Apple just told the world it has no idea who the Mac is for
Owen Williams
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Your article definitely echoes a lot of the sentiments some of my colleagues and I have been feeling for a while and especially after seeing this presentation. To add insult to injury, Apple’s Mac presentation came right after Microsoft presented one of the most Apple-like (is that even a relevant adjective anymore?) computers they could ever design, directed at the creative market, making the iMac look like the 12 year old dinosaur it really is.

Think about that for a moment. The current iMac design really started in 2004 and evolved to the current aluminum look in 2007, nearly 10 years ago. The Unibody MacBookPro started in 2008. One could say the Microsoft Surface Studio wouldn’t exist without the iMac, but look at the iMac AFTER playing with the Surface Studio and it’s like going from MacOS X to Windows XP. The problem with the Surface Studio? That it uses Windows, perhaps, though that’s not an issue for a lot of people (it is for me). The inferior Surface Pen? There’s software that fixes the issues with the wobble, and the Mac can’t use Apple Pencil anyway (which I love on the iPad Pro 12).

Apple has innovated in the underpinnings of the iPhone and with the iPad, but with this “new” MacBookPro, one could easily sing “Don’t believe the hype, it’s a sequel!”. As you mentioned, there’s nothing new here, and especially nothing for Pros. When they tried to pawn the 13" “Pro” as a replacement for the MacBookAir, my first thought was that this was the true target and what these new machines really are. They are the new MacBookAirs, except in 13 and 15 inch instead of 11 and 13, and at +1000 dollars per model.

The confusion is in name only. The Pro models of the Mac were supposed to be near desktop power in a portable format, and geared for the needs of actual professionals, especially creatives. Now, they’re an upgrade for the MacBook 12 inch and air markets. Portability over practicality. Thinness over usefulness. A MacBookPro customer didn’t need thinner. A MacBookPro customer needed more power, space, connectivity. And speaking of connectivity, when did Apple become “The Dongle Company”?

“No dongle, no play” — This, I define as Apple’s new direction and mantra.

When I saw the MacBook 12" (they really need to improve their naming), I was interested in USB-C, but thought it too early to force users into a format that had exactly NO peripherals available and no connectivity with anyone else without resorting to a dongle. On top of that, they eliminated the wonderful MagSafe, which was their elegant solution to a long running problem. Still, it was an interesting design, forward looking, and a niche product that could serve the ultraportable needs of some users.

It’s logical to eliminate some ports we might not use as often anymore and replace them with adapter dongles (ethernet, firewire), but to eliminate the most popular connectors on a “Pro” machine? Everywhere I go, I use my HDMI port, my SD port, and someone will give me a USB stick to plug into my MacBookPro’s USB ports. That’s my every single day. I sometimes use one of the many dongles I need to have with me, just in case (Thunderbolt to Ethernet, to Firewire, etc.). The adapter dongle I use the most, surprisingly is the Thunderbolt/DisplayPort to VGA. Although, I shouldn’t say surprisingly since Phil Schiller had no choice but to include VGA on his list during the presentation, not DVI, good old analog VGA. Reality can be a bitch, can’t it Phil?

But looking at the 12" I suddenly saw the new “dongle philosophy”, whose epitomy I thought was the removal of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7. Suddenly, you needed to carry a dongle with your phone since it couldn’t work with every stereo or headphones on the planet, like the previous models could. Funny enough, I went to a party not long after and the only person who couldn’t play their music with their phones was the single iPhone 7 user, hence the “no dongle, no play” moniker.

The iPads already had a small dongle problem, but because of what they are, it wasn’t too much of an issue. Now, the issue becomes major. Not only do you have to pay 5,000 dollars for the “maxed out” MacBookPro (if you can call 16GB of RAM maxed out), because if you don’t get it maxed out, you can’t upgrade it later, since they decided to solder everything into the motherboard, (You could, in theory, change the SSD, but it’s complicated and delicate, which a lot of users might not be inclined to attempt.) but you have to purchase a bunch of dongles between 30 and 40 bucks each in order to use it in the real world, not just with your peripherals, but with everyone elses. You even need a third-party adapter to get what Apple invented years ago and saved millions of laptops from destruction, MagSafe. So Apple has become “The Dongle Company”.

You could also validly claim they’ve abandoned professionals ages ago, considering the Mac Pro hasn’t been updated in years (and already required dongles and external items to maximize its professional usefulness). The iMac, even though not initially geared for professionals, is used by loads of them, and is in dire need of a refresh, not just internally, but externally, especially evident after Microsoft’s display of what an iMac could be. I won’t even go into the Mac Mini, which had accidentally become the darling of the server market, and is also a bit kind of abandonware.

The touchbar is a solution to a problem that didn’t exist. For it to be truly useful, it would have to be across the center of the keyboard, but is instead at the top. Using it while standing up is more useful than having it at your desk, since on your desk, you’d have to lift and stretch your hand to use it, which is not much different from lifting and stretching to a touchscreen, maybe a slight bit less because you can rest your hands, as it’s flat versus the more vertical screen. But, for someone like me, who uses the function keys a lot, they’ve removed something with a physical feel which I don’t have to look at to use, for something I’d have to look at and would tire me more to use throughout the day.

Perhaps, Apple knows something we don’t. Perhaps, the professional market is moving to emoji only communications. Perhaps, no one uses the laptop keyboard anymore, hence, the terrible one from the MacBook 12 with no key travel. Perhaps, the world has abandoned all other connectors for USB-C in an instant and I missed it.

All I know is they seem to have abandoned THIS particular professional, who will no longer replace his MacBook Pro this year, and will hold out a little longer, and for the first time in his life finds a Microsoft product more desirable than an Apple one. That’s a sad day indeed.

Just pondering…