Thursday, October 26, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Three MacBook Mistakes: Will Apple Correct Course?

Jason Snell:

It’s been nearly three years since the new MacBook arrived bearing a single USB-C port for both charging and peripherals. Through two revision cycles, it has remained largely unchanged. USB-C hubs do exist, but the fact is that out of the box, you can’t power the MacBook and attach any USB devices. That’s less than ideal. So is a redesign in the works, and might Apple take that opportunity to add a second USB-C port?

[…]

An entire generation of Apple laptops may be saddled with fragile, unpleasant keyboards. And a laptop without a functional keyboard is basically useless.

[…]

My early hopes that app developers would innovate with the Touch Bar to improve productivity have also been dashed, more or less. A year later, the Touch Bar seems to have no momentum and fails to provide a compelling reason for users to embrace it.

Dan Counsell:

In general, the Touch Bar MacBook Pro is an excellent machine. It’s fast and well built. However, I’m not a fan of the new keyboard and touch bar, and when you combine that with the list of other issues I have, it’s easy to think that maybe I should have just stuck with the 2015 MacBook Pro.

[…]

Apple may have pushed to hard this time and misjudged the line between Innovation and annoyance.

Michael Love:

So yeah, I’m feeling more and more like old non-crappy MacBook + iMac (Pro or non) is going to be the way to go for a lot of developers.

This is what I’m doing.

I’m optimistic in a year or two Apple will come to their senses + release a laptop that can be my only computer, but isn’t so right now.

Previously: Unreliable MacBook Pro Keyboards, The Impossible Dream of USB-C, New MacBook Pros and the State of the Mac.

Update (2017-10-27): Colin Cornaby:

MacBook Pro shenanigans are a big reason my primary is still a desktop.

10 Comments

Adrian O'Connor

I just wanted a MacBook Air with a retina screen. I held out for years and they gave us the MacBook :(

Right now I'm on a 2014 MBP 13", which has a great keyboard and I love the screen, but I miss the beautiful thin wedge shape of the Air. I might just go back to an Air, live without Retina and be done with it :( I wish the PC options were better, but they seem far suckier still than what Apple offer. And I much prefer OS X to Linux for desktop stuff, though even there I'm getting sick of the yearly upgrade breakages...

Grumble grumble.

"Apple may have pushed to hard this time and misjudged the line between Innovation and annoyance."

This seems misguided to me. The newer MacBooks may indeed be more annoying, but they do look much thinner and glitzier when you see them in an Apple Store. Users annoyed by the compromises necessary to achieve that simply need to get their priorities better aligned with Apple.

It's not too difficult to find a refurbished 11" Dell tablet (skylake m5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD) with a 1080p IPS screen, active stylus, detachable keyboard, and dock (for ethernet and dual external displays)... for under $500. Having a single device that supports all three primary computing modes (tablet/laptop/desktop) is seriously tempting right about now. I currently use an iPad Pro with a 2010 Mac Pro, and while they are different enough to find their respective niches, juggling files between them is a chore, even with excellent apps like Transmit.

Apple's really backing itself into a corner re: upgrade routes.

Take the iPhone. It's reported that users feel a reluctance to upgrade until their old phone literally dies, because the age of truly compelling new features is over. I'm due a new phone in around six months and to be honest it's going to be a relatively sad day because while I'd like a bigger phone than my iPhone SE, the thrill of experiencing a new phone just won't be there. It'll be just like my old phone with a handful of slightly interesting new things. Oh, I've got a new portrait photo mode? OK. Great.

And it's the same with the MacBook Pro. For 2.5 years I've been a happy 15in 2015-model owner – a range now seen as the last "classic" MacBook Pros – but should I want to upgrade there is literally no route I'd like to take. I'd be a fool to get a new MacBook Pro until the keyboard issues are sorted out.

But ultimately we must not forget that the Mac is dead. It's the Apple II of our times just after the Mac was released (google this plus "Mac Kung Fu" to see my blog post about it). iOS is the future. But more than this, all the talent at Apple doesn't want to work on the Mac so we get the second rate, also-ran ideas. Apple might say that the Mac is still a real thing to them, but you might also remember the Apple II Forever campaign that tried to say the same thing.

All of this points to a lack of true strategic direction at Apple. I think they have a design direction. I think the have a technological direction. But the gestalt isn't there.

@Keir Not having an upgrade route is a key point that's making me seriously reconsider my OS after over a decade on the Mac. Getting something newer than my 7.5-year-old Mac Pro will inevitably require some compromise in RAM, CPU, GPU, or multi-monitor support... and I don't like to pay money to make my computing environment *worse* in meaningful ways. Contrast this with a self-built PC or hackintosh, in which case I would be paying much less than Apple charges, and without any compromises.

I'm not sure if the Mac as a platform is going away anytime soon, but perhaps the Mac *as many longtime residents of the platform would like it to be* is indeed gone. I'm not worried about the Mac disappearing so much as Apple continuing to believe they care deeply about the Mac and have been doing a good job with it. We have a promise of a 'Mac renaissance' but so far it's just that... a promise after many years of neglect, and confusion about what 'Pro' should mean when applied to a Mac.

Yes, iOS is the future, but what bothers me is that Apple's been saying the iPad is the future of computing for 7 years now and just got around to shipping basic drag-and-drop support last month. I remember when the Chevy Volt was announced, Gruber chided GM's 'announcement fatigue': hyping the vehicle constantly over a years-long period, compared with Apple announcing something and then shipping it the next week.

Now, between the iPad and the iPhone X, it seems like Apple is experiencing their own announcement fatigue: so much talk of the 'future' while the 'present' is ever-more-tedious and frustrating. We're used to Apple asking us for patience during important transitions (e.g. OS X, Intel) but back then we could see the payoff within a few years. When does the payoff from Apple's current strategy happen, and we suddenly enjoy using our computers again? How many more years do we have to wait? If the richest company on the planet has been struggling for years trying to get things 'right', maybe the company is no longer capable of — or interested in — making the tools we need. Perhaps it's time to start thinking about where those better tools exist, or how we can build them together if they don't exist yet.

@remmah

A combo of a Hackintosh with a backup older actual Mac/Macbook works pretty well. The backup Mac lets you continue being productive if an OS X upgrade temporarily hoses your Hackintosh.

Adrian Bengtson

I'm not sure if the Mac as a platform is going away anytime soon, but perhaps the Mac *as many longtime residents of the platform would like it to be* is indeed gone. I'm not worried about the Mac disappearing so much as Apple continuing to believe they care deeply about the Mac and have been doing a good job with it. We have a promise of a 'Mac renaissance' but so far it's just that... a promise after many years of neglect, and confusion about what 'Pro' should mean when applied to a Mac.

Yes, yes, exactly this! Well said. (Emphasis mine.)

@keir

"But ultimately we must not forget that the Mac is dead. […] iOS is the future."

Sure as Linux for Desktop is the future of Personal Computing, iOS is the future of creating and editing contents.

"But more than this, all the talent at Apple doesn't want to work on the Mac so we get the second rate, also-ran ideas."

I would be surprised if there is not a noticeable part of Apple engineers that prefer working on macOS.

"Not having an upgrade route is a key point that's making me seriously reconsider my OS after over a decade on the Mac. Getting something newer than my 7.5-year-old Mac Pro will inevitably require some compromise in RAM, CPU, GPU, or multi-monitor support... and I don't like to pay money to make my computing environment *worse* in meaningful ways. Contrast this with a self-built PC or hackintosh, in which case I would be paying much less than Apple charges, and without any compromises."

remmah, I started this transition back around 2011. Finalized it around 2016. Not just myself, but everyone in the local immediate family. No one here is running Mac OS at this point. Too expensive and hardware choices are too limited. I did run a few hackintosh models for a while, but no longer. I keep a couple older MacBooks running Linux because the hardware still works, but those will be gone soon too. Probably due for upgrades next year.

We are all Linux except for a Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10 (I didn't get Linux running on it well enough to warrant removing Windows 10). I've been a part time Linux user for years, but I always had something running Mac OS sitting around. Well, until recently.....just time to move on. No real regrets here. Apple is a business, either they make what I want or they don't. I don't concern myself with it anymore. Even as a former shareholder (very tiny amount of stock), Apple never cared about my opinion. Oh well, it was a good run.

Jon H,
Yep, did that for a while. Hack Macs with a legitimate model around to smooth over updates (every now and then things went awry). But if I'm going to have to hack systems together, I stopped bothering with Mac OS and just went Linux. I know, I know, not the same, but I manage.

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