Apple’s WWDC News: Siri Makes New Friends But It’s All About the Mac

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In addition to an even trippier special edition of its tie-dye logo, Apple unveiled more than one dozen new products today at the brand’s highly anticipated 2012 Worldwide Developers Conference. While Apple’s main growth drivers remain the iPhone and the iPad, its Mac line remains a cornerstone.[more]

The 17-inch MacBook Pro is apparently disappearing — so welcome a new (thinner) MacBook Pro with Retina display, 15.4 inches across with pixel density of 2880 x 1800, weighs less than 4.5 pounds and has 7 hours of battery life, and an HDMI slot to connect to HDTV. With third-generation Ivy Bridge processors, and Nvidia GeForce GT650M graphics, the starting price is $2,199.

A new MacBook Air, with USB 3.0, 512GB storage is equipped with Intel Ivy Bridge chips, offering up to Core i7 with Turbo Boost, bringing the processor speed up to 3.2GHz. Hard drive options include a 512GB SSD, and graphics that are 60% faster. The 11-inch model (left) starts at $999, and a 13-inch goes for $1199.

On the iOS 6 front, Siri is extending her reach the on iPad, giving sports scores, integrating Yelp (restaurants) and Rotten Tomatoes (movie) reviews, and OpenTable for dining reservations. There’s a Do Not Disturb feature that lets you ‘white list’ certain callers and switch from a current call to an important call. Siri can also launch apps, post to Facebook and be used internationally. And within a year, she’ll be popping up in cars, too.

Apple is now allowing Facetime to work over the cellular network and is consolidating a user’s Apple ID and phone number, enabling calls and messages to be picked up via iPhone or iPad. Users can organize offline reading lists, share photo streams and a Passbook app stores boarding passes, store cards and movie tickets.

Siri is being integrated into cars through an “Eyes Free” button built into the steering wheel of your car, and so far BMW, GM, Toyota, Mercedes, Honda, Audi and Jaguar have signed on.

Google Maps has been replaced with Apple’s own 3D map system, integrated with Siri, and includes business listings, traffic maps with incidents, and real-time crowd-sourced data for traffic flow.

OS X Mountain Lion, $19.99, will be available next month with about 200 new features including better iCloud integration and built-in Dictation. Apple’s iCloud service boasts 125 million registered users and apps include mail, contacts, calendar, Messages, Reminders, and Notes along with “Documents in the Cloud,” which syncs documents from Pages, Keynote, Preview, and TextEdit.

Apple announced closer ties between iOS6 and Facebook so that users can post pictures and video directly to their accounts without using the Facebook app, and post updates via Siri. Apple CEO Tim Cook announced 400 million App Store accounts, with 650,000 apps in its App Store and 30 billion apps downloaded so far. To date, Apple has produced $5 billion in sales for developers.

Reactions across social media are mixed, but this comment from Steve Weinstein sums it up thus:

“That people are treating every word Apple says like they were God reading the Ten Commandments. I’m not saying that a Retina Display isn’t impressive or a better Siri should never see the light of day, but people (especially the Apple fanatics) are over reacting.

Other than a Retina Display, I can get an HP Envy 15 with the same specifications (minus the Retina display but has 1920 x 1080 anti-glare) for $1909. You could even subtract $100 if you go with Windows 7 Home Premium. That is a whole $200-$300 less for a MacBook Pro clone. It is probably even cheaper if you go with the lower end “high performance” line that OEMs build.

So really, I am excited for new features for the iPhone but at the same time, disappointed that people are treating everything they say like the Ten Commandments.”

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