Springing forward is usually no fun. You lose an hour sleep, and it's darker on the subsequent morning commute. But Apple's Spring Forward event actually possessed energy and offered scintillating new products. While the event goes down in history as launching the Apple Watch, a new digital wearable the company promises will be revolutionary, other new products were announced that benefit business users, as well.
Let's start with the watch, though. Here's a new device you either love or hate. Admit it. Apple's phenomenal revolutionary successes — think iPhone, iPad, and even iTunes — make it difficult to be unemotional when contemplating its new products. But whether you like or hate its new watch, the fact remains that the company will sell millions of units (I've previously predicted Apple will sell 20 million this year), and people are going to begin using the device to pay for purchases, enter their hotel rooms, board their planes, and see who's calling or texting when they're in meetings.
What should probably be discouraged is disparaging the product because one believes the Watch Sport or Watch versions are silly or overpriced (have at the luxury gold-versioned Watch Edition all you want, as I'm not defending that model's price point). The odds are that something anyone enjoys is viewed as silly or overpriced by a percentage of the population at any given moment. But no matter. The new Apple Watch will definitively make it easier for frenzied business professionals to better organize their digital lives, and that's a good thing.
The event opened, however, with an announced price reduction for the Apple TV. The little device dropped from $99 to $69. Many businesses have been delighted with the Apple TV's ability to simplify connecting Macs, iPads, and even iPhones to conference room televisions and large-screen displays. Unlike some corresponding Windows technologies, which can be a bear to work with or require running HDMI cables between the corresponding device and display, the Apple TV enables connecting Macs and iOS devices wirelessly with a minimum of effort. Businesses tend to celebrate such reliability and simplicity so effectively married with the Apple TV, which also forwards audio to the display, making it an effective tool for viewing promotional videos, advertisements, presentations, and other material.
Potentially a victim of the watch excitement is the new MacBook laptop. The slim 12" laptop is catching a lot of love. Numerous pundits proclaim the MacBook an even better MacBook Air. But they're wrong. The new MacBook isn't a MacBook Air replacement.
The new MacBooks are smaller and slower than MacBook Airs, but they're still gorgeous. Business users will notice the hit. Many users — particularly frequent travelers who really only require email, document, and web access — will find the new computer preferable to MacBook Pros or MacBook Airs, but performance and functionality undeniably suffer for the design's sake and thinness.
For starters, the MacBook's screen is smaller. That's a detail you notice, particularly as you age. Trust me. Business users can get by with the MacBook's 12" display. But after a 12-hour day, when you're bleary eyed and trying to read the small font on a critical spreadsheet, the MacBook Air's 13.3" display will prove more convenient for many users.
The MacBook Air possesses a performance advantage, too. The default chip is a 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5 capable of 2.7 GHz Turbo Boost speed. Users can opt for an i7 upgrade increasing speed to 2.2 GHz and Turbo Boost capacity to 3.2 GHz. The MacBook's 1.1 GHz Intel Core M CPU, by comparison, is a downgrade. The available M chip upgrade only increases clock speed to 1.3 GHz (and a max Turbo Boost speed of 2.9 GHz). Apple appears to be positioning the 12" MacBook as a highly portable laptop not designed for much if any heavy lifting (audio editing, video editing, CAD editing, etc.), as a result.
Ports are another issue. Not counting the headphone jack, the MacBook possesses a grand total of one port. That's it. And it's USB-C. So, choose your plug: power, external hard disk, printer, or display. Unless you buy a $79 USB-C adapter (or other component, of which many are sure to materialize), you're not plugging in the power cord and an external display or hard drive at the same time.
Now, Apple's proved prescient in the past. The original MacBook Airs began limiting ports available to business professionals. It was a shock to lose a native Ethernet plug and onboard optical drive. But Apple proved right. I wouldn't use a wired Ethernet port or DVD drive now if my MacBook Air possessed them, as I simply don't need those items anymore. Everything's going wireless and cloud-based. The migration to USB-C, combined with the loss of all other (Thunderbolt, MagSafe power, USB 2.0) ports, though, will cause disruption for a few years that will prove troublesome to navigate for many.
What do you think of the Apple Watch and the new MacBooks? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.