We thought that September was a big month for technology announcements, well... then October happened. I would bet that there hasn’t been a busier month for new tech hitting the streets in a long, long time. Here’s the rough summary of what came out this month.
Apple announced a 7.9-inch version of the iPad, dubbed the iPad mini. A smaller screen brings a smaller price: the lowest priced version of the mini coming in at only $329...but even with the smaller screen, it has the same resolution as the iPad 1 and 2, which means that it will run all 275,000 iPad apps without any modification.
In a normal month, that alone would have been a huge announcement, but Apple also released a brand new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, an updated Mac mini, and a totally redesigned iMac. (Retina is the marketing term that Apple uses for a display that has a pixel density of sufficient quantity that at normal viewing distance the individual pixels can’t be seen.) The new iMac has a totally redesigned form factor, is a full 8 pounds lighter than the previous models, and has a screen that is only 5mm thin at the edge. In their march-towards-thin, however, Apple has now eliminated CD/DVD drives from all of their new systems, clearly pointing to where they think the future lies.
History may look at October 2012 as Microsoft's most important month in the decade, as it released its iPad competitor, the Microsoft Surface tablet and officially launched Windows 8. The latest version of the ubiquitous operating system, Windows 8 is is the first major redesign of the user interface since Windows was introduced. In a bold attempt to unify its mobile and desktop user interfaces, Microsoft is rolling out the Windows 8 UI across all of its platforms: phones, tablets, laptops and desktops. This is interesting because it means that phones and tablets will have the ability to switch over into a “desktop” mode, which looks and acts very much like Windows 7...but it also means that laptops and desktops will have the touch-oriented “Metro” style interface as well.
Microsoft released not only a new version of Windows, but also its first branded tablet, the Surface. A 10-inch tablet, the current Surface runs WindowsRT, which looks like the desktop Windows 8, but is totally different underneath...to the degree that WindowsRT tablets won’t run any traditional Windows software, only apps designed for it and sold through the Windows app store. Microsoft will later release their Windows Pro tablet version, which is the “full” Windows 8, the same as the desktop version, and will run Windows applications in the same manner as desktops/laptops. I worry about how much brand confusion they will cause with this move, but the intitial reviews of the Surface are mostly positive. Microsoft may yet have a hit on their hands.
Next, Google made a big announcement in the evening. Google will expand its Nexus brand into the 10-inch tablet space with the Nexus 10, and at the same time bump the specs on its lower end Nexus 7 without raising the price. Now, $199 now gets you a Nexus 7 tablet (which I think is currently the best tablet on the market not named iPad) with 16GB of memory instead of the previous 8GB, and $249 gets you one with 32GB. The new Nexus 10 launches as a 16GB wifi model for $399, the latest version of Android, and an absolutely insane display (2560 x 1600 pixel resolution).
This holiday season, the Post-PC market is more crowded than ever. Be assured that come 2013, even more of your patrons will be toting one of these into your library, accessing your resources on it, and asking you for help. Read up, and be ready.