Well, both Microsoft and Apple have announcements which I’ve broken down into ‘the good, bad and ugly’ rather than a long winded investigation given that if you want to know just the facts, well, the respective presentations are available online to watch. When it comes to the Microsoft presentation the biggest part of the announcement was the Surface Studio followed by ‘the dial’ along with a refresh of the accessories line up that Microsoft has available (keyboard, mouse etc). So I’ll be focusing on the Surface Studio since it was the major focus of the presentation:
The Good: I love the design and great to see that there is an attempt to move beyond just simply being ‘yet another’ computer vendor with zero creativity and racing to the bottom in favour providing a premium experience that shows Microsoft off in the best light. The hardware is gorgeously designed and minimalist along with being innovative. Even though I personally would probably never use the touch screen, other than using the pen to sign documents etc. even without the touch screen it has lots of advantages including the great hinge design which allows a variety of viewing angles and usage scenarios not to mention how compact and space saving.
The Bad: The price tag, the availability outside of the United States and the lack of divulging by the media over the fact that this won’t be actually available until early 2017. I love how people were whining over on /r/apple regarding the lack of an iMac refresh and having to wait till early 2017 yet when Microsoft does an announcement months before the release of an actual product then they’re given a free pass. There is also the fact that there is no pure SSD option. For me, I wouldn’t care if there was an easily accessible way to replace a faulty hard disk in such a device but given that when you have an all in one the best option is to always go for the one with the least number of moving parts as to avoid problems in the future.
The Ugly: Even though it is a great hardware set up the one thing that keeps letting down Microsoft hardware is their operating system that ultimately lets down the over all product but this complaint isn’t new given that even when OEM’s have put together crapware free product lines they’re still never quite up to the ‘fit and finish’ of macOS. End of the day the common denominator is Windows and although Microsoft are putting a lot of work creating gorgeous hardware the reality is that no one stares at the hardware all day, people use a computer and the operating system is ultimately the platform which enables end users to run the applications and games which turns an otherwise nice (but boring) piece of hardware into something useful.
Conclusion: It was a great presentation and great new features but it really fails to address the fundamental problem of the Wintel platform is the operating system itself – Windows. Until Microsoft address the fundamental problems with Windows then you’ll keep seeing the same problems appear where once the customer moves beyond the demonstration and start actually using the device they soon realise that the 15 months that have passed have delivered very little in the way of fixing up long standing UI inconsistencies not to mention having some sort of path forward to replace win32. The problem is that although they have promoted the Universal Windows Platform as the replacement for win32 the problem is that they’ve based it upon win32 which has resulted in a system that has inherited all the flaws and limitations such as the MAX_PATH 256 character limitation that still causes problems with Windows File Explorer and directory structures that hit that limit (which is quite common when dealing with music libraries). There is also the lack of addressing major flaws – where is MTP support in the Music application to allow people to synchronise their music library without having to deal with the current situation of manually dragging and dropping? Yes, it has been 15 months but the ‘improvements’ over 15 months have been few updates of substance nor any sort of road map showing that in the future it will be delivered.
When it comes to the Apple presentation the expectations were high, probably too high, due to the long wait in-between refreshes which unfortunately has left many expecting something revolution but when Tim Cook ultimately delivered on the update there was a feeling of having been ‘let down’ (ignoring the fact that it was the fanbase themselves who created the hype and speculation and not Apple fuelling it).
The Good: They didn’t release something radical and that is a good thing. End of the day the Mac platform has matured and any changes that do come along will be incremental rather than something radical which will mean greater stability, less chances of dealing with a x.0 device so if the price for stability is something less exciting then I’ll take it. When it comes to the hardware one thing to keep mind is the fact that Apple is dependent on the Intel product cycle so is isn’t as though they can magically pull something out of their backside when Intel hasn’t delivered a brand new chip (not to mention the fact that each release the performance improvement when compared to the previous becomes increasingly less compelling for customers to upgrade at the fast rate they used to in the past).
The bad: I’m disappointed with the move away from the magsafe connector but at the same time it does mark a move way from proprietary connectors would would be great if they actually did it across the board such as replacing the lightening connector with USB-C as well but unfortunately they’ve decided to half ass it rather than doing what really needed to be done way back when they were designing the iPhone 7. It was a squandered opportunity and I think it was made doubly worse with the neglecting of the Mac mini, iMac and Mac Pro along with the MacBook Air – unless of course we’re going to hear something next year?
The ugly: Apple failing to take advantage of this announcement to do a re-organisation of the product line up to also refresh much neglected product lines.
Conclusion: The presentation was underwhelming but I think that is due in part to the enthusiast community and blogosphere whipping each other into a frenzy about some major earth shattering change and Apple failing to live up to the hype that we, the enthusiast community ultimately created. With that being said though there is a rumour that there will be a refresh next year before the WWDC conference (which lucky enough I have off from work for 2 weeks so I can watch the WWDC sessions at home on the comfort of my couch) which will have improved CPU’s from Intel plus an ongoing rumour that Nvidia might be back as an option although I very much doubt it given that there has been a lot of time and money invested in Metal which probably include a lot of work basing their Metal API on their GCN which sits underneath it all.
After the event Phil Schiller noted robust sales and keeping in mind that as an executive they cannot just ‘make things up’ without legal consequences so if Phil is stating that they’ve got strong sales then it is fair to view it at face value. End of the day the big battle ground appears to be in the area of GPU and taking advantage of the leaps in performance so with Apple’s release of the MacBook Pro refresh there was also a slew of updates for Final Cut Pro X, Motion and Compressor optimised to take advantage of the new 4XX series GPU from AMD. Another thing that is important and needs to be noted – for the vast majority of people they’re actually happy with the update and it is important to keep in mind that the screaming and whining on Reddit and Mac Rumors do not in anyway represent the average user just as all the screaming about the lack of a 3.5mm on the iPhone 7 doesn’t represent the average iPhone user. Sure, I like to bitch and whine but I always remember that I don’t represent the average user but unfortunately contributors Reddit and Mac Rumors fail to grasp that basic idea so thus forums are spammed with whining and I’m sitting here face palming thinking, “OMG when is this stupidity going to stop” (keeping in mind that it never actually ends…it just quietens down).