Google and Amazon by selling the iPad mini at a loss, and their insistence on using high quality materials and not compromising means the iPad mini is fair bit pricier than it's direct competition. I think Apple will sell its entire inventory of iPad minis for Christmas, they won't be able to make them fast enough. They still have a massive advantage with their ecosystem, even combining the rest of the market you don't get close to the quantity and quality that's available in the App Store and iTunes Store.

Apple have decided to maintain their famous profit margin on each device instead of (literally) going for broke like their competitors, I think for the initial iPad mini this is a perfectly shrewd move, but for next years device they may have to be slightly more competitive on price.

The new new iPad

Well shit, I no longer own the newest iPad and as an insult to injury Apple has slashed the cost of refurbished third generation iPads which means the resale value has also been hit. Do I care? No, the third generation iPad is still a great iPad (although a little CPU constrained), and I'm pleased that Apple is capable of updating their iPads so quickly now. I think this does mean that Apple's new iPad release schedule is always going to be in the autumn rather than spring, probably to help with seasonal sales.

I did briefly consider selling my third generation iPad for the newer model, but I will probably wait until the new new new iPad that's now due out in a year.

The presentation

With each post Steve Jobs presentation, the character and style of Tim Cook and company gets more and more refined. Phil Schiller is really settling into his role in the presentation, and I think he had the best performance of the day. What I would like to see is a bit more secrecy and suspense, there are so many leaks from Apple's supply line that it's almost impossible to watch an Apple presentation without knowing the majority of what's being announced, and that's a real shame.