First Things First
The Magic is back. The week of September 9th was a monumental week for Apple. Actually it was a monumental week for the entire tech industry. Well, no, actually the world. The Galaxy. Universe. Ummmmm..Multi-Verse. Yeah. Whenever Apple hits one out of the park it’s a game-changer. CRACK! The Cupertino company hit another one of its iconic grand slam home runs. That’s right slugger. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were true game changers, showing that our beloved Apple can still innovate. Boy can they innovate! And it’s not over. Not by a long shot.
After seven years of pint sized piddling with sized challenged smart devices the Cupertino company finally graced we, the waiting world with not one, but two larger devices. Bigger than bigger! Yeah baby! The 4.7” iPhone 6 reaches the dimensions of the 4.7” HTC Titan that debuted in 2011. And it’s even bigger brother the 5.5” iPhone 6 Plus pops the parameters of huge measuring in a half inch smaller than Microsoft’s nearly year old flagship phablet, the 6” Lumia 1520. Yeah, some may claim that these and other large screened devices like Samsung’s Note series beat Apple and created this market, and well they’d be right. But we’re not going to talk about that. (Let’s worship Apple instead.) The record sale of 10 million phones in three days show why Apple is indeed the center of the tech universe around which we all revolve. All hail Apple!
But it’s not over, because two weeks ago, Thursday October 16, 2014 Apple admitted to us “That it’s been way too long” and then pulled another rabbit out of its magical hat. The iPad Air Pro. The tablet that can replace your laptop. Who would’a thunk it? I was invited to the event. Let me tell you how it all went down.
My Struggle; Our Struggle
Until recent events I have often found myself musing on the following.
It is no secret that the Cupertino company has been accused of losing it’s mojo since the loss of its iconic leader and visionary Steve Jobs. The company which introduced beloved and now ubiquitous magical devices like the iPhone, iPad and the iPod which heralded in a revolution in how the world listens to music somehow became, stagnant, and responsive rather than innovative and proactive. I almost choke uttering those words of the company that I personally have come to know as the innovator within an industry whose entire identity was reshaped by what Apple introduced to the world. Consider this, the MP3 was mainstreamed because of the Apple iPod. The tablet PC went from sci-fi nerd dream device to mainstream consumer product because of the Apple iPad. And the smartphone. Yeah, we know the deal. The iPhone put the “smart” in that little pocket sized phone, delivering to the masses a pint sized computer that has become a desired extension of us all. The Apple iPhone is arguably the industry standard for the smartphone. We Apple faithful form and fill lines eagerly awaiting to acquire these magical jewels of innovation from the company that has changed the world.
Yet in the past few years it seems that my hero company has shifted its place with some of the new comers. I shutter to write these words, reluctant to add credence to rivals claims about the sole company that has forged a path in the industry with unparralleled consumer value. Yet, candidly speaking it seems that in the game of follow the leader, Apple had somehow become the follower. Yes they have been accused of taking cues from companies like Microsoft, continuing an age old rivalry reminiscent of the Capulets and Montagues. With their replacing of their skeumorphic laden iOS with the flattened modern flavors found in Microsoft’s Modern (Metro) OS Microsoft fans have cried foul. Calling the leader of the tech world a copy-cat for blatantly taking design cues from a company that they rival. Sadly though, I shutter to admit it, but I had to agree. I even happened upon a concept by one Jay Machalani that reinvents the iOS home screen and makes it eerily reminiscent of Window’s Phone Live Tiles. If this makes it to a version of iOS well…
Ahhhh, but no more. If any thing could declare to a naysaying world and to the wavering faithful that Apple is every bit as magical, every bit as innovative as it has ever been, the companies introduction on Oct 16, 2014, of a device that defies classification does just that. The category defying iPad Air Pro shakes the tech industry to it’s very foundation. This device which Apple promises will be the tablet that will replace your laptop is the ultimate Post -PC computer. What magic or incantation was exercised to forge this technological wonder I don’t know but Apple is back. By combining the convenience of portability with the sheer power required to be productive Apple has created a category defying device. Yes the magic is back indeed. And it’s back with a vengeance. Come on a journey with me and let me share with you the wonder that only Apple can provoke.
It was a Wednesday afternoon when I opened my email to find a very simple non-descript item which read “Join us for a small gathering, It’s Been Way too Long”. This simple announcement was followed by location, time and RSVP information. That’s it. Clandestine and secretive, typical Apple. This was going to be big. Really big. There was no way I was going to miss this. “Siri, set an appointment for October 16th, 10am PST.” Attend Apple event in Cupertino.” Siri confirmed the creation of the appointment. I was set. “Thanks Siri.” It boggles me that so few iOS users find Siri useful. Sure she often can’t connect to the internet. Sure she doesn’t have the advantage of her own search engine foundation like Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s Google Now. Sure she doesn’t proactively offer suggestions, or interests and isn’t capable of learning about a user over time like Cortana. But she’s an Apple product and she’s funny. That’s good enough for me. Hmmm…I’ll be traveling and my old suitcase was getting a bit battle worn I remembered. “Siri remind to get a new suitcase next time I’m at Walmart”, I said to my trusty digital assistant. “Sorry I can’t do that,” Siri replied. Hahahah. She’s so funny. Good ol’ Siri.
Let’s fast forward a bit. I won’t bore you with my sleepless nights of scouring the internet hoping to procure a tiny morsel, a mere tidbit of what could possibly be awaiting me at the “Small Gathering” event on October 16, 2014. I won’t wear your patience with the retelling of the how I placed multiple calls daily to (now former) contacts at Apple who spared me further rebuff by simply changing their phone numbers or blocking me from their email. No I’m not offended. I sincerely appreciate their dedication to Apple’s strict standard of secrecy. How else does a company rise to the heights of being one of the most powerful brands on the globe and grab the interests of dedicated, eh, and sometime over zealous acolytes such as myself. I do wonder however how I will continue my journalism career covering my beloved Apple after having scared off my contacts. Hmmm. Anyway I digress.
On My Way: The Hotel – “Trying to Keep it Together”
The day of the event. It had been way too long in coming. See what I did there? I’m in my hotel room. Time to gear up.
Apple T-Shirt. On. Check.
IPhone 6. Right pocket. Check.
iPhone 6 Plus. Left pocket. Check (I hope it doesn’t bend…gulp)
Apple ear buds. Shirt pocket. Check.
IPod. Also shirt pocket. Check.
I look at my beats audio headphones and ponder throwing them around my neck. I decide, nah, I don’t want to look like an over zealous geek. I shove the headphones in my bag. Check. Mac Book Air and power cord. Check. Check.
Hmmmm. Bags getting kind of tight. IPad Air. Hmmmp..sqish..move Dr Dre Beats headphones just a bit. Ahhhh.
Ipad Air. Check
Ipad power cord. Hmmmm. I can force it into my already bulging bag and risk looking unprofessional like I’m heading on a camping trip rather than a professional event of one of the most important companies on the globe. I choose to leave the cord. I had half a charge left anyway and I have the Macbook Air should I loose power in the tablet. I could get along surfing the web or doing any other menial tasks normally relegated to my iPad on the MacBook. It will just be a tad bit more cumbersome.
IPad power cord. Not Checked. Geared up and ready to go.
I head out of my room, down the hotel hallway, my heart beating literally twice its normal pace manifesting the excitement that I could barely contain. I pass by a mirror. Whoah, reel it in buddy. Is that how all Apple fans look when Apple is working its magic. The ear to ear smile I caught in the reflection looking back at me made me think of the Joker absent the white make up and cheery red lips. I make a conscious effort to tighten my lips as I continue to walk down the hall. Apple on my mind I pass another mirror. Ok I give. I resign to the reality that I’m destined to look like Bat-Man’s nemesis until the excitement of this event abates.
I reach the elevator. There’s an older gentleman standing there; waiting for the doors to open. He’s returns the smile back to me that I’m beaming to the world. He seems a tad bit uncomfortable with the intensity of my expression. Try to reel it in, I think to myself. I catch a muted reflection of myself in the polished elevators door. My efforts to downplay my perpetual grin made me look as if I was having digestive issues. An inability to pass…well you know. Not a good look. I move my lips about trying to reposition my face.
I catch the gentleman at the elevator eyeing me. I feel a bit awkward and think he’ll understand if I just tell him why I’m so excited. I utter a single word, somehow unable to articulate anything else through my excitement, “Apple!” I squeal. That was bad. Definitely not how that went in my head. Worse than you can imagine having only read it and not heard how my normally baritone voice uttered the single word in the screechy pitch of a pubescent boy. Hmmm, yeah. I clear my throat nervously and debate inwardly whether I should make another attempt.
As if the decision were made for me, as if possessed by the spirit of my late idol, Steve Jobs, I fumble my iPhone from my right pocket, and show it to the gentleman like a traveler unaccustomed to the native language attempts to communicate a thought by pointing out objects and stuttered out the word’s “Apple” and “event”. Yeah. This isn’t going to work. The man looked at me compassionately, the elevator doors opened, we both walked in quietly. The ride down to the lobby was awkwardly silent.
On My Way: The Cab Ride; “Confronting Cortana”
After escaping the embarrassing shadow of my Apple induced mental block when I walked onto sidewalk on this sunny day, my previous unfettered elation returned to me and I nearly forgot entirely my embarrassing encounter. Almost.
I flag down a cab. The cab pulls up to me and I tell the driver where I need to go. “Sure thing buddy!” he replies. He then warns me there’s a bit of traffic backed up on the way. “Really?” I ask. How long before we get there. He lifts a phone from the seat beside him. It was bigger than my iPhone 6 plus! Wow. I didn’t really recognize it, not that it wasn’t a great looking phone or that the company that made it had not done its job marketing it. Frankly I didn’t recognize ANY devices outside of Apple devices.
Then I heard the driver say, “Cortana how long until we get to…”, then he said the address. Cortana, hmmmm. A very natural voice stated how far the destination was from our location and how long it would take to get there. According to Cortana, which I recalled based on the commercials was on Windows Phone, I would be about 5 mins late. Bummer. I said to the driver with a smile, “You know what would be awesome. If these digital assistants of ours could tell us proactively when to leave for an appointment, you know, accounting for traffic. We’d never be late! That would be some real serious tech! But that’s probably a few years away huh?”
“Cortana can do that now”, he said, with a raise of his eyebrows as he peered at me in the rear view mirror.
“No, no”…I said to him, trying to make him understand. Surely he misunderstood. “I mean, if I put something in my calendar, right? And without touching it, or anything, Siri would just “know” what the traffic conditions are around the time I need to get to my appointment and would just tell me when to leave so that I could make my appointment on time.” I was content that I had explained my idea sufficiently and the driver would be impressed with such a forward thinking premise.
“Cortana can do that now”, he said.
I was a bit frustrated. Maybe he didn’t understand me. He spoke the language well. As a matter of fact he looked and sounded as if English was his first language. Surely there was no language barrier. What was so hard? I said, “Maybe you don’t understand.”
He interjected and repeated back to me exactly what I had said.
I said “yeah”, a bit excited, “now you get it!”
“Cortana can do that now,” he said.
He then passed me his phone. Wow. This Nokia (I saw the word just above the display), was bigger than my iPhone 6 Plus, but smooth, light, thin and incredibly well built, I thought. How could a non-Apple company design such a well-built device? And why hadn’t I heard of it? I was pulled from this heretical thought when I suddenly remembered who I was, where I was going, and who and what I was committed to. I chided myself for my blasphemous non-Apple thoughts. I’m sorry Jobs.
The screen on this what looked to be about a 6”display was black with a dim clock and it looked like a calendar event at the bottom. “Pretty poor display I said, with a grin.” Again secure in the inferiority of everything non-Apple.
“Tap it,” said the driver.
“Tap the screen”, he repeated.
I obeyed, and the huge screen lit up into one of the most beautiful displays I had ever seen. I had thought the previous screen was a lock screen. But it must have been some sort of low power consumption screen that displays desired info without killing the battery. Nice trick. I immediately felt condemnation for that thought. Sorry Jobs.
“Slide the screen upward,” said my driver, “clearly pleased with sharing the merits of his device with me.” I did as I was instructed. It’s ALIVE! My eyes widened with wonder as I saw a display full of tiles flipping about displaying all sorts of information.
My driver, instructed me to a specific Live Tile, which was actually a webpage which he shared was “pinned” to his Home screen. Wow. The pinned web paged tile displayed live updated information just like an app tile! I touched it as instructed and it I was met with a YouTube page for a Siri vs Cortana commercial.
“Play it,” said my driver.
I watched the video, Siri’s and Cortana’s voices filled the car as the driver and I heard the words that educated me on just how capable his Cortana was.
I bowed my head lightly in embarrassed silence after I handed him back his phone with a reluctant “Thank You.” With compassion, he allowed me to make the rest of my ride in silence.
We reached our destination, I paid the man, glad I would never see him or that awesome stupid phone again. Cortana remind me…I paused…horrified with myself. Siri (Sorry Jobs) remind me to tell my boss that I would like to write an article entitled “All the Ways Siri is Better Than Cortana,” next time I talk to him. “Sorry I can’t do that,” Siri replied. This isn’t funny.
Into the Sacred Hall- AHHHHHHHHHHH
Ok. I’m about to enter this building and surround myself with the Apple-est of the Apple. I’m about to hear Apple tell the world about another magical device. So what Microsoft has Live Tiles and an awesome , (sorry Jobs), stupid digital assistant, and a really nice flagship phablet the Nokia Lumia 1520….arrrgghhhhh. Purge these Non-Apple thoughts from me!
I jog, walk, run, powerwalk…all of the above…into the building. I need – Apple.
When I stumble into the room, I see the event has already begun, several disgusted faces turn toward me. “I’m one of you”, I think, “forgive me.” Though they were a bit upset with my disturbance it felt good to be among my own. The defiling events that accompanied my transit to this sacred place were almost immediately purged from me as I heard the magical words of the presenter unveil the iPad Air Pro as I took my seat.
The iPad Air Pro – The Magical Tablet that Will Replace Your Laptop
This is the tablet that will replace your laptop he said. I salivated. Literally. The woman sitting beside me moved over a bit. But gave me a reassuring understanding look. I looked at her, said, “sorry”…and with a massive smile that I no longer cared was stretched across my face, (I was among my own now), whispered, “Apple.” She looked back at me, wiped the corner of her mouth with the sleeve of her shirt that had the Apple logo emblazoned on it and echoed, “Apple.”
I returned my gaze to the presenter. Onstage was a scale. The presenter placed a MacBook Air on one side and the new iPad Air Pro, (the tablet that could replace your laptop) on the other. The crowd erupted in rapturous applause as the weight of the MacBook Air lifted the iPad Air Pro high into the Air. Apple.
The presenter proceeded to wow us with the engineering ingenuity that went into creating this incredible magical device. If I were not a practical, purely empirical, data driven, analytical person I would contend that Apple had a wizard or sorcerer locked in the deepest, most secretive corners of their headquarters boldly implementing these incredible design features into this impossible device in bold defiance to all the known laws of physics.
Is This Thing For Real?
How else could a such a beautiful device encased in pure magnesium alloy, with a 12” display measure in at 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.36 inches, weigh 1.76lbs, and contain up to a Core i7 chip, 512GB Hard Drive, 8GB RAM, a USB Port, expandable memory, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, stereo microphones, 5-megapixel front and rear cameras, a digital compass, ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer? This thing was a full computer with the form factor of a tablet. We were floored. Every last Apple loving one of us. Pure magic.
I was frantically typing notes into my iPad, having pulled it from my bag after my late arrival because it was just a tad quicker than pulling out and setting up my MacBook Air. It was however a bit of a challenge trying to keep up with the presenter as he graced us with amazing detail after amazing detail as the onscreen keyboard was less speedy than an actual keyboard.
As if reading my thoughts the presenter then pulled out a cover. No a Type-Cover, to be exact. Oh my God. No he did not, just click the type-cover magnetically into the base of the iPad Air Pro. Wait…no…wait. This thing has a built-in kickstand too!
The presenter went on to show how the kickstand has a continuous hinge allowing for positioning the device at any point within a 150 degree range. He then demonstrated what he dubbed lapability. He placed the tablet/laptop on his lap and the connected Type Cover he then secured to the base of the device via an additional magnetic strip making the device even more stable! In-stinking-credible! I want one. I want one now! The battery in my iPad died. Arrrrgggghhh. Afraid of missing any detail, I quickly fumble into my back pack to retrieve my MacBook, shoving the now useless tablet back into the bag. Boot up. Boot up. Boot Up. I wait. And…action…
Good old MacBook…I look up to see that the presenter has detached the Type Cover from the iPad Air Pro and is holding it like one might hold a legal pad. He also has a pen in his hand. The screen on the tablet/laptop miracle device appears to be off. He clicks the pen. The screen comes to life and automagically launches OneNote. Holy practical application Apple! This is incredible. He scribbles a note on the screen, finishes up and viola it’s saved to the cloud accessible from any device. He showed some other amazing pen tricks like selecting text, handwriting recognition and the like. The weight and the feel of the pen were deliberately designed to feel like a pen. “The pen reinvented he”, he shared. Amazing.
Wait There’s More
I was so full at this point. Apple had fully purged all of that Microsoft, Windows Phone, Cortana stuff from me with this amazing “iPad Air Pro, the Tablet That can Replace Your Laptop” presentation. I was sure that every trick had been presented and the close of this amazing show was upon us. Then the presenter said something that convinced me that there was indeed a sorcerer or magician serving Apple in the creation of its magical devices. This tablet that was indeed a full computer that was lighter than a MacBook Air, that could replace your laptop, had a soundless fan that you would not feel getting hot. Holy incredible feat of engineering Apple! Apple had reinvented the fan! This tidbit of information excited us so that literally, everyone in the house stood to their Apple-loving feet, applauded continuously with their Apple-loving hands for a full three Apple-loving minutes. Everyone except me.
I applauded for four Apple-loving minutes.
Once Apple security calmly and compassionately sat me down the presentation was brought to a close. Takeaway? Suffice it to say that Apple has a winner with this device. The company decidedly, for this Oct 16th, 2014 event, bounded beyond the beaten path of the mundane uninspired modifications of a thinner, lighter and faster device with a better display. Blah, blah blah. BOOOORING! Instead Apple presented to the world, an impossible feat of engineering wonder, a magical tablet that could replace your laptop! In a word: Revolutionary! Indeed I was sold. Apple announced three different configurations. A Core i3, for the budget conscious, the middle range Core i5 and the highest tier Core i7. I am an Apple fan to the core, i7 I’m coming for you!
In the weeks since Apples iPad Air Pro announcement the typical avalanche of coverage commenced. News outlets, morning shows, radio programs, tech bloggers, programs from GMA to CNN couldn’t push enough Apple. And we the consumer public voraciously ate it up. News cameras around the country panned lines comprised of hundreds of eager Apple acolytes waiting to get their hands on Apple’s latest game-changing device.
Now here I stand 2 weeks after the event. I am about the 251st person in the line at my local Apple Store eager to pick up my iPad Air Pro which will go on sale in 4 more days. It has been a long time coming. Way too long. But now I’m here and geared up.
Apple T-Shirt. On. Check.
IPhone 6. Right pocket. Check.
iPhone 6 Plus. Left pocket. Check (Sadly it bent a little last time.)
Apple ear buds. Shirt pocket. Check.
iPod. Also shirt pocket. Check.
Beats audio headphones securely in place around my neck. This is a long line. Check.
Mac Book Air and power cord. Nope.
IPad Air. Of course not. I’m here to pick up the tablet that is going to replace my laptop.
I look at the guy sitting in his sleeping bag to my left, and the girl huddled in a small makeshift lean to on my right and say, “the magic is back!”, with a smile that would have hurt if my face wasn’t numb from the chilling rain. They each looked at me, offered their fists, each of which I bumped and in unison we each uttered, “Apple.”
Three Hours Later:
Boy this is a loooong line. How about a little entertainment. “Siri, sing me a song.”
“Sorry, I can’t do that.”
No this really isn’t funny.
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