Apple matters: Apple Watch is ‘out’, but so is a new MacBook

Published on the 10/03/2015 | Written by Mark Webster

Mark Webster considers the just-announced Apple Watch but, more intriguingly, there’s a very new MacBook, plus ResearchKit available…

Apple has been courting fashion publications and events with the Apple Watch for months. I guess the tech nerd with money to burn is a ‘given’ as a target audience, so Apple’s chief designer Jonathan Ive has been trying to engage a whole new audience for the (apparently) chic wearable Apple device.

There are three models: Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition. My goodness, what resoundingly boring names! Apple Watch Sport will set you back US$349 and $399; Apple Watch itself starts at US$549 and goes up to $1099; and Apple Watch Edition, crafted from custom rose or yellow 18-karat gold alloys, starts at US$10,000.

Apple Watch will be available in the US, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and the UK on 24th April. No word yet on when it might be available in New Zealand.

Those who wish Apple will grow forever and ever will be cheering that finally Apple has a whole new device category. So-called commentators (among whom I suppose I can at least sometimes be numbered) bang on that it’s been years since Apple introduced a new device category. Actually, Apple went on for decades without doing that – the company was founded in 1977 after all.

I personally vary between being intrigued by what an Apple Watch might be able to do while worrying about brand dilution. I can’t help feeling cynical about the expensive clotheshorse industry and Apple’s (or Ive’s, anyway) engagement with it; how is this core to tech?

Talking about core values, though, Apple took everyone by surprise this morning when it announced an entirely new laptop called a MacBook. Get it? No Pro or Air appellation. Weighing a simply-incredible 920 grams, it’s just 13.1mm thick. The new MacBook features a 12-inch Retina display that’s the thinnest ever on a Mac. It has an Apple-designed full-size keyboard which is dramatically thinner and highly responsive, and even has an all-new ‘Force Touch’ trackpad. It only has one USB-C port for data transfer, video out and charging all in a single connector, plus a new battery design that maximises every millimetre of space to deliver all-day battery life. And for the fashionable, it’s available in three aluminium finishes: gold, silver and space grey.

This isn’t a Pro laptop, this is more like a glam Air. For while the shape, size, weight and engineering all add up to an incredible feat, what matters to those who need ‘pro’ machines is the CPU. My thoroughly fantastic three-year-old MacBook Pro has a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 and 16GB RAM. It powers through Logic, Final Cut and anything else I throw at it with consummate ease. It starts up in 13 seconds and launches Photoshop in four. Would I swap this for a gauche gold MacBook, even though it’s so light and slim, with only a dual-core 1.1 GHz processor? No way.

As a consumer laptop, however, the new MacBook is something else. And at least it will soon be available in New Zealand as well as Australia. With 8GB RAM, 256GB of flash storage and Intel HD Graphics 5300 you can get one for A$1799/NZ$1999, in both cases including GST. A very slightly faster 1.2 GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor version costs A$2199/NZ$2399 inc GST. That also has 8GB RAM, but 512GB of flash storage and uses Intel HD Graphics 5300.

With no standalone video card, this is really not a pro machine, but I can almost guarantee the next MacBook Pro will benefit hugely from the slimming and display breakthroughs in this one.

Meanwhile, a few pros can take solace in the release of ResearchKit. The expansion to HealthKit for iOS 8 offers a way to collect medical data. The platform will make it possible for health care professionals to get up-to-date and accurate patient data in near real time, instead of waiting weeks or months between doctor visits.

Mark Webster is an independent writer of Apple Mac and iOS/iDevice news and reviews for Australia and New Zealand, covering Apple Mac and iDevice (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch) hardware and software and accessories. His guest blog posts make it easy to find the most up-to-date news and information on Apple products and software.

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