Apple Inc did not have a booth at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but one report indicated 250 Apple employees were roaming the show floor -- taking notes on their iPads. I did not attend (fear of crowds and hotel bedbugs), but after watching CES All Access Live on Spike TV and sifting through the press releases in my email, it was clear that many new products exhibited were either a reaction to Apple's products or an anticipation of upcoming Apple products. That's why I see Apple as the "invisible 800 pound Gorilla" on the 2012 CES exhibit floor.
Ultrabooks versus the MacBook Air
Intel is encouraging "non-Apple" companies to build what they call the Ultrabook. Phase One (Q4 2011) defines it as thin (.8 inches or thinner), light (3.1lbs or less), with low power Sandy Bridge processors that extend battery life (5 hours min, up to 8 hours in some cases). It uses Intel's integrated HD Graphics 3000 subsystem and has mainstream pricing (starting around $1000). Sound familiar? Apple has set a high bar with the MacBook Air and has a big head start since the first MacBook Air was introduced in 2008.
The latest Windows Ultrabooks, including those shown at CES, are clearly aimed at the "look and feel" of the MacBook Air. Some examples of new Ultrabooks include the Toshiba Portege Z830 (2.5lbs, .63" thick, starting at $899) and IdeaPad Yoga Flip (360 deg dual-hinge flip screen with 10 point capacitive touch, 3.1lbs, .67" thick, up to 8GB of RAM). Intel demonstrated their Nikiski Ultrabook protoype with transparent trackpad that continues to function when the lid is closed and lets you see part of the screen. Some Ultrabook prototypes demonstrated at CES will ship with the latest Ivy Bridge processor, though by the time they start shipping, a new version fo the MacBook Air will likely be sporting it.
Android and Windows Smart Phones versus the Phone 4S
The latest non-Apple smart phones are challenging the iPhone with larger screens, faster broadband, and cameras with more megapixels. Two examples are the Sony Experia Ion (4.6" screen, 12MP camera, 4G LTE support) and HTC Titan 2 (4.7 inch screen, 16MP camera, 4G LTE support).
The iPhone 4S camera at 8 megapixels sounds anemic by comparison, but there is more to camera technology than pixel count. The iPhone's camera has a custom lens with five precision elements to shape light, a larger f/2.4 aperture to let in more light, and a hybrid infrared filter to make colors more accurate and uniform. As for 4G LTE, the next iPhone will likely have support about the same time Verizon's LTE network stabilizes and AT&T's LTE network reaches critical mass.
Android and Windows Touch Pads versus the iPad 2
The competitors of the iPad have launched an attack on two fronts. Some tablets are going for lower pricing as in the case of the Amazon $199 Kindle Fire and the $99 Ainovo Nov07. Some are seeking to beat the iPad 2 in features such as the Razer Project Fiona tablet with dual gaming controllers. The $100 OLPC's XO 3.0 tablet touts both low price and unique features such as a solar panel cover.
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is boasting a quad-core Tegra 3 CPU. In addition to a higher resolution screen, the latest rumors swirling around the iPad 3 mention a quad-core processor and 4G LTE support.
Mobility and 2012 Apple Product Priorities
Josh Stein of the Draper Fisher Jurvetson venture capital firm stated in an interview that in 2011 the use of mobile devices on the internet surpassed the use of desktop devices. Mobile device usage is growing by 100% per year compared to 20% a year for desktop devices.
That syncs with the Q4 2011 report by Apple showing 67% of revenue coming from iPod, iPhone, and iPad sales. If you add sales of Portables (MacBook Air and MacBook Pro), the total percentage of mobile sales revenue is 83%. (And Apple sold 3 portables for each desktop.) That may help explain why it has been 535 days since the last update of the Mac Pro.