Sunday, February 7, 2016

The MacBook Pro Tweener

Khoi Vinh:

When I think about where I’m most productive with OS X, it’s always at my desk, where I have a huge monitor (on my iMac, at home) or even two Cinema Displays (at work). It’s so much more comfortable to be able to manipulate the operating system’s myriad windows when I have copious amounts of screen real estate, just as it’s so much more pleasant to have a full keyboard (with a number pad!) and the physical desk space for all of the many peripherals—printer, scanner, USB hub, etc.—that really complement the desktop OS experience.


To be clear, I don’t argue the fact that OS X is still the best platform for heavy duty work, and that it is likely to continue to be that for years if not decades. But it seems apparent to me that it’s at its most potent in its original form: on the desktop, where immensely powerful chips do best and battery life is not an issue. When I think about what I want to be using in the near term, I would much rather own a fast and fully stationary iMac and an iPad running a much more productivity-capable version of iOS, than just a MacBook.

Jason Snell:

In 2010 and 2011 we all got excited and thought the iPad would be an amazing and cool addition to our lives, but after a few years it turned out that we’re fine using our smartphones and our computers.


As a result, the iPad reached a huge percentage of its target audience in a very short period of time. And once that audience was exhausted, it rapidly shifted into an upgrade-and-replace product cycle. Imagine a world where the iPad didn’t sell 67 million units in the first couple of years, but found its audience more slowly. We might end up with an iPad market just as large as the one we have today, but with a sales chart that looks much healthier.

Kirk McElhearn:

He particularly looks at four points that may have contributed to its fall in sales, but none of them answer the problem entirely. I think the iPad solved a problem that many people didn’t know they had, but that most people simply don’t need or want one.

I completely agree with Vinh about the usefulness of a desktop Mac, and yet I don’t have one. Instead, I use a MacBook Pro that nearly all of the time has a keyboard, mouse, external display, and lots of drives and peripherals attached.

The reason is that, although I’m rarely out of the office, when I am the iPad doesn’t let me get my work done. Having both a desktop Mac and a MacBook Pro would seem to make sense, since an iMac or Mac Pro would be much better when I’m at my desk. But I’ve tried that before, and it’s too much of a pain to administer two Macs and keep them in sync. Hence the compromise of a MacBook Pro that’s underpowered both at the office and on the go.

My ideal Mac would be less of a mobile device than a portable or luggable one. Even when traveling I’m more likely to use it on a desk or table than on my lap. And it will almost always be plugged in. So instead of thinness and battery life, give me a huge screen, a faster processor, and lots of internal storage. The 17-inch “aircraft carrier” PowerBook G4 was great but didn’t go far enough. I would love to have two spinning hard disks in addition to the SSD. Who wants to travel with bus-powered drives and cables, and run out of USB ports? And if my primary drives were all internal, I wouldn’t have to unmount and unplug them when packing up the Mac—just close the lid and they go to sleep. A larger screen would also make it a better second display in my office.

In other words, if there’s a MacBook that tries to be as close as possible to an iPad, there should be one that’s as close as possible to a desktop Mac. Although Apple no longer has any desktop Macs with lots of internal storage options, either…

Update (2016-02-08): Jean-Louis Gassée:

Despite these improvements, the iPad Pro is (still) not a laptop replacement. Actually, for my uses, it’s the other way around. The new, light Retina MacBook (935 grams, 2.06 pounds) I bought when it came out last March has taken screen and lap time from my iPad.

5 Comments RSS · Twitter

@Michael: if you're sure to have a compatible external display, a keyboard and a mouse, the Mac Pro (Late 2013) is not such a bad transportable.

Its original box is very convenient to carry it and this Mac can be plugged very quickly to a dinosaurish Thunderbolt display.

@someone True, but it doesn’t have any storage bays, and the places I travel to just have empty desks/tables.

Totally agree. Have an iPad 1. Used it so little, I never "upgraded". Now it's obsolete in a way that doesn't happen on the Mac: apps can't be installed on it, not even older revisions of apps, thanks to the proprietary app store.

[…] is not even on my list. I want more storage and RAM, better performance, more ports, a larger screen, and cellular. I fear that Apple is going to trade some or all of those for thinness, while also […]

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