Less tech, more Louis Vuitton: welcome to the new Apple Inc

iPad Air

iPad Air

The new Apple Inc. fully emerged at the October product announcement event, and a fascinating company it is too. Apple is looking more and more like the Louis Vuitton of the tech world.

Like Louis Vuitton, Apple has become a premium lifestyle brand that most would love to own, but unlike Louis Vuitton many actually can. Nonetheless Apple is now a slick, almost bespoke operation with high quality products, services and retail environments, and operates all of them with polish and finesse.

Tim Cook unleashed a massive range of updates on the hardware front, from cutting edge Macbooks to an awe-inspiring piece of technical art in the Mac Pro, along with updated Macbook Pro laptops and new super-fast svelte iPad Air. As with all Apple events there was a lot more detail hidden amongst the hardware headlines.

It’s not all about the hardware
Apple brought its entire line up to date, and more significantly did it just prior to the most important retail quarter of the year. Market analysts are predicting the biggest quarter ever for Apple as a result with around US$60-billion in turnover.

The new Macbook Pros now feature the latest Intel fourth generation chips, along with improvements to pretty much the entire technical underpinnings of the device. Initial hands on reports once again maintain these are the very best laptops available at any price. A price reduction was thrown in for good measure.

The announcement of the Mac Pro also included technology that has not been seen in a consumer product as yet, along with construction that would grace any high-end brand, which is significant. Perhaps not for the mainstream of what consumers do with their computers today, but the processes, technologies, and techniques used, shine some light on where mainstream computing technology will be in a few years’ time.

The complete redesign of the iPad which kick started the tablet revolution in 2010, was also a significant announcement. Many felt that the new iPad was not such a radical departure. The new iPad Air is simply smaller and thinner with the same screen, and a lot faster.

All of which is true, what many miss is that, yes it is smaller, faster, slimmer, and smarter, but the underlying technologies embodied in the 64 bit A7 chip along with the M7 motion coprocessor, opens the way for far more advanced computing than we currently experience from our tablets.

It has long been maintained that tablets are for consumption and PCs are for creation. The new iPad, in my estimation, is starting to show the way that a super slim light tablet can actually bridge that gap.

Woven into all the hardware announcements was actually the most significant move from Apple. Those moves were around operating systems and software. Tim Cook kicked the presentation off with the announcement of OS X Mavericks the next generation of the Apple operating system.

Many of the features and benefits had been exposed to the market prior to the launch and the announcement was about availability and price. Price was where Tim Cook took the market by surprise. Mavericks was going to be free, and more significantly it would upgrade even older versions of OSX.

The next big thing
Apart from the cost savings to many, who either skipped the last upgrade to OSX Mountain Lion or were happy to stay where they were, in one fell swoop Apple changed the fundamental basis of hardware and software economics.

Apple, in effect, tied the OS to the hardware for computers in the same way as mobile devices come wedded with their OS. People expect high-end mobiles to have the latest operating system, and don’t expect to pay. Now that is also true of computing devices from Apple. Buy a Mac and you can always have the latest operating system for as long as the hardware lasts.

The complete basis of hardware and software in the PC space had just been upended. Apple hammered home, once again, that they get lifestyle computing, and will ensure that as far as possible their entire user base is on the latest version of what they release. The key benefits here are in the App developer space. Simply put, fewer version of an OS, both mobile and computing, the simpler, easier, and cheaper, development of apps become.

Apple did not stop there. After shifting the landscape of selling operating systems, Tim Cook turned his attention to two key productivity suites.

Apple’s iWork and iLife suites, were now also to be free with every new Apple device going forward. Microsoft Office suite has always led the market for functionality and for features, and for good reason.

Office from Microsoft is easily the most comprehensive and user-friendly suite available — it does however come at a hefty price. For many users you simply can’t beat free. It’s now all about apps, and Apple makes more money out of apps than anyone else.

Add these key software suites to your iPad or Mac and you effectively get more than adequate functionality, and in some respects unique abilities such as with Garage Band, for example.

When the total cost of ownership is worked out for an Apple iPad with all the productivity and lifestyle apps you may reasonably need, and compare this to any of its logical competitors from Microsoft or Android, it becomes clear where Apple were going — for the jugular, in fact. Another lucrative product segment just got upended by Apple.

It’s the ecosystem baby
If you simply take all the hardware announcements at face value, Apple has done a really good job of refreshing its entire line-up. Throw in the latest software on mobile with iOS7 and Mavericks, and it’s a great new line-up for the holiday shopping season. When the added benefits of free iWork and iLife are factored in, both financial and functional, the latest line-up from Apple is hard to beat.

This is the main differentiator, and the clue to the future direction of Apple Inc. and for those with a financial bent, its share price. Apple simply gets lifestyle. Apple sees computing not as technology or hardware alone, but as an enabler of what people want to do every day, be that send a mail, use the web, make a call or play a game.

Most of us don’t want the fuss, we simply want the functionality and if that functionality is slick, smooth, and trouble-free, even better. Many called it a walled garden, some even say it’s become boring. In my opinion, Apple still has the magic the Steve Jobs was famous for, minus of course the Jobs reality distortion effect.

Apple is unashamedly high-end, and consumers love that about it. Louis Vuitton may be out of reach of many of us, but an iPad from Apple is not. Expect sales to be record-breaking and profits to follow. It’s the ecosystem baby and Apple understands.



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