Earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook told the audience at the AllThingsD D10 Conference that Apple likes to "put all of our wood behind a few arrows." At Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco this week, Cook stayed true to his word.
Apple came out with a refresh of its MacBook Pro and Air laptop computers headlined by a new top-of-the-line MacBook Pro, touted features of its upcoming Mountain Lion OS and iOS 6, and unveiled new apps including a critical mapping app, among other announcements.
I spoke with Kyle Wiens, an iOS developer, regular speaker at Macworld-iWorld Conference and Expo, and co-founder of iFixit, about two of the bigger developments coming out of WWDC: the new MacBook Pro and Apple Maps.
The New MacBook Pro
Apple unveiled a new MacBook Pro, a locked-down, non-upgradeable machine with a hefty price tag starting at $2,199. The new MacBook Pro features a high-density Retina display and boasts a 2.3GHZ quad-core i7 processor with 8GB or 16GB of RAM.
Wiens' take: This powerful and pricey machine should have been more modular.
"Apple is basically telling people to buy this, and it's not upgradable," Wiens says. "Maybe you can put up with that on a $500 iPad, but a $3,000 workstation computer that you have to upgrade [to a new computer] on a 12- to 18-month cycle is really expensive."
If you're thinking about buying one of these babies, he says, you'd better get the top-of-the-line model--there's no way to turn back the clock and add more RAM. Besides, your money is probably going to the display anyway. The new MacBook Pro's premium pricing is very high, which is probably indicative of the cost of building a Retina display.
The surprise non-refresh concerns the Mac Pro; Apple came out with only minor bumps in upgrades. A graphic designer told me his team of Mac Pro users is worried that Apple is forsaking them. Apparently, desktops are not one of the arrows in Cook's quiver.
"There's a lot of people disappointed about the Mac Pro with no real update there," Wiens says. "It's crazy over-priced for what it is now."
The Killer Map
True to rumor, Apple unveiled plans for an iOS map app to displace Google Maps. Apple had been working on this for some time, especially considering it acquired three mapping companies in the past three years, including C3 Technologies, which has photorealistic 2-D mapping technology.
But it's still a risky bet given the "killer app" role that a maps app plays on a mobile device. Are you suddenly going to trust Apple to get you to places on time? While the 3-D images looked great in the demo, the real question is whether or not Apple Maps will be as reliable as Google Maps.
"I've learned through hundreds of hours of experimentation exactly how good Google Maps is," Wiens says. "If Apple Maps was bad to the point I couldn't use it, and there wasn't a Google Maps option for the iPhone, that would be a reason to switch to Android."
It's anyone's guess how good or bad Apple's maps app will be. However, this week mapping company Tom-Tom confirmed it has a mapping-data licensing agreement with Apple, reports AllThingsD.
Will this put Wiens at ease? "Nope," he says. "The initial [Apple] maps I've seen are incomplete, and there's no transit plus bike directions."