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Next?

November 5, 2010 - Dave Hecei
After watching the video of Apple’s October 2010 press event, I sat back to think about what Apple would do next. The new MacBook Air is revolutionary, at least for Apple, with no spinning drives. Apple also stated that there is little chance that we will ever see touch screens on any of the MacBooks, let alone any of the iMacs. Blu-Ray burners – nope, USB 3.0 – nope. What can Apple do for future Macs to keep the line progressing?

One thing that could happen is that Apple may fracture again. With the success of the iPod, then iPhones, and then the iPad, Apple has become a premiere mobile product company. With this mobile market they have evolved Mac OS X into what they now call iOS. The next version is about to be released for the latest mobile products. It is called iOS 4.2.

During the press event, Apple gave us a peek at the next OS X for the Macs, OS X 10.7 Lion. To go along with 10.7 is a new Mac App Store. It looks to be based on the same model as the iPhone/iPod/iPad App Store, which is a good thing and a bad thing.

The good thing is that Apps for the Mac will be easy to find, purchase, install, and update. If pricing follows along the lines of the mobile App Store, then prices will be kept low. Why not, since this model eliminates the cost of making discs, books, and packaging. The bad is whether or not Apple will rule over the store with the same iron fist that it does on the mobile store.

The worst-case scenario is that in the future the only place to get software for your Mac would be this store, as it is now with the mobile App Store. If you want a game for your iPad, the only legal place to get it is through the App Store. I don’t think that Apple could do this, or would do this, with their desktop market, but it is something that Mac people are talking about.

During the demo of the MacBook Air, the fact that there was no touch screen was brought up. Apple stated that through their own research and testing, people don’t like using touch on a ‘vertical surface’. After extended use of touch on a vertical surface, people reported arm fatigue. Touch on a phone or pad is completely different since this type of device is held horizontally, or near enough.

Just recently, Steve Jobs supposedly replied to an email that asked when USB 3 was coming to the Mac. He basically said - not in the near future. This is too bad, especially for the Mac Pro people who buy these premium-priced towers for high-end video, photo, and 3D animations. USB 3 can be found in external hard drives and high-def video devices.

Fortunately there have been some inroads for Mac users. LaCie has come up with USB 3 support in both a PCIe card and an ExpressCard. The PCIe card can be installed in the newer Mac Pro towers. The ExpressCard is for use in any MacBook Pro model with an ExpressCard slot. Both of these cards come with appropriate OS X drivers and have two USB 3 ports. Both cards require Mac OS X 10.5 or better.

While Apple may not officially support Blu-Ray, it is available. Blu-Ray can be added to any Intel based Mac. MacBooks, minis, and iMacs will want to use an external drive, while Mac Pro towers can have a bare Blu-Ray burner installed in the extra optical bay. At this time there is no way to play commercial Blu-Ray movies on a Mac, however you can burn your own home movies to Blu-Ray using Roxio Toast 10. (You can also make Blu-Ray discs with the latest Final Cut Studio – it’s only about $800)

The only future tech that Apple is working on is something called Light Peak. USB 3 is said to top out at 5Gbps. Light Peak is said to start at 10Gbps and should scale up to 100Gbps. Since it is based on light it will likely use very thin fiber optic cables. In theory, these cables could even be made much longer that Firewire or USB cables.

It’s difficult to know what Apple has in store for the future. They only recently seem to start working on the Macintosh line, after a very busy mobile computing binge. Steve Jobs says he just wants to create the best products possible. They don’t have to be number 1, just the best. Maybe they will turn around and start incorporating some of this other technology, at least Blu-Ray. After all, they did finally cave in and switched to Intel for their processor.

 
 

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