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Why better Mac battery life is a big deal for Apple

Marco Tabini | Sept. 16, 2013
Mavericks, the tenth OS X release, focuses heavily on longer battery life, as does the new MacBook Air. Here's why improving the power usage of the next generation of computers is a big deal for Apple and for consumers.

Thus, Apple can now present its hardware on a perfect continuum, where customers can choose a product that neatly fits their needs without having to make what they would likely believe to be unreasonable compromises—or, worse, deciding to look at the competition for an alternative. The jump from iMac to MacBook Pro to MacBook Air to iPad is becoming more about selecting a device that fits your lifestyle and less about keeping tabs on technical details such as CPU speed, megabytes of RAM, and hours of battery power.

It's the environment, stupid!
That's not to say that desktops won't benefit from Apple's renewed push for power efficiency. I honestly cannot remember the last time I powered down one of my Macs, at least on purpose: Like, I suspect, most users, I don't regularly pull the plugs on my computers, preferring instead to leave them idling all day long, ready to do my bidding at a moment's notice.

Given the millions of Macs in existence, any improvement to their ability to conserve power is likely to have a positive effect on the environment. And you don't have to be a tree hugger to consider that a good thing: Various reports [PDF] have shown time and again that parasitic standby power accounts for a sizable percentage of overall electricity use, wasting billions of dollars of our money and imposing additional load on our already strained infrastructure.

Even better, the new power-saving features that Apple is introducing won't come at a significant premium to consumers; many, in fact, will take effect just by virtue of the user's upgrading to Mavericks, without the need for new hardware. Everyone wins: Customers will save on their electricity bills, the reduced emissions will lower the devices' impact on the environment, and our poor power grid will suffer a little less load.

A ripple effect
Ultimately, Apple is making power consumption a feature that distinguishes its products from the competition and that allows it to both capture a higher share of the market and charge customers a premium for the privilege of owning a Mac.

Using history as a guide, we can bet that other manufacturers will soon follow suit, forcing the sort of race that, for the past 30 years, has been focused on CPU speeds. If the end results of this competition are the same, in a decade our computers may be able to go days or even weeks without needing a charge, opening a whole new world of opportunities for everything from saving money to helping the environment—and that seems like a worthy goal indeed.


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