Today, Apple unveiled a new lineup of devices: new iMacs, Mac Mini, a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro (which, weighing in at only a half-pound more than the Air, is sure to be a best-seller, as its predecessor was), a fourth-generation 9.7-inch iPad (with 4x faster A6X processor, expanded LTE, faster Wi-Fi, Lightning connector, improved cameras, and other refinements), and…ta da!...the long-awaited iPad Mini. As early as October 2011, credible reports from Taiwan surfaced about a 7.85-inch iPad, so it’s no surprise to see this product. And yet, Apple’s execution dazzles. You pick up this device—which weighs only 0.68 pounds—and it feels feather-light, perfectly weight-balanced—and decidedly not made out of plastic, as its competitor devices are.
I want to pause for a moment to comment further about the weight, because my very first impression of the first-generation was “It’s heavy!,” much to the chagrin of Michael Tchao, VP of Product Marketing for iPad. The iPad Mini has a larger screen than competing devices from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Google, but it’s somehow lighter than its competitors. Here’s how the weights compare, courtesy of each vendor’s product specs page:
Clients frequently ask me about the big picture: How is consumer computing changing, and what’s coming next? My new Forrester report, published today, takes on that question. It’s called “Smart Body, Smart World,” and it describes the paradigm shift in computing that we see happening now. Computing has evolved from the mainframe to the desktop to the shoulder bag to the pocket, and now computing is taking over new frontiers: Our physical bodies and the physical environments we inhabit.
When we look at new, sensor-laden devices (SLDs) like the larklife or Progressive Snapshot,we see the beginnings of a new phase of personal computing that will transform the way we live and work. Sensor-collected data, when combined with intelligence and advice, will influence our decision-making and self-expression in domains as diverse as health, finance, shopping, navigation, relationships, work, and communication. SLDs could take any shape; in this report, we talk about them in two broad categories:
Wearables. “Wearables”—devices worn in or on the body—include accessories like Google Glass or the Nike+ FuelBand, but can also include electronics actually enmeshed in our skin and organs like the “electronic tattoos” developed by Nanshu Lu at the University of Texas at Austin, or the heads-up display contact lenses developed by researchers at Washington University (one of whom, Babak Parviz, is now leading Project Glass at Google).
Today, Microsoft announced pricing and availability for the Windows RT version of the Microsoft Surface ($499 for 32GB, not including the “Touch Cover,” available for preorder today, shipping 10/26). This product is intended to be a pure consumer play; Microsoft also plans to launch a Windows 8 version of the Surface, aimed at enterprises, for which it has not yet announced pricing. Yesterday, I spent the day with the Surface team led by Steven Sinofsky and Panos Panay, and I learned many things: Sinofsky is from Florida, for example, and when he stands on a Surface that’s attached to skateboard wheels, it doesn’t break. I learned about the importance of optically bonded displays, saw nifty 3D printers making plastic models, and heard about the many trips to China required to perfect the Surface manufacturing process. I was told many examples of the Surface team’s attention to detail, down to the sound design of the kickstand closure.
I did not hear, however, the answers to the most pertinent questions asked by our clients, many of whom are product strategists in Microsoft’s partner ecosystem (OEMs, ISVs, and potential app developers like media companies, banks, and retailers). Will Surface expand distribution beyond Microsoft’s stores and website? If Microsoft believes it’s making the “best hardware for Windows,” as Sinofsky told us, how does it expect its OEM partners to respond? No comment on both fronts.
We’ve seen many dazzling new consumer technology products launch in 2012, with many more expected by year end. Amid the bang of the Microsoft Surface, iPhone 5, and Google Nexus, it would be easy to miss the quieter product launch today of the larklife, the second product released by Lark Technologies, a 21-person startup located in a Mountain View shopping center. As I’ve been researching my soon-to-launch report on the bigger story of wearables, Lark caught my eye, and I was completely blown away by the demo I saw of their new product last week.