Retina / 4K desktop.

The 10.9.3 beta of OS X contains Retina scaling at 60 Hz.

I’m hopeful this means Retina iMacs this year, as I’m up for a new one since my 2011 27″ is about ready to go on ebay. Not because it’s slow, because it isn’t, but because I’m running out of disk space, and I hate external drives – besides my backup.
In 2011, like always, I got the best BTO iMac they had at that time, and it’s still extremely fast, but a 256GB SSD and a 2TB HDD are just not enough for me anymore.

I guess the 27″ iMac is already very close to Retina, the way Apple defined it. I myself, due to less than 20/20 sight, can’t discern pixels at my usual working distance right now, but it will not hurt to have 4K, especially as I’m very much into photography.

Free!

So, let’s try to sum up what Apple announced yesterday…

To my mind the biggest news is that Apple is moving to a model where software is free for everyone who wants to upgrade, and everyone who buys new stuff.
I’m thinking this is, in part, due to the fact that lots of people are holding on to their old software and Apple wants everyone on the same page. It’s crazy to think that Mavericks will run on iMacs from 2007…that’s six year old hardware. Try that with Windows 8.1.

The iOS App Store now has over 1 million apps.

iOS 7.0.3 now supports iCloud keychain. iLife, and iWork have been completely rewritten in 64-bit code, both for iOS and OS X. iTunes now has a 64-bit foundation for PC users too.

OS X Server has also been updated, as have iBooks Author, Remote Desktop, Xcode, etc.

Anyhow, almost all major apps Apple makes for iOS and OS X have received a substantial update. Even Aperture got a point update to 3.5. I haven’t checked it out yet, but it sounds like it’s the smallest update compared to the other apps, which is unfortunate, as I do a lot of photography and Aperture is my tool of choice for RAW editing and storage. I may have to look at Lightroom.

As far as hardware is concerned, nothing surprising came up yesterday, besides maybe the pricing of the new Mac Pro which starts at USD 2.999.
The 9,7″ iPad is now called iPad Air and looks a lot like the iPad Mini in a bigger form factor. It is much thinner and lighter than the iPad 3/4, which was discontinued yesterday. It will be available in a huge amount of countries on Nov. 1st.
The iPad Mini now comes in two flavors: Regular (read: last year’s model), and Retina. What’s rally interesting is that Apple chose the same resolution for the iPad Mini Retina as it did for the iPad Air, which makes the Mini the display in Apple’s lineup with the higher DPI. I will have to check that out when it comes out in late November. This later shipping date is in line with reports from earlier in the week that the yield of this display is not as high as Apple would like to see it.

The MacBook Pro 13″ is now thinner and has Intel’s Iris Pro graphics. It’s 15″ brother now uses Intel’s Crystalwell graphics, presumably even better. They start at USD 1.299, and USD 1.999 respectively, which is also a drop in price of 200 dollars.
The 13″ MacBook Pro received, just like all Macs, an update to Haswell processors, but the 15″ model go axed. Interesting…
I wonder when iMacs will go Retina. Well, depending on your eyesight they already are unless you have 20/20 vision, in which case they aren’t – but the 27″ model comes close.

Also interesting is the fact that Apple chose not to supplement the new Mac Pro with a new 4k display. The machine supports up to three 4k displays, and I find it curious that Apple would not offer one. The market for this machine is not money-concious, so it should be a no brainer to release a display which can show that many pixels…well, maybe in time for the shipping of the Mac Pro in December.

All in all, I think they really did have a lot to cover.

Oct. 22nd. iPad(s), and more?

Apple announced another, expected, event for Oct. 22nd at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco.

Just by choosing this site, which is much bigger than the Town Hall Center on Apple’s campus in Cupertino, I expect this event to be bigger in terms of announcements.

I wonder if the iPad Mini is going Retina, as I said in January.

My take on Apple’s iPad mini event.

As many of you going in, I was watching yesterday’s event with mixed feelings, and I’ll get to that later on. For now let’s dive in. Here’s my take, step by step.

- Tim Cook looked mostly relaxed, although I felt that – at times – he tensed up. No big deal, just an observation.

- Tim, by the way the presentations are organized, makes clear who’s the boss, but he lets his VP’s share the limelight.

- Unsurprisingly, Apple sold a gazillion iPhone 5′s. Sold out in the opening weekend, making it the best phone launch ever – not just for Apple. This actually is amazing.

- Over 200 million iOS devices are already running iOS 6. This seems a little low considering Chitika’s numbers of a 60+% adoption, but it’s a HUGE amount of devices. Something others can only dream about, for sure.

- 300+ billion iMessages sent in a year – that’s close to a billion a day. Wow. I can’t believe mobile service providers aren’t feeling the sting of that, and that Apple gets away with it.

- 35 billion downloads from the AppStore, and 6.5 billion bucks paid out to developers. “Eat this Google. Micro-who?” is clearly what Tim is really saying.

- There’s a new version of iBooks with continuous scrolling. This is obviously aimed at a smaller iPad.

- Talking about the Mac: It has outgrown the growth of the PC market by a factor of 7, and for 6 years straight. That’s got to hurt PC vendors. No wonder they’re trying to copy Apple’s products, right HP?

- Phil Schiller talks about the Mac. He seems to get less nervous with each keynote. Good for him, and good for us. Phil’s one of the guys you just can help to like.

- MacBook is the first he talks about:
The 15″ rMBP has the best display in the industry, but the 13″ MPB is actually the best-selling Mac, so they made it even better. 13″ rMPB with 2560×1600 resolution on 13,3″. 0.75 inches (1,9 centimeters) thin. Wow. 3.57 pounds (1.6 kilograms). Wow again. Up to 7 hours of battery life. 300 nits of brightness, 2nd highest resolution display in the industry. That is pretty funny, actually. I imagine the 15″ is geared towards photographers, and video editing folks, and the 13″ towards regular people.
It will be interesting to see when the Airs will get the Retina treatment, but I’m guessing this is still about two years out, because of battery constraints. The 13″ starts at 1.699, the 15″ at 2.199, USD that is.

- Phil’s talking about the Mac mini, saying that everybody knew today’s presentation would be about something “mini”. Again, pretty funny.
So the Mac mini gets a refresh with Ivy Bridge i5 and i7, and all around better internals. The look stays the same, so does the price at 599 USD. This is actually something I would consider for my 12-year old, but maybe an Air is the better choice. Not sure.

- Next up: iMac.
Wow! I didn’t really see that coming! Well, I did think the iMacs would be upgraded to Ivy Bridge, but this?! Holy cow…look at how thin this is! Unbelievable…a complete redesign.
Suddenly my top of the line 27″ Sandy Bridge i7 with 256GD SSD and 2TB HDD (the works) looks…old! I hate Apple. Well, not really, but it’s going to be a long year and a half before I will upgrade to the new iMac. Damn…
Oh yeah, “friction steer welding” is way cool, and so is that it sheds around 8 pounds (!) over the previous generation, and comes with 8GB RAM standard.
Did I mention “Fusion Drive”? It makes one logical volume out of your SSD and HDD, moving apps you use the most to the SSD without you having to interfere. Performance is almost at SSD level. This is nice. Finally, no optical drive, unless you have an external SuperDrive.

- iPad.
Tim announces over 100 million iPads sold in just about 2.5 years. That’s just crazy. For reference: iPhone took 4 years to reach that number.

- iPad 4!
Just half a year after iPad 3…ok. Basically a refresh with an A6 processor – same as in the iPhone 5. Twice as fast, yada, yada. Not for me, to be honest. If it were thinner than the iPad 3 I have, then I’d buy one in a heartbeat, but this is clearly aimed at iPad 2 buyers who feel they want a Retina display now.
Still, unbelievable that they are introducing a new generation just six months in. It does have a new LTE chip, again from the iPhone 5, which supports lots of carriers around the world, so I guess this will make it an easy upgrade choice for many. I guess it makes sense in a way.
It also has the new Lightning connector. Decent upgrade, but it’s still weird. I’m thinking they want to get as much out of the holiday quarter as possible, but that leaves the other quarters a bit bare looking. Hmmm…

- iPad mini!
This was expected. 7,9″ at 1024×768, same as the iPad 2. A5 chip from the iPad 2, which should be more than enough to power that display. Anodized aluminium (Hi Jony!), just like the iPhone 5.
Comes in black and white. 7.2 millimeters thin, weighing 0.3 kilograms, half as thin as iPad 3/4. Holy..damn… Somebody tweeted after the event that he had a Nexus 7 with him and that the iPad mini was much lighter, thinner, and much better build. He also said the display was so much better. What’s really important to remember:
This thing will run all iPad apps, without any tweaks needing to be made by developers. Phil went on the rip on “competitors”. If I’m not mistaken the example used is a Nexus 7, and it does pale in comparison. iPad mini has 35% more screen, and comes with LTE.
16GB WiFi version for 329…my first thought was: This is steep. My second thought is: Apple’s not competing with Android or WinRT/8/Pro/Whatever. Those guys are competing with Apple.
Apple sells a premium product, at a premium prize to premium customers. Preorders start on October, the 26th. Ships on November, the 2nd.

- Tim recaps his promise from early in 2012 that we would see lots of innovation coming this year, and he’s actually kept his promise. Mountain Lion, iOS 6, new rMBP’s, new MBA’s, new Mac mini, new iPad 3, new iPad 4, new iMacs, iPad mini.

This was, and still is, a lot to take in.

Here’s my take after about 14 hours:
It will be interesting to see the sales numbers for the September quarter. I wonder why they felt they needed to update iPad 3? I don’t mean to say that it sold less than stellar – I’m actually sure the opposite is true – but you have to wonder if they needed to update it just for the holiday season? Maybe, quite possibly, they know something about a competitor that we don’t?
I think the 13″ rMBP will be even more popular than it’s predecessor, but if I were to buy a pro machine, it would be the 15″.
The Mac mini serves lots of purposes: Entry-level Mac, media server, business server (with the two HDD option available). It is tempting to get a full Mac for just 599 USD, but I’m still wondering if an Air isn’t the better choice for most.
The iMac redesign caught me off guard. I want one! Now! But I’ll wait till my mid-2011 iMac has at least three years of service under it’s belt. It’s still as awesome as it was yesterday.
I talked about iPad 4 already, so on to iPad mini:
I can see that lots of people will be buying them for christmas. Hell, I’m thinking about getting one for my son just so I can actually get my iPad 3 back!
I will have to withhold judgment on the screen size, but at almost 8″ is seems to be big enough for a market that’s obviously out there. I’m predicting, which I usually don’t do, that iPad will be Apple’s biggest business by 2014. Yep, bigger than iPhone.

In closing you can see why I initially said I was having mixed feelings, and I still do.
This has not changed from 14 hours ago. I did make up my mind about what I like, need, want, but the main attraction of the evening, iPad mini, is still something I’m not sure about. Oh, I know Apple will sell them by the boatload, but I’m not sure if Steve wasn’t right about this anyway.

Time will tell.

AnandTech reviews the 2012 MacBook Pro with Retina display.

Anand Lal Shimpi:

There was another problem Apple faced in making the rMBP a reality: the display pipeline of the GPUs Apple wanted to use didn’t officially support scaling to the resolution Apple demanded of them. Let me explain.

All modern GPUs have fixed function scaling hardware that is used to efficiently scale between resolutions. A scaler either in your GPU or in your display panel is what lets you run non-native resolutions at full screen on your LCD (e.g. running 1680 x 1050 on a 1920 x 1080 panel). None of the GPUs used in the Retina Display MacBook Pro officially support fixed-function scaling of anything to 2880 x 1800 however. Modern day GPUs are tested against 2560 x 1440 and 2560 x 1600, but not this particular 5MP resolution. Even 4K resolution support isn’t widespread among what’s available today. Rather than wait for updated hardware and/or validation, Apple took matters into its own hands and built its own GPU accelerated scaling routines. Fixed function hardware is almost always more efficient from a performance and power standpoint, which is why there’s some additional performance loss in these scaled resolution modes.

What’s even crazier is Apple wasn’t pleased with the difference in baseline filtering quality between the Intel HD 4000 and NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M GPUs. As the Retina Display MacBook Pro would have to regularly switch between GPUs, Apple wanted to ensure a consistently good experience regardless of which GPU was active. There are a lot of filtering operations at work when doing all of this resolution scaling, so rather than compromise user experience Apple simply wrote its own default filtering routines. Apple’s obsessive attention to detail really made it possible to pull all of this off. It’s just insane to think about.

Unreal.

Read the whole review at the link above. It’s great – so much information on this marvel of modern engineering.

So, 4″ iPhone…confirmed?

The Verge user modilwar has a nice write-up on their forums about how Apple could make a 4″ iPhone without compromising the Retina display, the layout, etc.

I usually try not to comment on rumors, because they tend to fly in your face down the road, but it seems that John Gruber all but confirms it:

Methinks “Colin” wasn’t merely guessing or idly speculating.

John Gruber has an impeccable track-record on predicting Apple’s direction, so you may want to read the article by “modilwar” at the link above.

This is also the first piece on this subject that does make sense to me.

Androidauthority: Bringing on the Stupid.

Mihai Andrici for androidauthority.com:

Apple’s iOS will soon be dethroned by Google’s Android as the leading tablet OS. Currently sitting at only 10% behind the iPad, the Android tablet market share should be bigger than that of the iPad by the end of Q2 2012. Android is bound to take over the tablet market, as it did with the smartphone market a few years back.

Except it isn’t, and it won’t. Android on tablets isn’t 10% behind Apple’s iPad, it’s miles behind. Apple sells all iPad’s it can manage to build to end customers, Android not so much, by all reasonable accounts.
When was the last time you saw a tablet that wasn’t an iPad? Yeah…

a recent comparison article posted by CNET gave the tablet crown to the new iPad when compared against the ASUS Transformer Prime, something heavily contradicted by comments made by owners of the Transformer Prime.

No shit, Sherlock! It’s called buyers remorse. You justify what you bought by making the obviously better choice look bad.
I won’t even get into what makes a tablet useful – the ecosystem, but I will point to something Android users are all hung up about: Specs. Show me where any, ANY Android tablet is better than the new iPad, and I’m not talking a single benchmark. I mean real world use.

according to several analysts, the new iPad wasn’t even close to duplicating the massive iPad 2 and iPad 1 sales.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Apple sold over 3 million new iPads to customers (read: real people) on the opening weekend, besting the 1 million iPad 2′s a year ago by a factor of three. More than any other Android tablet. Ever. Combined.

Considering the fact that Samsung, a major player in Android tablet manufactures the two most important components inside the new iPad (the retina display and the A5X CPU), doesn’t it make sense for the iPad will soon be dethroned?

Bad grammar aside: Samsung is producing some of the Retina displays for Apple and the A5X, which isn’t a CPU but a SoC…minor difference…according to Apple’s specs. Samsung didn’t design these components, they build them.
Talking about that major player in tablets: Not doing too well…

how can a single tablet maker stand up to an array of Android tablet OEMs that already provide a high degree of diversity in their hardware offers?

Pretty simple actually: It’s about the ecosystem, not specs. Plus, tablets are not carrier-subsidized, like smartphones, and the one’s that are aren’t selling.

Apple could not do that with their iPhone, they won’t be able to accomplish that with the iPad.

Yeah, because the iPhone only has about 95% of all profits in the smartphone industry.

As it turns out, Android has a better business model than the closed iOS ecosystem.

…and what is that? Selling your data to the highest bidder? I’m asking because non of the OEM’s are making any decent money on Android. Google? Yeah, most mobile profits for Google come from iOS devices.

Although Android had arguably a slow start in the tablet area (many critics feel that Android 3.0 Honeycomb was unable to provide the experience users were looking for in a tablet), as the tablet and smartphone versions of Android have converged into Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, by the end of 2012, it is likely that the main attraction of all iPad models (the number and quality of apps available) will be matched by ICS tablets.

Honeycomb was supposed to do that…didn’t work out too well, so now it’s ICS which is on a whopping 2,9% of all Android devices. …and that’s counting smartphones too…almost six months after it’s release.
Apps? Not really.

Hardware-wise, before the fourth iPad generation comes out (probably in Q1 2013), we’re bound to see a number Android tablets that will trash the new iPad in all conceivable sectors: be it price-performance ratio, raw performance, form factor, and maybe even display quality.

Google’s mantra! Overpromise, underdeliver.
People buy stuff that is available today, not some idea of what might be available in a year, and if the past is any guide, none of the wishful thoughts of Mr. Andrici will become reality.

The _huge_ apps problem.

Jason Perlow of ZDNet writes an interesting article on the problem of huge apps on Apple’s iOS devices, now that the developers are adding Retina display graphics to their apps, moving to “universal” binaries.
This, of course, means that any iOS device will get all graphics – a huge overhead.

He thinks Apple only has two choices:

The first is the most unlikely, in that Apple finds a way to get the costs of flash memory down so that we can quadruple the storage capabilities of iOS devices without significantly increasing the BOM (Bill of Materials) of the device.

or

moving from a bitmap-oriented content asset-based programmatic model to a vector-oriented one could drastically reduce the amount of storage required for mobile applications.

Both valid suggestions, but I think there’s a much simpler way for Apple to address this problem, and I think that’s what Apple will do:

iOS recognizes which device it’s being run on. It is aware that it’s running on, let’s say, an iPhone 3GS, or a new iPad. So what’s to stop Apple from making sure that, when you’re downloading that awesome game which clocks in at 1,5GB, you only keep the graphics your particular device needs to operate? Nothing.

The iPhone 3GS supports a maximum of 480×320 pixels.
The iPad supports 2048×1536 pixels.
Then there’s the iPhone 4(S), and the iPad 1 and 2.

So in total we have four different resolutions/pixel counts. “Universal” apps download all of them, no matter what your device supports. That’s where the huge apps problem comes into play, but if Apple decides to give iOS the ability to delete the ones from your device, that it doesn’t need…well, all is good.