Hardware

Microsoft and Google may not like it but they're marching to Apple's drumbeat

Every so often a force appears in technology that carries all before it. For the moment, Apple is just such a phenomenon.

The launch of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display underlines Apple's approach to the past and future and its influence on competitors. Photo: Sarah Tew/CNET

A week before Microsoft flipped its world on its head with the Surface tablet announcement, Apple was turning back the clock with its new MacBook Pro. Really, has there ever been a more interesting time to be involved in technology?

The PC isn't dead but the desktop's health is in a perilous state. Desktop manufacturers are struggling, and even HP - the world's biggest - has had wobbles about its strategy and future.

Conventional wisdom has Apple moving inexorably towards its post-PC world. Apple product announcements have become a bit predictable in recent years. Macs get a couple of speed-bumps and some minor case evolution, while the world moves more towards iOS and mobility.

The more mobile the product the more it seems to evolve, iPhones, iPads and MacBook Airs change and grow and are celebrated. Meanwhile, a journey down the product line towards MacBook Pros, iMacs and Mac Pros and the changes were less apparent and in the case of the Mac Pro, stagnant.

Then out of the blue, the company comes up with a Mac so sexy it should come with a parental warning. I recently celebrated the rise of the iPad as an ascendant computing platform, but what a triumph for the traditional Mac fan base.

Apple's design and engineering investment

Just a few minutes with one of the new computers and you come to realise the design and engineering investment that has gone into creating it. A most unexpected celebration. A reinstatement of values. I've spent several lunchtimes in Apple Stores trying to discern pixels.

There was even good news for the mighty but venerable Mac Pro which got a sneaky but tiny update but a promise of much more from Apple's CEO. In response to an email, Tim Cook promised "something really great" for Mac Pro fans in 2013. Retina Display iMacs are rumoured, optimistically, for an October launch.

What made the launch of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display so interesting is that it demonstrates Apple's approach to both the past and future and the influence it is having on competitors.

Apple has long been described as an agenda-setting company. Now it's a company that forces other giant corporations to turn their businesses on their heads.

It's undeniable that the PC market is in a bad place at the moment. The PC is not a legacy product yet but few manufacturers are making money in a stagnant market. Ironically, the company taking most of that profit is Apple.

Yet at the same time, the company is leading the evolution of the post-PC world, certainly with tablet computing and to a large extent with smartphones.

Google and Microsoft

Google and Microsoft have both risked the ire of hardware partners by bringing out their own devices. That Microsoft in particular would risk a big diversion from its traditional strategy is a massive credit to the company and to its management team. It's also an acknowledgement that a risk may also be an opportunity.

It takes a major threat or a massive opportunity to turn your organisation on its head. Apple is a truly such a power and it has demonstrated that the market it's realised and is reaping with its products is an opportunity worth betting the bank on.

Yet Apple is forcing their hands. Even relatively recently, it would be unremarkable to hear Steve Ballmer scoff at Apple. Now imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: its traditional partners aren't up to the job.

Likewise with Google: if you want something done, it seems to have decided, do it yourself with its Nexus products - and what good products they are.

In 2006, Palm CEO said ahead of the then-rumoured iPhone launch into the traditional mobile market: "PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They're not going to just walk in."

They did and they have. Now, Apple leads the way in the post-PC world and leads the profits and innovation in the PC world.

End-to-end user experience

The PC guys are hanging onto the coat tails of the Cupertino giant as it ploughs on to new markets. The race is on to create the best hardware, the best tablet user experience, the best platform and the best ecosystem - the end-to-end user experience model that Apple has championed.

In 15 years of covering the tech industry I can't think of a time when one company is causing such an impact across so many segments of the market.

Yet at the same time as it defines and then dominates new markets, it also breathes fresh life into older ones, with the Mac in a better state than it has ever been. Recent announcements have put the Mac back on the roadmap for the next 10 years.

Apple has feet in the past and the future and right now seems to be in complete control of both.

24 comments
AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

Nothing like an Applefanboy it a bought of verbal self gratification. I say this not because he is wrong, but because the article is a waste of space. It adds nothing. We already know this. Apple is on top, and everyone else is chasing them in one way or another. This is just another attempt by an Applefanboy on the Tech Republic staff to try to kiss Apple's backside in the hope of....well, I don't want to know what Applefanboys hope for. This article is pathetic. I read the whole thing in the hope of finding some spark of originality, but there was none. Please go stand over in the corner with Adrian and Jason.

spaul41
spaul41

This is a true statement; however, it is not because it is a better product. It is the Apple mystique and the thought that if I have an Apple product, I'm cool! You pay more for the same hardware (I'm talking desktops at this time). Yes, the OS is different and kind of neat. Then again, I don't know of a single document or spreadsheet that the Apple OS has ever created (without the application software tied to it doing the work - like Microsoft Office). This writer makes Hiner seem only luke warm on Apple and we know that isn't the case. Jason, surely you can one up this newcomer with more and better Apple BS.

GAProgrammer
GAProgrammer

"Then out of the blue, the company comes up with a Mac so sexy it should come with a parental warning." - Really? So much for objective reporting. Not to mention that the author talks about how everything is going mobile, but the new "also mobile" UI and apps put out by Microsoft are horrible. It's hard to read articles like this for information when it's mostly opinion.

sarai1313
sarai1313

give me a brake they are trying to copy the pads from star treck not apple, not windows, and certanly not linux.they are all try to to recerate the pads from "Gene" Roddenberry and no one other than him ! look very close at them thier not big like apple or thick likewindows and dont get me started on linux

radleym
radleym

The evolution of portable computers - including smart phones and tablets - has always been toward smaller, lighter, faster. The iPod and the smartphone were obvious extensions of PDA development and were discussed in PDA circles long. before the hardware came along to make such devices possible. Current tablets result from the convergence of existing slate technology and that of advanced smartphones and PDA's. Current super-thin super-fast super laptops do not constitute a new product catagory, despite both Intel's and Apple's assertions, but the natural culmination of laptop development at this time. Development is happening so fast lately that manufacturers believe they can differentiate product just based on that speed of advancement in the state of the art. And that's where Apple has proven brilliant - or rather partly where. They have been able to recognize where that evolution is leading, and design and market products that embrace what is just becoming feasible in a fashionable attractive way. That said, I don't agree with their marketing philosophy and do not use their products. They certainly didn't invent the mp3 player, the tablet, or the 'ultrabook' style laptop. Or the concepts of thin, fast or light.

charlessmall18
charlessmall18

Check out Applied Materials. LCD panel makers in Asia all use their equipment to make their panels. They came up with a new material for the TFTs in LCD panels. The bottom lines is that retina displays will soon become cheap and universally available. Apple could counter by making their products repairable, but that probably won't happen. Who in their right mind thinks that any one company in electorncs can sustain a significant lead in technology for long? Not me.

fo128
fo128

No Sir, I do not agree! Although slightly off the main topic - how can people even come to such conclussions! Because the majority used their PC's for simple entertainment rather than actual work, hence the high numbers of mindless drones moving from the PC towards the gadgetry, uplifting the sales of the small gadgets in the process. I am sure it is not the first time this analogy has been presented, but it still holds true - there are different tools for different applications. Most people don't drive supercharged vehicles because they don't really need to, but for a farmer it makes sense to have a 6L V12 engine installed in his pick-up truck. Obviously there are more sedans to be found on the streets than trucks but that does not mean that the TRUCK as a vehicle is dead!

Craig_B
Craig_B

Most companies copy sucessful ideas from other companies. I do agree that Microsoft seems to be following Apples lead at this time. Microsoft's core strategy over the years seems to be, let someone else spend the R&D money and create the market, then MS copies the concept, offers it for free/lower cost, bundles it into existing systems and slowly takes a large chunk of the market share. As for the death of the PC, I think it's a bit too early for that. I think the PC market is saturated, people don't need to upgrade the hardware that often and the tablet it the latest cool thing. Once everyone that wants one has a tablet, that market will be saturated and then the tablet will become 'dead' and next cool thing will take over. Since Microsoft is following the Apple line of thinking, it's time for me to look at alternatives. I've recently been playing around with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and I'm quite happy with it. The more I use it, the better I like it. It takes (copies/invents) some aspects of OSX and Windows but gives the user the choice in how and what to use. Ubuntu (Linux) is free and gives freedom to users, now that's worth copying.

partman1969
partman1969

Though I will never understand the spew of hate between Apple, Windows, and Linux fanboys but I can understand how the market does look to emulating the Apple experience. Portable computing is king and Apple promoted the best examples much earlier than the competition. I find merits in all operating systems (at least to Windows 7) but am not the fan of the new Windows 8. I want the start menu and all associated tree menus I've been used to since Windows 95. Call me the dinosaur, but I like a desktop experience on the desktop and have no issues with syncing portable devices with retro desktop operating systems. I may find myself in an all Linux universe for its' abilities to be customized to user experience if the 2 giants keep forcing their portable OS's to my desktop.

Darren B - KC
Darren B - KC

I would have thought this an article by Jason Hiner, and even though it's not, it still has that same "Aqqle-Fanboi-Mixed-with-BS" look and smell.

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