The two iconic companies that have long represented the personal computer industry to most consumers – Microsoft and Apple – have been making big news in the past couple of weeks, with major computer and mobile product announcements and updates. Lets take a look at what’s new and what it means for you.
Apple – New Laptops, OS X, iOS
On June 11, Apple announced updates across its line of laptops. Updates to the base Macbook Pro and Macbook Air were considered good but relatively minor. Most notably, they all got bumped up to the new third-generation Intel “Ivy Bridge” Core processors, which deliver improvements in computer speed, battery life, and graphics performance. The biggest news, however, was the introduction of the very expensive (but some say worth every penny ) Macbook Pro with Retina Display. The laptop is considerably thinner and lighter than other Macbooks (not called Air), but the headline new feature is the high-resolution 2,880×1,800 pixel “retina” display found on the latest iPads.
If you’re looking to purchase an Apple computer, prices have already gone down for the previous generation. Here’s a CNET article on how to get the best deal on a previous-generation Macbook.
Deals on the next-gen computers may take a while to materialize.
Apple also announced the July release of its next OS X operating system, called Mountain Lion (continuing Apple’s big-cat naming convention). The new OS is supposed to be more intuitive, operating more like an iPhone. It will also have much better social network (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) integration, increased iCloud online storage integration (allowing you to seamlessly sync information from computer to phone or tablet), enhanced type-as-you-talk dictation capabilities, and other new features and enhancements. The new OS X will be available for download at $19.99 (or free if you buy a Mac between now and the July release).
Details were also confirmed about Apple’s fall release of iOS 6 for iPhones and iPads. The new mobile OS will boast many improvements to Siri (including iPad support and integration in some cars), greater Facebook integration, a totally new 3-D maps app with turn-by-turn navigation, FaceTime calls over cell networks (not just Wi-Fi), game and photo enhancements, and more. Read all about the coming new iOS 6 here.
Microsoft – New Tablet/Laptop, New Mobile OS
This Monday, Microsoft did something it had never done before: it showcased a Microsoft branded computer, a versatile tablet called the Surface. On the surface, the Surface may look a bit like the market leader, the iPad. It is similar in size and weight. But a couple of things make the Surface stand out: it has a built-in stand and a cover that converts into a keyboard. The two features – plus the fact that it will run full productivity tools like Microsoft Office – position the Surface more as a laptop replacement than other tablets. The new Microsoft product is expected to launch along with the new Windows 8 operating system later in the year. Read a review of the Surface by the Wall Street Journal.
And just yesterday, Microsoft a new version of its Windows Phone OS for mobile devices: Windows Phone 8. The new mobile phone OS is expected to give Microsoft a better chance to compete against rivals Android and Apple in the red-hot mobile device marketplace. The new OS is expected to be both more robust and intuitive to use, with attractive features like Live Tiles, which automatically update various kinds of information based on user customization. Another headline feature is a new mobile wallet app that will let users pay for things with their phones and also track and use coupons, loyalty cards, and other shopping information.
While these next-gen phones are getting good initial reviews, they do present one big problem: the current Windows 7 phones will not be able to be upgraded to Windows 8 when it comes out. So if you think you might want a Windows phone, you should probably wait until later in the year when Windows Phone 8 comes out.