Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apple, Barnes & Noble Announce Impressive New Hardware

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First impressions of Apple's new 27-inch iMac

Wow, Apple is on fire. Their stock price hit an all-time high after reporting a great quarter yesterday. Today, they announced a bevy of new hardware updates:
  • New iMacs: I love that they stretched the screen resolutions up to full HD specs: 1920 x 1080 for the 21.5 inch model, and a whopping 2560 x 1440 for the 27 inch model. The 27 inch iMac has a Mini DisplayPort input, so you can use it as an external monitor for a laptop or other device. With all that screen real estate, they should take that 27 inch screen and sell it as a stand alone monitor. The new iMacs also offer upgraded Intel processors and graphics cards, higher capacity hard drives, and built-in SD card slots. They still don't offer Blu-ray, which is too bad because high quality video is the best way to take advantage of the higher resolution displays.
  • Magic Mouse: Apple bills it as the "world’s first Multi-Touch mouse". It comes included with each new iMac, and sells for $69 by itself. Ha, they finally did it! A mouse with no buttons. Personally, I prefer tactile feedback, so I will probably never buy or use one. It looks truly innovative though, and I'm sure other hardware makers will be influenced by its design.
  • MacBook: The venerable white plastic MacBook lives on. The latest incarnation comes with a few upgrades but remains at the $999 price. The biggest difference is the glass multi-touch trackpad, which has no button because the entire surface is a button. It also adopts an LED-backlit display, like on the MacBook Pro. Finally, it is thinner and lighter plus has longer battery life.
  • Mac Mini: The Mac Mini gets minor processor and memory upgrades. Interestingly, for $999 there is a server model with Snow Leopard Server edition and two 500GB hard drives. I wonder if it will easily let you run the drives in RAID configuration, instead of using it for 1TB. If not, perhaps they want to sell more Time Capsules instead.

Barnes & Noble's rumored new e-reader is now official and is called the Nook. It's available for pre-order on their web site along with some accessories:
It has some impressive specs, including (but not limited to) these advantages over Amazon's Kindle:
  • Color touch screen (the bottom secondary screen for navigation): Even though I always say I prefer tactile feedback, in this case it just looks so much better than the Kindle's physical keyboard. Anyway, an e-reader is designed for reading, not writing.
  • Wi-Fi in addition to 3G connectivity: Should provide faster speed using Wi-Fi.
  • Free Wi-Fi in all Barnes & Noble Stores: Cool. Obviously Amazon cannot compete with this unless they partner with Borders or something.
  • Micro SD expansion slot: Now, can you trade books with people this way? If so, that would be so great. If books are protected with DRM, then not so great.
  • Native PDF support: No conversion necessary.
  • Replaceable battery: Only matters if it dies - but if it does, you would be so glad that it can be replaced.
  • Android operating system: Opens the door for third party applications to be developed.
  • Lending: Books can be shared with other people or other devices for up to 14 days.
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