Archive for October 30, 2018

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

October 2018 Apple Event

The new MacBook Air is oddly named. It’s not the lightest Apple notebook, and it doesn’t have that much in common with previous MacBook Airs. It’s more like a slightly smaller 13-inch MacBook Pro. The good: the Retina display, up to 16 GB of RAM, T2, more than one port (sad that this was not a given), Touch ID without a Touch Bar. The bad: the unreliable keyboard, only two ports (only one when charging), no USB-A, the larger trackpad that’s more susceptible to accidental input, and the $1,199 base price (up from $999, or $899 for the 11-inch). And that doesn’t include the dongles you’ll have to buy to connect the same peripherals. It’s not that the new MacBook Air is a bad buy, but that Apple is completely ignoring a huge part of the market. Apple could make something worth buying for half that price, and customers and developers would be well served by its existence. Why does the mass-market Mac have to be more expensive than the iPad Pro?

The new Mac mini looks great: lots of cores, RAM, ports (including 2x USB-A). Again, the downside is the price: the base configuration is now $799 for an i3, up from $499 for an i5.

I really like what Apple’s done with the iPad Pro: the magnetic pencil, wireless charging, the double-tap gesture, and being able to charge an iPhone from the iPad. At this point, the iPad hardware is so good, but it’s let down by software and inherent limitations of the form factor.

It’s strange that the iPad mini continues to exist in its current (old, relatively expensive) form. And there was no news about the Mac Pro or even a spec-bump for the iMac (last updated in June 2017).

It’s hard for me to get excited about Today at Apple. What I want to hear from retail is how they’re going to fix the Genius Bar.

Previously: Forthcoming MacBook and Mac mini Updates, Mac Sales Down in Q3 2018 Amid a Lack of Updates.

Update (2018-10-30): Dieter Bohn:

The stakes are higher for the MacBook because it has been several years since Apple could legitimately claim to sell the unquestioned best laptop for most people. For half a decade or more, the MacBook Air filled that slot — so much so that it became a running joke. Not only was the MacBook Air the unparalleled king of mass market laptops, for some of that time it also happened to be the best Windows laptop, via Boot Camp.

Those times are long gone. The new lineup of MacBooks haven’t lived up to the Air’s pedigree. The diminutive 12-inch MacBook was (and is) a marvel of miniaturization, but it was too underpowered and overpriced for most people. The same was true for the very first MacBook Air, but the MacBook hasn’t seen the same iterative progress that was applied to the Air. Throw in a controversial keyboard and aggressive lack of ports, and lots of people justifiably took a pass.

Tim Cook’s revelation of an installed base of 100,000,000 Macs is the first time they’ve put a number on that statistic (as opposed to “new to Mac this quarter”) in a long time, maybe a decade, maybe more.

Michael Love:

This is an effing mockery, honestly - they took the one good laptop they had left and brought over all of the bad stuff (thermals, keyboard, confusing ports, etc) from their other ones. I hope Mac sales collapse and they’re forced to reckon with this.

Ilja A. Iwas:

Somebody should tell them that “Butterfly keyboard” is a burnt trademark.

Norbert M. Doerner:

Someone should have also told them that “thinner” nowadays means “irrelevant”. Sigh. Who cares? We need a better keyboard!

Peter Steinberger:

They reused the broken keyboard design? The spacebar of my 2018 MacBook Pro is already starting to fail (that‘s the supposedly fixed keyboard with the extra silicon)

Nick Heer:

This looks like a terrific product — one that I’d be itching to buy to replace my six-year-old Air — but I’m still skeptical of that keyboard. I don’t want to have to leave my only computer in the shop.

Kuba Suder:

13” Retina, T2, Touch ID, no touch bar, Escape key, thin wedge-shaped bottom, 16 GB RAM, USB-C, even 100 g lighter than old Air (!). This is seriously my dream laptop, I’m so happy I waited for it

Jonathan Deutsch:

MacBook Air Notes:

- Looks like a great successor to the MBP "Escape" model (still sold)

- And still selling the old air at the $999 price point

- Function keys and Touch ID, let's get this as an option everywhere!

- Why did they lie about quadrupling the pixels on the display?

When they said quadrupling it would have meant boosting the density of the Mac laptop retina displays. This is the same 2560x1600 display size used in the 13" MacBook Pros. The non-retina is 1440x900, so actual quadrupling would have been 2880x1800.

Phil Dokas:

If the present MacBook and MacBook Air only had their names swapped the entire lineup would make so much more sense.

MB: Default

MBA: A price/performance tradeoff for a smaller machine

MBP: Have at it, power users

Joe Cieplinski:

Macs are literally being made from the scraps of iOS devices now.

Paul Haddad:

The question I keep asking myself, “Buy Mac Mini now or hope that the Mac Pro next year isn’t another trash can?”

Erik Berlin:

MacBook vs. MacBook Air (both upgraded to 512GB SSD for an apples-to-apples comparison).

MacBook Air has:

- faster CPU

- faster GPU

- larger display with IPS

- two Thunderbolt ports

- latest-generation keyboard

- longer battery life

- TouchID

- FaceTime HD camera

- $150 cheaper

Dr. Drang:

Mac sales are down. So if 51% of Mac buyers are new to the Mac, doesn’t that suggest that old Mac users have really slowed down their buying?

Kuba Suder:

Quick spec comparison - MacBook Air / Pro / 12”

Daniel Rubino:

New MacBook Air maxed out with a (squints) dual-core (Y-series?) Core i5 processor, Intel UHD 617, 16GB RAM, 1.5TB is $2,699

Surface Laptop 2 with Core i7 quad-core processor, Intel UHD 620, 16GB RAM and 1TB is also $2,699.

TB3 for MBA; Touchscreen for Laptop 2. Same weight.

Guess that “Apple tax” is still real and even more than “Surface tax”.

I kind of feel that calling your laptop “Air” in 2018 when it weighs 2.75lbs is a bit rich considering many 13-inch laptops are either at that or below (XPS 13 is 2.65lbs).

Acer Swift 5 15-inch is supposed to weigh 2.2lbs.

I feel “Air” better applies to something like the HP Spectre 13t, which is a ridiculous feat of engineering (2.45lbs)

Rich Woods:

Let’s not forget that it’s not just about cores either. Surface Laptop 2 has a full 15W U-series processor. MacBook Air is a 5W Y-series processor, the rebranded Core m5. so yea, the Surface Laptop 2 is a much better value.

Dan Masters:

Apple’s insistence on this keyboard design is indicative of Ive’s unchecked control within the company. They tweaked the “problematic” iPhone 4 design mid-cycle with the Verizon variant; meanwhile, here we are with virtually the same keyboard 3 yrs later.

Sebastiaan de With:

Man this new iPad Pro looks so fantastic. I can’t wait to buy one and then almost never use it like all my previous iPads.

Joe Fabisevich:

The cheapest iPad Pro with a Pencil and a cover (not even the keyboard) is $1,000 before tax…

Brain Hamilton:

For the things that Apple is promoting the iPad for, you need both headphones and a constant source of power. One USB-C port for both is unacceptable.

Apple need to do more to make USB-C a viable ecosystem than make products that use it.

Karissa Bell:

A 1TB iPad Pro w/ cellular, Apple Care, Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard is actually $2356 (the 15-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2399 by comparison)

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Apple’s specs page is less confident that the new iPad Pros can output 5K than the marketing press release & John Ternus. Do they mean 4K upscaled to 5K displays?

Steve Troughton-Smith:

The new iPad Pros both have 6GB of RAM, according to Xcode (technically the kCoreThemeMemoryClass enum doesn’t map 1:1 but CoreUI only knows about 6GB devices so the iPad must be 6GB if not any prior value)

6GB of RAM is a lot of future-proofing for these iPads. It’s 50% more than before, which was already nowhere near saturated by the apps we use

…actually it looks like not all SKUs are gonna get the 6GB of RAM, and the breakdown might make you mad

Multiple people are telling me that only the 1TB iPad Pros get 6GB RAM. … So that’s a thing.

Hey Apple this would have been a useful piece of information to know before iPad orders went live

Jeff Gamet:

Following the introduction of the new iPad Pro with Face ID and USB-C, Apple added USB-C to 3.5mm headphone and USB-C SD card reader adapters to its online store. That’s a good thing, because the new iPad Pro models don’t include a headphone jack.

Guilherme Rambo:

iOS is ready to tell you that even tho the ports are the same, the technology is not

Joe Fabisevich:

The new iPad Pro scrolljacking sideways is the worst thing Apple shipped today.

Marco Arment:

Interesting: the 11” iPad is the first (and only so far) iPad to NOT have a 4:3 screen aspect ratio.

Maxwell Swadling:

That’s not full size... where is ESC?

Arno Appenzeller:

Wow @AppleSupport in Apple Stores becoming more and more ridiculous. Getting an appointment at Genius Bar is very difficult and then you have to wait 2 weeks for a keyboard replacement. Store Manager‘s advice was to buy a new MacBook for the wait and then return it

At least after talking to a manager on the Apple Care Hotline they offered me some options. But still angry that I wasted a 2,5h drive to the AppleStore and that the Store Manager was very unfriendly

Update (2018-10-31): Zac Cichy:

I won’t miss this charging method.

Juli Clover:

Though the MacBook Air is now using a lower power Y-series chip, because the previous-generation MacBook Air was still equipped with a Broadwell chip, the new model is still going to see significant performance improvements. Unfortunately, the performance gain isn’t going to be as impressive as it would have been had Apple stuck with U-series chips.

Horace Dediu:

iPad Pro vs. original iPad. 8.5 years of engineering:

50% thinner
30% lighter
35x faster CPU
1000x faster graphics
5x pixels
25% greater color saturation
50% brighter
5x faster WiFi
23x faster LTEa
16x storage

Dan Masters:

I was thinking that, but they recognised that MacBook Air is a longer-standing (as far as recent memory is concerned), very valuable brand, with fond memories attached to it – hence, they didn’t bother changing them and confusing customers in the process.

Adam Engst:

In its press release, Apple talks about performance only generally, saying “delivering the performance you need for everyday activities like organizing your photos, browsing the Web, creating presentations or viewing and editing videos.” Reading between the lines, that says to me that the new MacBook Air isn’t any faster than the previous model when it comes to pure processing power.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

The first two MacBook Air designs were breakthrough products. Size/weight, then power/performance/design/battery life. Today’s MacBook Air pushes no envelope, and merely exists as a concession to the market. Apple’s portable flagship in this era is the iPad, make no mistake

Steve Troughton-Smith:

It does seem crazy that the iPad hardware team can constantly out-ship the sw team (always designed for next year’s OS), yet Macs are left languishing for 5 years between updates.

Benjamin Mayo:

Weird that the new iPad Pro back camera loses optical image stabilisation and has one less element in its lens.

Rodrigo Araujo:

Yesterday price surges:
MacBook Air: 999 -> 1199 (+20%)
Mac Mini: 499 -> 799 (+60%)
iPad Pro 10.5: 649 -> 799 (+23%)
iPad Pro 12.9: 799 -> 999 (+25%)

This is unreal. I find it hard to believe that only a handful of people are talking about this.

Fraser Speirs:

Even the cellular premium has gone up from +£130 on the 6th gen and 10.5" iPad Pro to +£150 on the new Pros.....

Sam Rutherford:

All told, the “new” MacBook Air is something Apple could have made last year or even in 2016. But it didn’t, and we’ll probably never know why.

Dave Mark:

One tiny announcement at yesterday’s event, that had huge implications to me:

AutoCad has been ported to the iPad Pro.

Previously: Discontinuation of Mac Support for Autodesk Alias and VRED.

Steven Sinofsky:

Some suitably freaked out or annoyed by Apple’s marketing slide on iPad “versus” notebooks. A couple of notes here because I think it is important to consider iPads in the context of the massive shift of where computing happens.

Nick Heer:

Looking beyond that, though, at what is plausibly within reach in the next few years is a culmination of efforts to overhaul the way we think about computers. Apple has, for years, been touting the iPad as the computer of the future — the pioneer in the post-PC era. But the product has not necessarily matched the company’s rhetoric, largely because it’s still trying to grow out of the smartphone-based constraints that are primarily exposed in software; that’s the root of where most of its limitations still lie.

If the scenario I outlined above is, indeed, the way Apple sees the future of this product line, there’s still a long way to go: multitasking isn’t there yet, the keyboard remains an afterthought, an iPad isn’t as information-dense because its controls still need to be touch-friendly, and so on. But there are clues that Apple is very serious about the iPad as a replacement computer. USB-C and the singling-out of external display support is one such indicator, I feel; iOS 11 brought the Dock to the iPad, which makes it feel much faster for switching between apps; and there are some iPad-specific Springboard improvements destined for iOS 13 that ought to shake things up.

Jeremy Burge:

That’s not to say Apple is doing the wrong thing here. USB-A and SD are clearly less important with each year. But the reason the old MBA sold and continues to sell is for the masses who want to just get on with their work for a fair price. Not because of the name or form factor.

Speculation: Apple, 3-4 years ago, decided iPad & iPhone are the future. Macs are a tiny % of the business. So:

- Remove high + low end Macs
- Move to simple premium-only Mac lineup:
- MacBook
- MacBook Pro
- iMac
- iMac Pro

Low-end goes to iOS. High-end can manage w iMac Pro

Update (2018-11-01): Ryan Jones:

100% wrong on MBA popularity. Love Jeremy, but:

1. Cheap
2. Cheap
3. Cheap
4. Cool factor
10. Old USB
20. SD card slot
30. Performance

How Apple got in this Mac situation:

1. iPhone
2. iPad
3. Apple Watch
4. Services
5. There’s only so much attention
6. Macs were doing “fine”
7. 2 1/2 bad big bets: Mac Pro, Touch Bar, USB-C (and MacBook to an extent)
8. Customers spoke up

Ben Brooks:

Apple produced everything I was hoping for in an iPad Pro — except a kickstand, I mean what are they waiting for — and I feel completely ambivalent about upgrading. I’ve not ordered one, and might not for a few days, weeks, months, ever.

Jason Snell:

Apple made a bunch of announcements about the iPad Pro that I could summarize as: “Yes, this is a computer.”


As someone who has taken to clipping my iPad Pro into a metal shell in order to get a laptop-style feel, I’m fascinated by Apple’s new approach here. I’m going to need to use it in my lap before I decide how I feel, but I’m optimistic? It’s funny that Apple, after going entirely away from the front-and-back case approach in recent iPad generations, has apparently embraced it again with these models. I really like the Smart Cover, though, and I’m going to miss it if these models truly don’t have magnets in the right places to make a simple front cover work.

Jason Snell:

So now there’s a new Air, plus the MacBook, plus the MacBook Escape, plus the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, and the old $999 MacBook Air is still being sold! The MacBook and Escape didn’t get updated, either. Things are clear as mud.


So the real question is, why did people keep buying the MacBook Air all this time? Was it that $999 price? Was it the design? The size? The fact that it was the last Apple laptop without the new butterfly keyboard design?


This is the next-generation Air that I wished Apple had made in 2015. It didn’t then, but here it is now.

Juli Clover:

With the updating of the Mac mini and MacBook Air this morning, here's a list of the wide range of Macs that Apple offers, from the new $799 mini up to the fully loaded iMac Pro at a credit-card busting price of $13,199.

Michael Simon:

We’re still waiting for a truly new Mac mini. The new model might come in space gray now, but it’s a small consolation to those of us who were waiting for Apple to truly rethink and reimagine its tiniest Mac. Just like it has been for the past eight years, the Mac mini is 7.7 inches square and 1.4 inches thin. The placement of the ports have shifted and the rear vent is slightly bigger, but for the most part, the new Mac mini is merely a darker version of the old Mac mini.

What the heck took so long?


Pardon me if I’m a little concerned about the Mac Pro. A lot is riding on the redesign and while I was once confident that the extra time Apple is taking means it is tweaking, fine-tuning, and refining the design, the Mac mini makes me skeptical.

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast

Update (2018-11-05): Uluroo:

The price, the ports, and the keyboard are the only things Uluroo imagines could be obstacles to the MacBook Air’s success (it has two USB-C ports and the third-generation butterfly keyboard from the latest MacBook Pros). If it cost $999, it would be a massive hit. Again, we’ll have to wait and see how things turn out.


It’s also becoming clear that Apple is preparing for the drastic shift from Intel processors on Macs to chips designed in-house. If Uluroo remembers correctly, the name “Intel” was spoken once in the entire presentation. The A12X chip is insanely powerful, and performance tests have shown that it gives the MacBook Pro a run for its money. Apple’s silicon is getting close to outpacing Intel’s; it’s certainly improving at a much quicker rate.

Andy Hansen:

Apple’s pricing is high, no doubt. But 8 weeks ago I got called by 2 tech vendors telling me OEMs are raising prices up to 25% in 2019 due to tariffs. I’ve been in a purchasing role at my org. for almost 9 years, never before received a call like this.

Update (2018-11-06): John Gruber:

When has Apple ever had a different strategy than focusing on dominating the higher end of its markets and ignoring sheer market share? The iPod — maybe — was a market share leader, depending on how you defined its category. But even with iPods Apple clearly was determined to dominate the higher end of the market.

Update (2018-11-12): See also: The Talk Show.

Update (2018-11-15): Paul Kafasis:

Still, Apple is now offering a solid lineup of truly new Macs to purchase, and that’s no small thing. The quality of these recent updates also gives us hope that the new Mac Pro will be well designed too.