Apple held a special media event today, and as expected it announced launch details for the Apple Watch. But the firm also announced a stunning new thin, light and fanless MacBook notebook and provided some other updates.
Here’s the meat of what Apple announced, with a bit of the usual commentary.
Apple’s living room set-top box is well overdue for an upgrade and is bursting at the seams with new services that overwhelm its dated grid of icons UI. But instead of updating it, Apple is reducing the price, from its long-standing $99 price point to just $69. That’s a great price, and when you consider that the device was already a no-brainer for Apple users—Apple has sold 25 million Apple TVs over time—this puts it into a better spot to compete with better devices like Roku 3 and Amazon Fire TV (both of which are normally $99).
Apple also announced an exclusive agreement with HBO to deliver HBO NOW, a $15-per-month service that provides HBO programming without a cable or satellite TV subscription. For a limited time, the first month is free if you sign up on an Apple TV, iPad, or iPhone.
Apple has long been rumored to be working on a fanless, Core M-based MacBook Air, and while the company did announce this product today, it came with one surprise, the name. Instead of bearing the MacBook Air moniker, this new device will use the old MacBook (not Air, or Pro) name. And it’s a looker, with a super-thin form factor, a low 2 pound weight and three available colors—gold, space gray and silver—just like iPhone.
Despite its diminutive size, the new MacBook packs in a full-sized keyboard, a large new trackpad, and a gorgeous 12-inch Retina display. Missing, however, are the traditional ports: At 13.1 mm thin at its thickest point, the new MacBook is too thin for traditional ports, so it features just a single USB-C port which can be used for power or peripherals with a lot of port adapters and daisy chaining. I think they could have added at least one more such port, frankly.
And while the new MacBook obviously doesn’t support multi-touch, it does feature a Force Touch trackpad that offers interesting new force-based functionality. For example, when you “force-click” a word you can look up its definition. When you force-click an address you find it on a map. And you can keep pressing harder while watching a video to make it fast forward more quickly. And so on.
Apple says the new MacBook gets all-day battery life—rated at 9 hours for web browsing and 10 hours for movie playback—and it will start at $1299 for a model with a 1.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core M, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD. A higher-end model with a 1.2 GHz processor and 512 GB of SSD is available for $1599.
On a related note, Apple issued a minor update to the existing MacBook Air models, with faster processors and Thunderbolt. And it added the Force Touch trackpad—and new processors—to the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display as well.
This was obviously the main part of the event, though I’m curiously more interested in the MacBook and even Apple TV. Part of the reason is the pricing: There are three model lineups that range in price from “just” $350 for an Apple Sport stripper model with low-end materials to an astonishing $17,000 for an 18 karat gold silly version. As I noted on Twitter, this isn’t consumer electronics anymore. It’s consumerism run amok.
I’m not sure what to say about Apple Watch. I’ll get one to review, of course, but most of the promoted usage scenarios—talking into the watch on a phone call, drawing and sending pictures to others, handling various notifications, and so on—aren’t hugely interesting to me. I am very much interested in its health functionality, however. Apple says its Watch will do what I want Microsoft Band to do, and prompt users to get up and move. And it will provide new goals each Monday, based on last week’s activity levels. Nice.
It will also integrate with Apple Pay, of course, and with numerous iPhone apps, including Uber, Instagram, airlines’ boarding pass apps, and more, providing a front-end to the phone from your wrist. Assuming of course that your phone is an iPhone.
Apple Watch will be available for preorder on April 10. And it will start shipping on April 24 in the USA, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and the UK, with more countries to follow. Take that, Microsoft Band.