Earlier this week, Apple held its iPad and Mac product introduction. There was a lot of news, and so many of the blogs have covered these items that it almost isn’t worth mentioning. I do have a few thoughts, and I can’t say they are original–but I share them nonetheless.
Item #1: New Macs: Apple introduced a new version of the MacBook Pro, as well as the Mac Pro. The Mac Pro is an absolutely stunning machine, but I don’t know a single music educator who would actually need one Apple did mention how quiet the computer is (the same volume as a Mac Mini) so it could be used in a recording studio–so there is that–but in that case, wouldn’t the Mac Mini handle most of your audio recording needs at 1/5 of the starting price? Don’t get me wrong, I think the Mac Pro is a beautiful computer, and I have spent $3000 on a computer in my lifetime. But the Mac Pro just isn’t for most of us. And as I evaluate my computing needs, where my MacBook has become the device that I mainly use for scanning music and entering it into Finale and Notion, I’m not even sure I need a MacBook Pro the next time around. We bought a Mac Mini at Best Buy for just over $400 (great Open Box deal) this summer which we use as our iOS Device hub, as well as a media center (with a large external drive). You do need a Mac to write interactive book with iBooks Author, but iBooks Author runs fine on a MacBook Air, which is probably the next computer purchase for my wife (her white 2007 MacBook is older and will need replacing first) and I (I have a 2008 Aluminum MacBook, the MacBook that eventually became the Pro the following year).
Item #2: New iPads. Both of the new iPads–the iPad Mini and the iPad Air–are wonderful devices. I know this without even holding one. The iPad Mini, despite the opinions of some bloggers and financial analysts, has been a huge success. Women, in particular, are attracted to the device because it FITS IN THEIR PURSE. I haven’t been a fan, because the iPad mini had the “old” processor of the iPad 2 (twice as slow as the 4th generation iPad) and it didn’t have a retina screen. Although you can still buy the original iPad Mini for $299 ($30 cheaper), the new iPad Mini will have the same processor and screen pixels as the iPad Air. So–my only advice? If you want to read music on your iPad, think about the Air; otherwise, consider the Mini. There is no reason NOT to (yes, the camera of the iPad Mini is not on par with the iPad Air, but that is a really small matter). For me, the iPad Mini doesn’t work in my workflow–but I understand that it does for many. A number of elementary teachers love them because they are easier to use in a elementary environment. And the iPad Mini, in my mind, would also be a better fit for schools. The price of the new Mini does jump to $399, which is an increase of $70, but you get nearly eight times the performance of the original Mini and a Retina screen. That is definitely worth $70.
As for the iPad Air, I didn’t want to want it. I wanted an iPad with the Touch ID sensor, as that would be incredibly useful at school. Just last night, a colleague pointed out that if you are mirroring, and your iPad locks, as you turn it on, the passcode can be seen as you enter it on the iPad, and there is no way to turn that off. So I don’t have a passcode on my iPad. But I would have used TouchID. Truthfully, I don’t care too much about the weight and dimensions of the iPad Air (I’ll take them) but the current 4th Generation iPad isn’t too heavy to hold or hard to deal with. In fact, if Apple offers an iPad Pro early next year (an extra-large iPad, much like there are MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs), I will be buying one. When I saw the performance chart of the iPad Air over the 4th Generation iPad, I was convinced. I use some apps that will benefit from more computing power, such as Notion for iPad and SmartMusic. So, an iPad Air is a will-buy for me.
The other big news with iPads is old news. The new processor is 64-bit. In comparison, most of the Windows experience is still 32-bit. This is a very forward thinking processor, and it is possible that we will not see the speed gains in processing like we have over the past years with the next generations of iPads. Expect iPads to get thinner and lighter; but only expect incremental speed increases (watch me be completely wrong).
Item #3: iWork and iLife. Apple announced iWork and iLife (finally). I have used Microsoft Office for a very long time, but I haven’t even installed it again on my Windows tablet (It was installed, but I had to reformat the entire tablet. What a mess). I’ve learned to walk away from Office. I’m also not a fan of Google Docs, as it seems like someone at Google said, “How can we put every possible feature in this program but make it look like junk?” iWork and iLife apps have been elegant and have met my every need when it comes to documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. There are a few things missing in the iPad apps (I’ll get to them), and apparently Apple has made the Mac versions of the program more like the iPad apps versus the other way around. There is a lot of moaning on the Apple blogs right now because of the disappearance of those items, such as AppleScript functionality. What those bloggers don’t seem to understand is that they represent the minority–most people don’t use those functions. Hopefully Apple will bring them back someday–but for now, iWork and iLife are going to meet the needs of the normal user–and they will do so unbelievably well.
There are so many changes to the apps and programs that I won’t attempt to list them all. They appear different (new icons, new color schemes), but they basically function the same (for normal users). Apple is offering everything free (iPad versions on new iOS devices purchased after September), and there is even icloud.com if you want to use the programs on a Windows computer. Apple introduced collaboration as well, so two people can work on a document. These things attack Microsoft Office and Google Docs, and I’ll tell you which product I would rather use: Apple’s.
As always, I am concerned about what I can or cannot do with these apps, and I still have three points of annoyance with iWork.
1) In Pages for iPad, I cannot create a leading tab for a concert program (Title…………….Composer).
2) In Keynote for iPad, I cannot embed a sound or a sound on an object (terrible omission for Music Education). You can, however, now attach a soundtrack to a whole presentation (this is new).
3) In Keynote for iPad, there is no way to annotate the screen while giving a presentation (terrible omission for education in general).
So, I keep hoping for a future day where I can have these tools for what I do in my classrooms.
Item #4: Mavericks. The latest version of OS X, the Mac operating system came out. To be honest, it doesn’t impact me much, although I am hearing that people like the tabs you can use in Finder. Mavericks is stable for me, and any problems I have had with my MacBook are not new (I think the replacement battery I purchased is junky, and my MacBook is over five years old). My MacBook will suddenly shut down if it isn’t plugged in, even if plenty of battery is left. I would need a newer Mac to really take advantage of the power saving features of the new OS. Our Mac Mini seems to be doing fine with Mavericks. All of my programs seem to be running fine with Mavericks (Finale, Notion, PhotoScore Ultimate), so the change is pretty seamless for me. It has been mentioned that there are some compatibility issues with Sibelius; I would expect them to solve that problem soon (although most of the former developers for Sibelius are now working at Steinberg).
In closing, I am still using an iPad (my personal iPad) all day, every day as I teach; and in fact, sometimes I am using two iPads (I will write a future post about this). I also use a MacBook for scanning and Finale, and since our district is a Google Apps district (and I work at a 1:1 iPad school), I have found that my personal Chromebook is a really good tool when I need to work in Google Docs–far better than an iPad, MacBook, or Windows PC. I don’t find much use for my Android Tablet (running the latest OS, Jelly Bean) or my new Windows Tablet (although I am writing this post on the Windows tablet–I have to use it somehow, although I am not a fan of the WordPress Metro/Windows 8.1 experience).
These new iPads, Macs, and iWork/iLife programs will make life a little bit easier for teachers, with lighter, faster, and power-saving devices paired with the creation tools from Apple and thousands of developers. It’s a good time to be in the iPad environment.