What is in the pipeline and what may be worth waiting for? There are few tantalising snippets - disappointingly it is same old, same old, with a refresh.
It is worth noting that many of the upgrades will feature Intel’s new Haswell, 4th generation Core, powerful, yet power-sipping, processors (CPU) and more memory due to substantial decreases in memory prices. This will also herald Wi-Fi AC, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0 and perhaps Thunderbolt 2 interfaces and a move to even higher resolution screens (1920 x 1080 will become the entry level).
Apple CEO Tim Cook says it will not be slave to traditional new product schedules but concentrate on making its great products even better. Consumers expect this iconic company to ‘knock our socks’ off but there is little hope of that this year. Despite what analysts say about Apple losing its mojo it has more going on than most tech companies.
Mac OS X Mavericks: This update will bring OS X and iOS even closer together. It is required to take advantage of some of the new Haswell features. Whether it will be ready in August for the new MacBook Pro or later this year for the Mac Pro is unknown.
MacBook Pro: Is in heavy discount mode now – up to $200 off ($300 for students) ending 27 July so that heralds an update. The new Pro will feature Intel’s Haswell CPU.
Mac Pro: It appears that the release date for this new circular form factor computer is now ‘later this year’. Apple may not worry about missing Christmas sales, as this is predominately a professional product.
iPad mini: iOS7, an updated A5 processor (to address battery life and memory), 32GB base memory, and a Retina display (not sure if a 7” Retina is a compelling reason to buy) but pushed back to October or November.
iPad 5th gen: Similar to the iPad mini with entry-level 64GB memory. It may be thinner as well but we suspect it will use the same format as the 4th generation with more battery capacity. October or November.
iPhone 5S: Similar to the iPad and mini it is a refreshed 5 and that won’t do much to increase sales as consumers will want to wait for the all-new 6 (whatever and whenever that is).
iPod: An iOS7 refresh but nothing exciting. There were rumours of a 5” iPod but we suspect that this will be delayed until a 5” iPhone 6 is released next year.
iWatch: Apple needs a hero product but rumours are that this is a 2014 product.
Apple TV: Will offer a new, optional at extra cost, Ad skipping, premium stream, more games and cable content. We are not sure if existing Apple TV units are updatable. We expect to see a subscription based Apple TV model (In the US) to pave the way for a full-blown Apple HD TV set. November.
Microsoft’s hardware offerings are limited to a handful of rebranded OEM keyboards, mice, web cameras, Surface tablets and Xbox. The real innovation is in thier software which is all coming together under the Windows 8.x user interface. I will reserve comment on software advances until the Tech-Ed conference later in August.
Xbox: The new Xbox One has a suggested price of $499. Microsoft has done an amazing backflip on digital rights management (copy protection) and second hand games. Expect to see a very large media campaign for a November release.
Surface RT: Most pundits suggest that this will remain in the lineup and be bundled with a range of accessories and software to make it more attractive. Dead horse.
Surface Pro: It will receive the Intel Haswell makeover and a Windows 8.1 refresh - it is hard to improve on a good product like this but they could try to reduce the weight a little.
Windows 8.1 update: This brings back the start buttonthat has been such an impediment to desktop, not touch, adoption. Late September or early October.
Windows Phone 8.1: Microsoft is rumored to be looking at copying Google Nexus and releasing a generic Windows Phone 8.1 handset that will invariably be made by Nokia. It will be called a Surface and its design cues will come from the tablet. Not expected this year.
Windows Watch: More likely for 2014.
Nokia is frustrated waiting for Windows Phone 8.1 (rumored now for Q1, 2014) so they can utilize the new Tegra 4 and Snapdragon 800 system on a chip processors which provides more power, increased memory, higher screen resolutions and more camera features.
There will be a refresh of the 520, 620, 720, 820, 920 (925 to be released this week) and 1020 but probably not all before Christmas. Nokia’s time in the sun will be next year.
PlayStation 4: Sony will be using its resources to launch the day before Xbox does so expect late October.
Vaio: Sony have committed to updating all current models to Haswell but beyond that nothing much more.
Nexus 7 tablet: Probably announced in July and released in October.
Android 4.3: ditto and dont expect Key lIme Pie until next year.
Samsung et al
Not to leave out LG, HTC, Lenovo, Huawei, ZTE, and Sony but all we are going to see is subtle updates to their flagship phones and tablets e.g. bigger, brighter screens, more memory, more power, more apps, etc. There is no new thinking here. Analysts are starting to say that Android’s glory days may not be long lived and FireFox OS or others have a real chance at taking significant market share from Android.
Kindle fire HD: Expect to see a full revamp of the Kindle in November and significantly lower prices (made up by selling significantly more expensive e-books).
Kindle Smartphone: There are too many rumours about a Kindle smartphone but unless it has some amazing new features or price point it is more likely to be the addition of smartphone capabilities to a 5 or 6” Kindle.
Motorola X: We know its assembled in Texas and it has to be a ‘hero’ phone for launch on August 1 but it may not be a crowd pleaser down under unless the Telco’s take it on.
What is missing is the epoch making, ‘gee why did they not think of it sooner’, breath taking, stuff. Call me jaded but another Android phone or Intel Haswell Ultrabook just does not excite.
We do need techno geeks to bring us major advances in battery life (smartphone users in particular will all agree), flexible screens, a plethora of useful wearable computing, better Telco wireless data services (especially in remote Australia), faster NBN (ditto) and more.
We need to address security, privacy, BYOD and big brother issues especially as we cannot trust the behemoth, big data, companies not to sell us out.
On the software front, where is the next killer App to replace Facebook or LinkedIn etc.? Where are the new labour saving apps that take household chores and whisk them away?
Where are the fashion trends like Steam punk or colours from the 60’s or futuristic designs that made the Star Trek and the Thunderbirds a household name?
Where is the individuality in a sea of also-ran Android products? Sorry Sony but water and dust proof are nice but not killer features. Nokia’s 1020 comes closest as a new product this year yet it is by no means innovative.
Sadly, the GFC has taken the wind out of entrepreneurs and made computing coffee coloured again. We need revolution, not evolution.