two days after reporting yet another quarter of record revenues and profits, Apple wheeled out the latest version of its ultra-thin MacBook air. With the roaring success of the iPhone 4 and the iPad – which Apple still can’t produce quickly enough to meet demand – the release of a new ºlaptop, albeit the thinnest, sleekest one on the market – seemed almost anachronistic.
But, as Apple continues to micro-manage its position in the market with the precision of a military general, it is the software update that accompanied the new product that is of greatest interest.
OSX Lion, the latest version of its operating system, is a significant step towards Apple fully integrating its three main platforms, and it borrows heavily from the technology that has pushed its iPad and iPhones to a combined 18m sales in the last three months alone.
The most lucrative development for Apple is creating a portal on its laptops to its hugely successful App Store. While users can still download other software, this allows them to easily purchase the plethora of useful – and not so useful – applications available on their iPhones, directly to their desktop. Expect to see even more people playing Angry Birds next time you visit Starbucks.
The advantage to Apple is obvious – it can rake in an even bigger slice of the now vast application revenue pool (an estimated 5bn apps have now been downloaded through the App Store, with Apple pocketing a third of the cover price). Moreover it consolidates Apple’s position as a frontrunner in the sector, in which Google’s Android Market is becoming increasingly powerful.
It is also a chance for Apple to build towards its target of controlling the lions share of the mobile advertising market. Earlier this year it unveiled iAds, a platform which allows application developers – and Apple itself – to make money from advertising contained within apps.
Apple is trailing behind Google in this area, which is increasingly seen as one of the most important battles in consumer technology. By encouraging its users to download more apps, which will also be playable on the firm’s portable devices, it can claw back ground from Google.
And with apps integrating across its platforms, there is even greater incentive to own the whole range of Apple products. This is a very shrewd release.
THE NEXT GENERATION | APPLE’S LATEST RELEASES
The new MacBook Air
While the trend in notebooks is towards cheaper, Apple’s smallest offering is resolutely high-end. The latest version is even faster than its predecessor and more reliable, with annoying hard drive crashes eliminated. It also takes the multi-touch trackpad to a new level, borrowing from the touch interface of the iPad.
FaceTime for Macs
Apple is soldiering on with video conferencing, even after most developers gave up on the idea more than a decade ago. It will now allow calls from iPhones (and the new iPod Touch) to Macs, and vice versa. This promises to work seamlessly with the built in Mac camera and microphone. If anyone can make it work, Steve Jobs can.
An upgrade to Apple’s photos, movies and music logging and editing software package. Apple is pushing the “full screen mode” feature, dedicating more space to the programme as desktops become increasingly cluttered.
As above, released next summer.