I miss you, Steve Jobs.
My journey with the Mac began almost 10 years ago when I entered polytechnic. Back then, a Mac was not the ‘in’ thing yet, so it was a perplexing experience when my mum had to shell out (and I remember vividly) SGD$3,400 for the 15’’ Macbook Pro. Even for a student who has not really recognized the value of money, I know that is quite a bit of moolah. That feeling of guilt mixed with joy is something I can still feel crawling up my skin as I write this. Why guilt? Maybe because out of 10 people (I know) back then, only 0.2 of them used a Mac, at least in Singapore. This seems to be unproven technology! What if my computer stops working? Who would know how to repair one? I heard there’s no task bar! I heard some people have NO ICONS on their desktop!
Why joy? Because that laptop looked darn good.
Slide-in CD slot?! Clean lines? Aluminum Shell? Where are the vents on this thing?!
I was enrolled into the School of Film and Media Studies and we were one of the only schools in the polytechnic who had to use a Mac. The idea was that it was the proper laptop for content creators. Was it the software? I thought Photoshop ran on Windows too? Maybe it was Final Cut. It’s got to be Final Cut.
I don’t know why, but we were special. And I think the Mac was our passport. Use a Mac? Oh, you are ‘one of them’.
I remember how it was like; like stepping through a wardrobe and discovering a whole new world locked away behind it. There’s now a ‘Dock’, no wonder there’s no need for desktop shortcuts. How brilliant! You mean I just drag this into the thrash bin, wait, I have to uninstall the application first right? What’s with this Safari and its Tigers, Leopards and Lions? And of course. Sleep mode. NO ONE did sleep mode as well as the Mac. In fact Mac practically invented Sleep Mode. PC had hibernate. Don’t. Ask.
A Mac was addictive.
The only question I had was, “why is no one using one already?”
I took great care of the Mac, and it took great care of me. Everything just worked. Well, everything except games. Although Warcraft 3 and DOTA ran smoothly, I would know, I had many breaks. I got to find out about Garageband, iMovie, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, even the ‘explorer’ on a Mac; the ‘Finder’, was different. And it made me DESPISE powerpoint.
I am so happy to say that I started using a Mac when Apple was starting to become mainstream, and I think the iPhone had a lot to do with this. The phone was nothing short of a revolution in the handheld market, but more importantly it paved the way for people to find out more about the company behind the iPhone and what the Macintosh was all about. When I saw my friend with the iPhone 3GS, all I could do was stare at my Sony Ericsson(w705?) as I restarted the damn thing(by removing its removable battery no less, yeah remember the times you could remove your battery?) after crashing on me.
Slowly but surely the Mac started to gain the recognition it truly deserved. It was expensive but worth it. Sure, it diluted the prestige that only designers and content creators were the only ones who truly ‘needed’ a Mac, but I was happy that people were finally not torturing themselves with a sluggish, ugly-looking, not-as-cheap-as-it-should-be Windows PC.
I am a big fan of the revolutionary Steve was. I believe that Steve was all that he was made out to be. I believe behind that spectacled geek on stage lies a tyrant who pushed his colleagues and employees hard. I believe he insisted that the insides of a Mac should look as beautiful as the outside. I believe that he held a firm conviction that the iPhone should be wielded with a single hand, and resisted when competitors started to make larger phones. I believe that if he had more time he would try very hard not to succumb to the pressures of the competition. After all, it was never him to follow, only lead.
There are many articles who have labelled Tim Cook as the Steve Ballmer of Apple; great for profits, not so great for innovation.
So what are my grievances?
Well, for starters, there is the iPhone that I talked about. The iPhone 4, and the 5 that followed which carried on essentially the same design, are in my opinion still the best designs. It stayed true to Steve’s belief in the one-handed system, which despite its small size is actually a BIG deal. It was designed for the commuter with one hand on the handlebars on trains and buses, the mother with a stroller, the office worker with a stack of files pacing across the corridor. For all your big screen goodness, there is the iPad. The iPhone 5S is also a really great phone, apart from a replaced battery, I am still using one.
What would Steve not do? Well, he would not have an iPhone 6+ sitting next to an iPad mini. It is almost laughable at this stage that these 2 devices with a fairly similar footprint even co-exist. With regards to the iPhone 6,7, and now the 8, Steve would balk at the sight of that forehead and chin of the iPhone. I believe if Steve was alive today, he would have rid the iPhone of its bezels at the iPhone 7, and he would have pushed his subjects so hard to deliver finger-print reading on the touchscreen of the iPhone X. Not to settle for second-best (face ID).
It is of great sadness that the only mark of ‘innovation’ Apple could do after the demise of their visionary leader, was to remove the headphone jack. It almost felt that Apple was desperate for change and had nowhere to turn to. Some said it had implications with waterproofing, well Steve would have made it waterproof even with a wide-gaping headphone jack. Maybe he would not care about waterproofing. After all, he made things that work. And having a headphone jack WORKS. The wireless audio environment is by no means at a similar level as cellular connection or Wi-Fi. All I want to do is plug the same pair of headphones into my phone and my laptop, because unlike Tim, Steve knows that I do not want to work on just 1 device! He knew that different devices had their place and he made deliberate attempts to create different products and SEGMENTED them accordingly. So let’s just say that removing the headphone jack is not that farfetched an idea for Steve, but you know what he would have done instead? Included the airpods WITH every new iPhone, not as a separate purchase. Because when Steve truly believed in a revolution, like the wireless future that Phil Schiller is so ‘courageous’ about, he goes all-in. Having the airpods as an additional purchase is not what someone with a vision of the future would do, it is by someone with a vision of filling his already deep pockets.
Which brings me to the next item in the Apple ecosystem, the iPad. This is one where Steve would exhibit his stance very strongly. NO STYLUSES/STYLI. Everything about the iPad, iPad Pro, keyboard, pencil, and even ‘files’ on the new ios 11 is Tim Cook saying “yes, the Microsoft Surface got us, and I am afraid”. If the iPhone plus variants were unwieldy, you have not seen the iPad Pro. Total times I have seen the iPad Pro used in public, on-the-go? Once. That is not the type of response that you would expect from an Apple product. The pencil and the way it charges — by sticking it up the iPad’s butt, Steve would have fired some people. I think he would have had the pencil magnetically attach itself to the iPad and charge wirelessly(IF he even passed the idea of having a stylus in the first place!)
The watch. The watch sucks and I believe it was the only way Tim could appease Jony to make something new that wasn’t so aesthetically displeasing. The $17,000 gold watch? I believe it was just a side project for Jony to maintain some respect within the world of fashion and design. The watch itself? Suffice to say it is one heck of an expensive gadget that is still pretty much not independent from your phone even with the latest release of Series 3. I have the series 1, and it was a gift, but this thing LAGS. It is so slow that it reminds me of a PC. Yes. Shocking. Steve would have never let something this unsatisfying of an experience out from the gates of Apple.
And lastly the Macintosh. Where do we even begin. I personally own a Mac Mini. When Steve curated the idea of a Mac Mini he wanted to put a Mac, and a capable one at that, into the hands of as many people as possible. He wanted PC users who already had their own monitor, keyboard and mouse to simply plug and play. The Mac Mini I have is a quad-core i7, loaded with 16GB of ram, and it is sitting on my desk right now. The last time Tim updated the Mac Mini, he made it slower. No more i7. I shall not carry on this personal grudge, so let us move on to bigger things, such as the latest Macbook Pro. Much has been said about the new laptops, from its lack of varied ports to its touch bar. I cannot comment on what it is like to lead a ‘dongle life’ but I can imagine how annoying it is. The inconvenience hit me when I watched Lee Morris and friends from Fstoppers in a recent video trying to hook up their Macbook Pro to their display and not having it work despite the necessary adapters. Hardcore fans can say Lee and gang had the wrong dongles or had their settings tuned wrongly, but let’s face it, gone are the days of Apple JUST WORKING.
They also seemed to have stopped their partnership with NVIDIA, and have accommodated AMD chips in all the latest Macs. I might be wrong, but with Tim at the forefront I believe cost to be a leading factor when it came to dropping the top graphics chip-maker. Does it matter? Maybe not, but Macs are not cheaper even though there are cheaper parts used. I do not mind paying more money for a Mac, but to pay good money for something that does not seem to work as well as it used to, and the fact that they are forming more cost-effective partnerships with lower-end chip makers, it just all seems like Apple is doubling their revenue from each sale of a Mac but halving the satisfaction from their consumers.
All in all, a very non-Steve Apple it is today.
What is being said here comes from someone who was what you would call a ‘Mac Evangelist’. I grew up using a PC, came to the Mac somewhat unknowingly and came to love it and started expounding its goodness. It pains me that I find it hard to stand behind the folks at Apple today. Prices are ever-increasing, but nothing excites me anymore. Nothing of late has made me want to get Apple to ‘shut up and take my money’.
I miss you Steve, and your crazy, insatiable need to please your customers over your shareholders.