Apple, Video Pros & the future.

It’s pretty clear that Apple dropping “computer” from their name was not just to use less ink. They’ve been behind the curve with the hardware for many years. Case in point: after PCs have had a SD card slot for many years, Apple finally decides to integrate this functionality into their laptops (but not desktops.)


But, in so doing, they ditch the ExpressCard slot from the 15″ MacBook “Pro” and specifically make the SD card slot not compatible with I/O devices so it can’t be used to expand the computer. wtf?

So now, the 17″ MacBook Pro is the only expandable laptop from Apple- for a starting price of $2500.
If I’m going to spend that much, I’ll buy a Lenovo 17″ (starting at $1,900) that offers me the capability of a quad-core chip, dual internal LCD displays, integrated Wacom tablet, Pantone color calibration of the displays, fingerprint reader for mobile security, internal Blu-ray, integrated cellular broadband, and more.

There were times, back when Apple didn’t have today’s market share, that they produced computers that were affordable, and wildly expandable. They strong to be what the other guys weren’t. They thought differently. That gave us the G3, the G4 towers. It gave us the G3 series PowerBooks with dual media bays, in addition to the PC card slot. That emphasis on providing users with innovative solutions ahead of the pack is gone.

Now the focus is clearly just fit & finish. They’ve become B&O while nobody was paying attention. bno.jpgBy this I mean that looks and design preside over actually providing users with powerful tools that offer features and capabilities that they need. Primarily, I mean expansion.

Here’s a B&O CD changer that mounts on a wall. Pretty? Yes. Works well with any other standard stereo component? Heck no. It is designed to be the “be all and end all” of your entertainment experience. Yet it doesn’t connect to a popular MP3 player, oh, like an iPod. Pretty heady thinking to deliberately make this kind of component not work with other components. 

The same goes with Apple computers as of late. The one machine that you can expand costs a fortune, is too big to fit into anything, and doesn’t even come with Blu-ray data burning as an option.

– There’s Mini or iMac. None expandable. None made for pros.
– There used to be a consumer iBook line separate (mostly) from the PowerBook line. Now, aside from one leftover plastic MacBook that exists solely as a price toehold, it’s all about polish and design ethos. Want a mouse button? Fugetaboutit.

As someone who edits ProRez 1080i60 HD on a 15″ MacBook Pro with the power offered through the ExpressCard slot (you just can’t do it reliably over FW-800) for shows that are destined for PBS, it is now clear to me that I’ll likely be transferring my Adobe Creative Suite license to PC with my next machine and getting a small, affordable, possibly rack mountable, quad-core, HD churning machine for probably 1/2 the cost of a stock MacPro. Whew!

And laptops? Apple’s 4.5 lb, 13″ MBP starts at $1200 and the extra “features” it offers is an SD card slot. Compare this to (gasp) a netbook from Lenovo that offers a 12.1-inch, WXGA (1,280 x 800) resolution display, an Intel GMA950 chipset (NVIDIA’s Ion chipset is an option in September), Windows XP, an Intel 1.6GHz Atom N270 CPU, 1GB of DDR2 memory, 160/250/320GB HDD options, an optional 6-cell battery, Ethernet jack, WiFi, Bluetooth, three USB 2.0 sockets, an ExpressCard slot (gasp!), a 4-in-1 card reader (not just SD) and VGA / HDMI outputs (no optional dongle to buy or lose). It also has a full sized keyboard, multi-touch pad, and optional 1080p video playback, less than 3 lbs. Starting price for the base model is just $499.

Oh, and check out a little bit of innovation here:

Lenovo Quick Start is a software platform that enables quick and easy access to your favorite applications. Within seconds, boot a web browser, music player, online games, photo viewer, an IM tool, Skype and a shortcut to Lenovo social networking.

That’s pretty spiffy if you just need to browse the web for a quick bit of info. And, techncally, it’s a dual-boot system because the quickboot is not Windows, it’s Linux on SSD. 

Lenovo’s VeriFace™ face recognition software lets you make your face your password.

Typing a password is so last century.

Lenovo OneKey™ Rescue System enables you to restore your system from a crash or virus with a click of a button. It’s the quick, easy and reliable way to protect your PC.

As a Mac user who has had to “archive and install” or even clean erase and reinstall my OS on nearly every Mac I’ve owned at some point, the slowness of reinstalling from DVD is a multi-hour process. Then you have to download hundreds of megabytes of OS updates, security patches, Java updates, etc. The XP on the backup here is a finished version with SP3. Aside from a small security update or two, it’s fully baked and ready to serve. Backup from the internal hard drive to itself is like a Farrari compared to installing the old Mac OS from the computer’s original DVD. Can Apple do something like this? Sure they could. But why bother, people will buy the stupid computers without them going to any extra effort.
Adding the SD card was something Apple should have done years ago, like most every laptop AND desktop PC. If Apple really wanted to make a Pro laptop Pro, they’d add a secondmbglare.jpg expresscard slot and go back to a matte screen– or at least give the glossy one a good optical coating to cut glare. But Apple doesn’t bother. Why should they? The momentum is in their favor. As Engadget showed, the glare on all the latest MacBooks is downright nasty!

Apple genuinely won each convert to their Pro suite over the years by working hard and pushing the envelope. But, the last few versions of the software have demonstrated development almost solely through purchasing other companies, not through any great innovation at Apple. For instance, you can’t actually edit true 4k RED footage in FCP- the program can’t handle frames with pixel dimensions that high. And how long has RED been doing 4k? Oh yea, since the beginning. Sony Vegas 9 does handle full 4k images. What has Apple been doing for the past few years? Nothing really.

Falling behind the technology curve lets other companies move ahead and, in this dog-eat-dog business, Apple will lose those pros back to the tools they came from, or new tools and companies who are actively invested in providing advanced computing solutions for their customers. I, for one, want to spend my money with a company who is clearly pushing ahead with new solutions for me to create new things, easier, and faster. In the past few years, that hasn’t been Apple. 

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