Stop Whining About What Apple Didn’t Deliver

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Here’s what we learned today at Apple’s iPad Air and iPad Mini Retina introduction: Apple doesn’t care about your expectations, your demand for something new. It’s still in the business of satisfying users who love their elegant designs and that certain extra-special Apple something.

We also learned that Apple is still a software company –- a software company that does not have to make money selling software. They’ll make their money on hardware like the iPad, iPad Mini, a variety of MacBooks and the new Mac Pro, thank you very much.

That makes Apple the opposite of Microsoft — a company that, Xbox and Kinect aside, is shackled to software sales like a pair of on-the-run prison escapees. It is constantly figuring out new ways to make you feel like you’re paying less for more of their powerful platforms.

I’ve grown tired of being disappointed by all that Apple doesn’t announce. But for the record, let’s lament those innovations that didn’t attend this San Francisco event.

Touch ID: Apple made its flagship iPad as thin as the iPad Mini and stuffed it full of A7 processing power, but it couldn’t include the same Touch ID fingerprint reader and security components they just added to the iPhone 5S. I assume this is because they had two choices: go thin or go secure. It could also have been a price consideration: Apple never really lowers prices, it simply discounts older technology. It also tries not to raise prices too much. An iPad Air with Touch ID might have cost more than $500 — a bridge too far for some iPad-loving consumers.

Slo Mo: Both iPads got new components and improved cameras, as well, but neither one got the nifty slo-mo video option.

Gold iPad: My guess is that Apple took a look at the 9.7-inch iPad in gold and realized it looked just a bit too blingy. Space Gray, though, is gorgeous.

The iWatch: Make no mistake, Apple is working on wearable technology. Every recent hire tells you so. But they’re also watching the market, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear in particular. Why jump out with something new, when you can wait and learn about every single mistake you don’t want to make. Samsung happily fails in public. Apple? Not so much.

Apple TV or iTV: Yes, there are new rumors that a 65-inch Apple TV will arrive sometime next year. I’m not buying it, because I get the sense Apple is souring on the branded TV set idea. Maybe it’s the difficulty of working with cable networks who drag their heels on bringing content to set-top boxes, and would never build anything special for a TV. In any case, don’t hold your breath for an actual television set with an Apple logo.

Apple TV Redesign: In lieu of a TV, I assumed Apple would at least unveil the first significant redesign of Apple TV in at least two years. Instead, Apple all but ignored their “hobby” product. (It did get a new app that streams iMovies from your iOS device, however.)

Cool Covers: We wanted new covers that extended the iPad screen, or at least ones that added a keyboard. Instead we got some very cheap, flexible covers: quite nice, not at all inspiring.

One might posit that Apple is holding back these and other announcements for a third fall event. I don’t think so. Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about this as the company’s holiday lineup. That’s it for 2013.

So yes, I’m a little frustrated. A huge chunk of this unveiling focused on software we heard about last summer: Mavericks and iOS 7; powerful, but under-the-hood MacBook changes; details on the awesomely powerful and shockingly sexy Mac Pro; the revelation that Apple is giving away most of its software for free.

These are good and important announcements, but none will change the industry.

The new iPads are beautiful. I can, in fact, hold the one-pound iPad Air with one hand. It looks great and, in my brief time with it, seems to zip along on the wings of an A7 chip. The iPad Mini Retina is, on the surface, indistinguishable from the original iPad Mini. However, in brief side-by-side tests with an original, I could see the stark differences in performance and screen quality.

These two tablets are, from a design perspective, state of the art. They are exquisite to look at and hold your attention like a laser beam, on the content and fun within. It’s the ideal that other tablet manufacturers are still striving to match.

And while Apple tempts you with these powerful goodies, it’s still smartly left some room for those who value a bargain. You get a cheaper non-retina iPad Mini for $299 (still $70 more expensive than an Amazon Kindle Fire HDX) and a $299 iPad 2. These older products, thanks to Apple’s design and build work, are still excellent products, and if you can live with yesterday’s big thing, you may still want one.

Whether or not you still mourn the days of “one more thing” or have grown weary of wondering if Apple is still “innovating,” Apple is going to sell millions and millions of these iPads to some very happy consumers. In the end, that may be all that matters.

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