Following our article with some advice from which Apple products you
should stay away right now, there is, of course, the necessity of an
article of which Apple products you can buy – without having to worry
that your shiny new device will be replaced within a few weeks. Here
are our thoughts on the safer buys in Apples lineup.
Calling an Apple product a “safe buy”, of course, is somewhat contradictory in itself since many of these products aren’t just productivity tools. Apple was able to create a sense of lifestyle and emotion around its hardware and software. If you aren’t exactly buying a server, you may very well be buying an experience as well – and it is simply impossible to consider timing as a factor that will decide over a satisfying or disappointing experience.
However, owning an Apple product always has an additional rewarding element when it is new, whether it is the guy next to you in airplane showing off an iPod or iPhone, someone in a Starbucks prominently displaying his MacBook Air or a friend who is proud of his Cinema display. Bragging rights come standard with new Apples: To get the best overall emotional and practical experience, you certainly want to look for something that won’t be replaced next week.
Here are our recommendations for products that fall into this category.
– iPod touch. Yes, we are starting with a tough one and there are certain conditions attached to this recommendation. The iPod touch was introduced along the iPhone, so it’s still in the first iteration phase.
The good: The destiny of the iPod touch is closely tied to the iPhone since the touch is essentially an iPhone minus the “phone” and double the memory. The upcoming software development kit (SDK) will enable developers to create apps that work on both iPhone and iPod touch. Therefore, any change to iPhone hardware specs and features will have to translate to the iPod touch in order for the two devices to remain fully compatible with upcoming third-party applications. And besides that, the iPod touch is the product that leads Apple to higher iPod average selling prices, which means that the core idea of this model is going to stay.
The bad: Since all checks indicate that a 3G iPhone will debut at WWDC, there is a good chance that the iPod touch will also get an upgrade. The iPhone upgrades will determine what upgrades the touch will get, but we believe that these upgrades will be limited to a perhaps a slightly updated casing as well as more memory in the touch, especially since flash memory is dirt cheap these days.
What it means: The touch is already a pretty fancy and functional device and we do not expect major changes until 2009/2010 – when Intel will be trying to convince Apple to transition to the Moorestown MID platform. If you want a fancy iPod now, buy the touch and stay away from the Classic, if you don’t need 80 or 160 GB of capacity. If you already have an iPod, wait for the Moorestown iPod/iPhone, which should be a much more capable mobile computing/communication devices that today’s generation.
– iPod shuffle. Although it is the smallest music player in the iPod family, the shuffle emerged as the best-selling iPod during the last Christmas season. This was largely due to the form factor and the fact that $49 (1 GB) could buy an iPod ($69 for 2 GB). Apple slashed the price of the 1 GB model and introduced a 2 GB model in January, which suggests that imminent upgrades are very unlikely. A 4 GB shuffle would not make much sense – not now and maybe not even in its next revision: Why would you carry around 1000 songs in this player, without being able to scroll through your collection on a display? It is much more likely that we will see a completely new shuffle sometime next year – or for the back-to-school season. At $49, it is a pretty good deal.
– Mac Pro. Apple’s workstation for creative professionals got a significant upgrade in January. The hardware was upgraded to two 45 nm Intel quad-core Xeon 5400 series processors, running up to 3.2 GHz, with 12 MB of L2 cache per processor. There’s up to 4 TB of internal storage and various graphics options. After these significant revisions, the Mac Pro is now in middle of the current phase. We know that Apple historically updates Mac Pros roughly every six to eight months, so we could be looking for minor speed bumps at WWDC in June. Expect more dramatic updates in very late 2008 or early 2009, which are likely to include Intel’s Nehalem processors. The manufacturer’s Dunnington 6-core CPU would also be an interesting option (which, however, is rather unlikely, since Apple has used Xeon DP and not MP CPUs so far).
– MacBook. Apple’s consumer and pro laptops account for more than 50% of all Macs sold. Both the MacBook and MacBook Pro were unexpectedly upgraded 49 days ago, although they weren’t due for a revision. The two laptop families now sport the same 45 nm Intel Core 2 Duo processors (up to 2.4 GHz in MacBook and up to 2.5 GHz in MacBook Pro), larger hard drives (120 – 250 GB in the MacBook, 200 – 250GB in the MacBook Pro) and 2 GB memory standard (with the exception of the 13”, 2.1GHz MacBook, which comes with 1 GB). The MacBook Pro also got Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor with 512 MB of video memory (with the exception of the 15”, 2.4 GHz model that comes with 256 MB) and a multi-touch trackpad that was first introduced in the MacBook Air. Interestingly, Apple scrapped the Apple Remote from all laptops, selling it now separately for $19. So, what are the chances these laptops will get a new upgrade at WWDC in June, merely 100 days after last revision? Well, it depends on whom you ask.
Some say that a June revision is a no-brainer since Intel’s Montevina platform (Centrino 2, with the big news being the arrival of a WiMax chipset) will also arrive in June. However, we believe that Apple is more likely to follow last year’s upgrade pattern, if there will be an upgrade at all. Last year, Apple only upgraded the Pro line to the Santa Rosa platform, creating a distance to the regular Macbook. This approach would make sense this year as well. Common sense suggests that, if you want to jump on the WiMax train (and provided that you live in an area that actually has WiMax service), wait for a possible upgrade or Nehalem-based Macbooks that should arrive in January 2009 at the latest. If you are looking for a Macbook, buy it now. We just don’t believe that Apple will upgrade the device after just 100 days or so.
– MacBook Air. Apple’s ultra-thin, lightweight laptop is an entirely new product, thus attracting hordes of early adopters. Sales are reportedly off to a great start, exceeding Apple’s own estimates. Should you buy it now? Well, it is a new product that has been on the market for only two and a half months. We have no data when it may get a revision, but it still looks like a pretty fresh product to us. Most likely upgrades for the notebooks will be larger and more affordable solid state drives as well as a multi-touch overlay LCD screen, both of which do not seem imminent at this time. To our knowledge, the Macbook Air will still attract lots of onlookers when you take it out of your briefcase, which is the best sign that it is still a current and sexy product.
Of course, we are open to your suggestions: Let us know if we missed any products in this article. And no, we don’t give any guarantees for our recommendations.