Thursday, October 21, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

On The Much Improved State of Macintosh Hardware

Quentin Carnicelli:

Back in mid-2018, there wasn’t a single Macintosh computer that was free of major drawbacks or otherwise ridiculously out of date. After yet another disappointing WWDC, I took to my keyboard to air some grievances, with a lengthy complaint entitled “On The Sad State of Macintosh Hardware”. That post was written out of a deeper frustration with Apple’s failure to keep the Mac product line current.

A little over three years later, it’s time to do the opposite. With Apple’s announcement of new M1 Pro- and M1 Max-based MacBook Pros, they are more than halfway through their transition from Intel to their own Apple Silicon chips. The state of Macintosh hardware is now much closer to “Jubilant” than “Sad”.

The biggest Mac problem is still software quality.

Previously:

15 Comments

Good thing they fired Ive

As much as I love the new hardware, I'm just not sure I want to get it because, as mentioned, the software quality still sucks compared to the mid 2010s and earlier. The UI is inconsistent and inefficient, breaking Apple's own rules for good UI design. Weird esoteric bugs, buggy services, and obtuse or absent workarounds are still the norm. Modifying your system to work the way you want is harder and more restricted than ever. And now there's that damned notch that Apple thinks everyone loves for some bizarre reason.

(It's also not great that I can no longer reasonably run x86-64 Windows and Linux, be it natively, virtualized or emulated, since I do that a lot, but that's related to my specific line of work.)

The mac used to be a power user's paradise -- all of the power you needed, elegant design, and everything "just worked" so you could hit the ground running. Now to get it working the way I want and need, I have to put in as much work and learn as much esoteric knowledge as I would setting up a Linux system. So what's the advantage over using Linux then? As crufty as it is, at least Linux isn't designed to work against me.

>The biggest Mac problem is still software quality.

*looks at desktop backgrounds and notices that, once again, macOS remembered once of them incorrectly*

Yuuuuup.

But also software _innovation_. I know that that's a vague and loaded term, but when people ask "why are you using a Mac over a Dell with Windows anyway?", I want good answers on how the Mac doesn't merely have decent software _quality_, but also how it is just _more_ appealing to use. Continuity is one reason (but I find it still fails 10-20% of the time), but we need more reasons like that. We need a software czar at Apple who truly understands that their own apps need to be great examples that push the envelope of GUIs forward. In recent years, it doesn't feel like Apple has nailed this. Why are their TV and Music apps so mediocre, for example?

>And now there's that damned notch that Apple thinks everyone loves for some bizarre reason.

I don't think Apple has ever argued that people "love" it. However, I would personally argue that discussions about it are often wrapped in hypotheticals. In _practice_, I barely notice it at all on a phone. I've been using a Notch Simulator (yes, seriously) on my Mac for two days now, and so far, it doesn't annoy me.

That said, I imagine someone will do a hack that simply cuts off that entire strip (the top 74 pixels) and brings your display back to the normal 16:10 aspect ratio. Perhaps Apple will even turn that into an option.

@Sören Yep, still getting the forgotten desktop picture bug on Big Sur. Safari Reading List has gotten so unreliable (some items added on one device never show up on another and then disappear on the original device) that I can’t use it. iMessage read status syncing doesn’t work.

> That said, I imagine someone will do a hack that simply cuts off that entire strip (the top 74 pixels) and brings your display back to the normal 16:10 aspect ratio. Perhaps Apple will even turn that into an option.

I worry that all of the restrictions present in macOS now, especially on Apple Silicon, will prevent anyone from being able to make such a hack.

Maybe if we're lucky though Apple will provide a supported option for this.

> Why are their TV and Music apps so mediocre, for example?

It’s just my own hunch, but I think it might be due to younger designers being hired? Or Apple in general trying to appeal to a younger demographic? I get a feeling that people under 30 don’t care as much about UI details / power user features / etc. — at least not in the mass consumer market that Apple now caters to. It’s more about “looking cool” than being functional.

Of course that doesn’t explain why the older folks who are still at the helm at Apple aren’t vetoing this crap. Particularly Craig Federighi… his history at NeXT and Apple suggests he ought to know better.

> Why are their TV and Music apps so mediocre, for example?

AirPlay being so widely licensed makes me think that these apps are part of a viewpoint that some software is merely there to support the service.

Overall I blame the increased tempo of software releases. I think Apple had to hire a whole bunch of programmers who weren't necessarily well-schooled in the Apple Way and the schedule was prioritised over everything else. Plus, without Steve's critical eye some - let's say pragmatic - design changes were implicitly approved, and now there's institutional momentum behind meeting the ship date rather than perfecting the design & implementation. While Bertrand Serlet was in charge I think the reins were more tightly held, but Craig has a different management style - and a larger portfolio to manage.

Before music and tv, there was iTunes. Is say music and tv are a big step up from iTunes.

> Why are their TV and Music apps so mediocre, for example?

To answer that, first ask for the identity of the real customer of the TV and Music apps.

It's not end-users. It's Apple's services business.

@ DF: good points

@ Kristoffer: I'm one of the few(?) who thought that iTunes, especially in the era before they started adding ancillary features like video playback, firmware updates*, contacts sync*, backups, etc., was a good app.

Music is better than iTunes 12 in that it's more focused again, but it's full of web views that really shouldn't have to be web views at all. Its list views have become considerably less useful than those of iTunes 1.0 (though you can, in some cases, go back to the old ones), it's finicky (e.g., I find the volume slider really hard to use because it's so tiny), and it's just plain buggy, especially when the connection is flaky.

*) I'm guessing this was a problem particularly on Windows: how do you explain to/convince users that there's _multiple_ apps for their iPod? But OTOH, when they _were_ separate apps, their respective UIs were a lot better.

(So I agree that Music 1.x is a big step up from iTunes 12.9.x. But not from iTunes pre-ca. 5.x!)

This is obviously spiteful, but for me, the best thing about this change is to see Gruber going from explaining how great it is that Apple doesn't have any "legacy" ports on its devices to having to explain how great it is that they are all back.

@Plume - you're not wrong! lol

@Plume: Yup. Funny how that works, isn't it?

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