Apple's Mac moves take advantage of Windows 8 hardware uncertainty

Summary:Apple's hardware lineup is easy to understand and clear cut. Microsoft's Windows 8 throws various form factors against the wall to see what sticks.

Apple launched a new 13-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina Display that weighs in at 3.57 pounds, will start at $1,699 and starts to ship on Tuesday. The move is designed to trump Microsoft's Windows 8 launch and take advantage of a lot of hardware uncertainty.

Phil Schiller, marketing chief at Apple, unveiled the 13-inch MacBook Pro that is "super thin and light." Those last points are worth noting. The latest MacBook Pro isn't MacBook Air or ultrabook light, but it's not far off.

Apple's message is that it'll continue to innovate with the Mac, but the broader theme is that the company's line-up is easy to understand. Apple launched the 13-inch MacBook Pro, new iMac and Mac Mini. The Apple Mac portfolio features an iMac that's tablet thin too (photos via CNET's James Martin).

More:  Apple trots out 13" MacBook Pro with Retina; upgrades Mac Mini, iMac

maclineup

The contrast between the Mac launch today and Microsoft's Windows 8 rollout is intense. Microsoft is hitting the market with dozens of form factors . You have convertible devices, tablets, laptops with touchscreens and a lot of uncertainty. The star of the Microsoft show---the Surface---is largely a missing.

maclineup2

Indeed, at the Gartner Symposium in Orlando, Microsoft's Windows 8 booth was bustling. Tech execs were playing with a bevy of devices, but largely seemed uninspired. Microsoft reps gamely walked people through Windows 8 and a Windows 8 RT tablet. Then a man asked about the elephant in the room.

IT pro: "Where's the Surface?"
Cheery Microsoft rep: "You can preorder one, but they won't appear until Friday."
IT pro: But I don't care about these. I want to see the Surface.
Cheery Microsoft rep: I know but you'll just have to wait.

There are thousands of CIOs passing through Orlando this week. Some of them see the Surface as a convergence device. Microsoft should work that angle.

Gartner analyst David Cearley said one of the biggest questions around Windows 8 is whether notebook/tablet hybrids will be compelling. Intel CEO Paul Otellini noted that it may take a year for Windows 8 to have a hero form factor.

"Our customers are designing entirely new categories of PCs," said Otellini, adding that there will be more than 140 core-based Ultrabooks rolled out next year -- more than 40 of which will have touch capabilities and more than a dozen will be convertibles.

In other words, the Wintel world is throwing form factors against the wall to see what sticks. Apple has Mac clarity. It's going to be an interesting December quarter for client computing.

Also:  Windows 8's competition is Google first, Apple iPad second

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Microsoft, Tablets, Windows

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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