Erik Eckel offers his first impressions of the hardware updates announced by Apple and what aspects he thinks will be most relevant to business users.
If you weren't overwhelmed by Apple's WWDC 2013 product and service announcements, you're not alone. Because of its innovative history, attendees, media, analysts, investors and customers were all hoping for the debut of an intriguing, game-changing new product. That didn't happen. Nevertheless, important awaited hardware updates were confirmed. The two new product revisions will have direct impact upon Mac-based businesses.
A new Mac Pro
Long overdue, Apple confirmed that the next generation Mac Pro desktop will boast an all-new design and chassis. In some environments the Mac Pro serves as the engineering, video production, graphic design or scientific work horse.
Apple quit kidding around with the Mac Pro a long time ago. With multiple Xeon processors, multiple 1GB onboard RAM video cards and TBs of storage capacity, the systems were designed for intensive tasks. But the old, if distinctive silver, chassis was becoming long in the tooth.
While most everyone will be focusing on the new computer's fancy circular design, improvements under the hood are what will actually sell it to businesses. The new model features a completely redesigned cylinder shape one-eighth the size of the old system. The new computer is built around a central thermal core and includes many badly needed component upgrades. Storage improves with the provisioning of faster SSDs. Faster Intel Xeon CPUs, 4K video support, and 1866GHz RAM help round out improved performance. But USB 3.0, gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 1.4 ports and Thunderbolt 2 connectivity will prove helpful for businesses needing to frequently move large amounts of data.
All told, the new systems possess the potential for blistering performance. The new systems will reportedly support up to 12 cores of processing (Intel Xeon e5) power, 40 GBps PCIe performance, 60 GBps memory bandwidth, and 256-bit-wide floating-point instructions, if you're interested in the numbers.
Apple says look for it this fall. The company isn't being more specific than that, nor has pricing information been released.
New MacBook Airs
Hardware improvements weren't limited to the desktop. Apple also announced upgraded MacBook Air models.
Business users, particularly road warriors frequently working outside the office, may find improved battery life potentially the most-welcome innovation. Apple claims the new 11" models last up to nine hours between charges, while 13" versions can last 12 hours.
Fourth-generation Intel CPUs bolster performance, while Intel HD Graphics 5000 improve video results, whether playing back movies, presentations, slides, photos, or video content. Anticipated support for 802.11ac Wi-Fi is included, too, for up to 3x faster wireless performance, and even better range, versus older wireless standards.
Flash storage, long a hallmark of Apple's thinnest laptops, receives upgrades, as well. Apple claims the new models boast flash storage up to 45-percent faster than the previous generation. Systems also wake faster than previously.
All in all, business users (again, particularly those on the road who must constantly open and close, sleep and wake their systems) will find the improvements particularly welcome. Prices still start at $999 for 11" models (with 128GB flash storage, 4GB RAM and 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 CPU), with 13" versions beginning at $1,099, also boasting 128GB flash storage, 4GB RAM and an 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 CPU.
Are these updates what you were hoping to see from Apple?