Apple on the fiddle

Apple: lost without the big man?

Apple love big numbers. At their 2012 developers conference yesterday, they pulled out the biggest ever – 1 trillion.

“I think that’s the first time we’ve had that number up there,” exclaimed Scott Forstall, grinning and pointing at the gigantic letters looming over him. And I’m sure the crowd would have gasped, if the number hadn’t simply been an indication of how many push notifications the company has sent to iOS devices since the introduction of iOS5 last year. If you’re still reading, that is indeed the most boring statistic ever and something I shall never, ever think about ever again.

Still, at least they got to use the ‘t’ word…

There were lots of other numbers quoted during the keynote speech and most of them related to the next generation MacBook Pro. This is, according to Apple (and they should know), the best computer they have ever made. It features a retina display, which is a fancy way of describing a screen with a very high resolution and pixel density (still awake? Come on, keep going, don’t leave me now). It is also as thin as ice, has a very quick processor, room for many gigabytes of memory, the same battery they used in the Death Star and a fan system which uses asymmetrical blades to spread the noise over multiple frequencies.

Please try and stay with me.

Unfortunately, and as is usually the case with Apple’s top end stuff, no one will be able to afford the new MacBook Pro. Which is a shame. But that didn’t appear to bother Apple’s hierarchy yesterday. They were very excited about their new toy.

I make no bones about the fact that I am an Apple nut. I’ll talk about it until people vacate the room or punch me in the face to make it stop. If Apple make it, I’ll buy it. Apart from the stuff I can’t afford, obviously, like their new, sexy, super-mega-bastard laptop. I do have one slight concern following the WWDC keynote, though, and that’s that they appear to be simply fiddling rather than innovating.

The refreshed MacBook Air line is a good example of this, and – while I want one more than I want anything in the world – rather than move the tiny notebook idea on apace, they simply added a few beefier internal bits. I don’t think this is enough, particularly with Intel ultrabooks looking an increasingly attractive proposition.

Continuing on the hardware front, I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that Steve Jobs wouldn’t have stood for the fact that the 3rd generation iPad is thicker and heavier than it’s predecessor. Nor would he like the name for the new iPad which is ‘the new iPad’ and which in turn begs the question: what the hell are they going to call it when the next one comes along?

It’s the same when it comes to software. For example, they’ve increased the functionality of the technically-flawed iCloud by allowing documents in the cloud and… well, that’s about it, really. No additional web apps, no proper streaming of media content to iOS devices and no decipherable explanation of what on earth iTunes Match is or how it works.

They’re updating Siri so that it will soon misunderstand the fact you want to know something about your local football team. It’ll also be able to grab the wrong end of the stick when you ask it to find, and place a booking at, a local indian restaurant. Providing you live in the US, of course.

But this is all fiddling, I’m afraid. Where’s the innovation? iCloud in particular has so much promise, yet continually fails to deliver with unreliable synchronisation, the confusing, over-complicated iTunes Match service and the infuriating iMessage which simply doesn’t ‘just work’ if you want to continue your conversations on multiple devices.

And, as nice as the top-line MacBook Pro is, it’s just a thinner laptop with a better screen. I want one more than I want to keep my legs, but it is just a computer.

If the rumours of an Apple television set are to be believed, it’ll have to be groundbreaking, as I think it’s the only place left to seriously innovate. Apple make nice-but-expensive computers, with easy-to-use, satisfying operating systems. However, the ecosystem they rely so heavily on, and the one thing that will continue to bring in new customers and provide a solid revenue stream, needs far more work and fiddling won’t push that along at all.

Erm. Right. There you go, then.

Obviously, I’ve already started saving for the new MacBook Air and I can’t wait for iOS6. Or Mountain Lion.

How much does someone want to give me for my legs?