Today was a big day in the technology world. Apple held a live event in San Francisco and unveiled two new products and announced a huge partnership with HBO. Since I’ve been getting calls, texts, emails, and tweets all day long about this, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the event here on my blog. I’ll also be talking about it on a podcast with my friend Scott Simpson later in the week, so if you have questions, please leave me a comment.
HBO GO and Apple TV
The day began with a surprising Apple TV announcement. No, Apple didn’t release its long-rumored set-top box, but they did drop the price on the existing Apple TV from $99 down to $69. That makes it a little more accessible and really gets competitive with rivals like the Amazon Fire TV. The biggest part of the Apple TV announcement, however, didn’t involve hardware at all.
There have been rumors of a standalone HBO streaming service for about a year now. Well, today HBO announced that it has partnered with Apple to bring HBO Go to the Apple TV platform for $15. That means you’ll be able to watch all the Entourage, Sopranos, and yes, Game of Thrones you want, all without a cable subscription!
While it’s certainly awesome that HBO is doing this, and I’ll be one of the first in line, I think there’s a bigger picture here. I firmly believe that this is the first domino to fall in what will be a monumental collapse for the cable industry as a whole. For years now the cable companies like Comcast have been gouging us with their fancy packages and bundles, but as more and more companies like HBO start to deliver a la carte services, consumers will have options that will free them from those shackles forever. Personally, I can’t wait until I have the ability to subscribe to individual channels as I see fit. The only thing I want from telecom company is bandwidth.
This was the part of the announcement that most average joes didn’t understand, but it might just be the biggest thing (big picture wise) that Apple announced today. ResearchKit is a new open source software platform that helps researchers collaborate with smartphone users to help gain new information about health conditions like Parkinson’s Disease, Diabetes, Asthma, and more. What does this mean for you? Well, it means for the first time ever you’ll be able to participate in research studies that will help healthcare professionals and researchers better understand these types of diseases and hopefully eliminate them for good.
During the event they mentioned a test wherein the user would perform a series of taps on their iPhone screen. The screen would register the taps and be able to diagnose any noticeable tremors. Researchers can then interpret that data and use it to further their understanding of Parkinson’s disease. This is amazing, and I plan to participate as much as possible. We’re in desperate need of a technological revolution in the medical field, and I’m glad that Apple is helping lead the charge. Also, open source… Enough said.
The New MacBooks
The next product announcement revolved around Apple’s MacBook computer lineup. The new laptop, simply called MacBook, is one of the thinnest laptops ever conceived (which is usually the case when talking about Apple design theory), and it has a unique design with no fan whatsoever.
The biggest feature (and I say that with some trepidation) of the new MacBook is the single USB-C port on its side. That’s right, this laptop only has one port. Apple has been slowly stripping out slots, ports, and drives from its notebook lineup for years now, but it’s sort of hard to imagine that they’ve whittled it down this far.
For those who find themselves missing their coveted ports, Apple has created an adapter that’ll add an HDMI input, USB port, and a USB-C charging port to your new MacBook for $79.
The new MacBooks come in two flavors, $1,299 and $1,599. Both models are 13.1mm thick, weigh just 2lbs, and have a 12″ Retina display. The main differentiator is processing power and storage space. The lower-end model comes with a 1.1GHZ Intel Core M processor and a 256GB SSD. The top-of-the-line model gets a moderate bump at 1.2GHZ Intel Core M and a 512GB SSD.
I’m definitely buying a new MacBook, and I’ll most likely opt for the $1,599 model to get the speed increase and larger storage capacity. This will be my main travel computer, but I don’t expect to do any type of heavy lifting with this machine, and you shouldn’t either. The target markets for this are casual users and traveling business professionals. If you do any type of graphics-intensive or heavy RAM usage tasks, you should stick with a MacBook Pro.
The Elephant in the Room (Apple Watch)
The true reason for this event was the launch of the Apple Watch. Even though I’m not a fan, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about it, so here we go.
The biggest question on everybody’s mind was what the final price point of the Apple Watch was going to be. The answer to that question, however, is 100% dependent on the user. The watch starts off at $349 for the 38mm Sport version and goes all the way up to $17,000 for the 18ct Rose Gold watch with the Rose Gray Modern Buckle. The fine folks over at iMore have a great breakdown of all of the various prices and configurations, which you can view here.
The other big question I’m being asked today is whether or not I’m going to buy the Apple Watch. Well, contrary to what my friend Ray thinks, I will not be purchasing one. My reasoning for this is very simple; Apple didn’t give me a reason to. The narrative of the Apple Watch was told very poorly in my opinion, and Apple failed to give its usually-compelling “why you need this” argument. Sure there are aspects of the watch that seem interesting, like the boarding pass feature, but collectively they fall short of what I want in a wearable.
Even though there were a few nice surprises today, I feel as though the event lacked the usual intrigued that normally comes with an Apple product announcement. That’s probably because everyone pretty much knew the watch would be launching, and they didn’t really expect too much other than that.
As you’ve seen in this article, there were some things I liked and some I didn’t care much for. Overall I think the event wasn’t a home run for Apple, but it was at least a solid base hit. The future for wearables is still very much up in the air, and it remains to be seen if the Apple faithful will come out in droves to buy their entry into the foray. I’m excited about the future of the notebook product line, and I’m still very hopeful for the future of the Apple TV. ResearchKit is a big deal, and I hope that Apple puts the necessary resources behind it to be successful long-term.
If you were hoping for an Apple car, iPad Pro, iPhone 6S, or a Retina Thunderbolt display, you didn’t have much to get excited about today. But… There’s always WWDC!