Monday, February 26, 2024

Might Have Been

Ben Lovejoy:

Jony Ive tried to persuade Apple to cease making the MacBook Air, leaving a redesigned MacBook Pro as the only portable Mac.


Mossberg’s source said this led to a huge battle between Ive’s design team and the product managers, and was only finally resolved in 2018, when the product team got their way.

It’s a big claim to base on a single source, even coming from Mossberg. There are some reasons to give it credence. It’s undeniable that the MacBook Air spent some years in the wilderness, seemingly neglected by Apple before the 2018 model. It’s also notable that this model, while a big upgrade technically, didn’t get a redesign.

Joe Rossignol:

The name AirPods Extreme was floated by at least one member of Apple’s leadership team, but the company ultimately decided to move forward with AirPods Pro branding after many employees objected to the change, we have learned.

Joe Rossignol:

Before the Dynamic Island, Apple explored a popover menu on the right side of the screen that would have provided users with quick access to the time, cellular signal and Wi-Fi strength, display brightness, volume, and battery charge level. The menu essentially looks like a second notch, and it would disappear when not in use.

Another idea that Apple considered was hiding the notch with an all-black status bar area at the top of the screen.

Apple initially made the Dynamic Island permanently elongated across the top of the screen, before deciding that it would be less intrusive if it changed size as necessary. Apple also considered showing volume and a full row of system shortcuts in the Dynamic Island, tested a never-used layout for ongoing phone calls, and more.


Update (2024-02-27): Chance Miller (via Hacker News):

According to Google’s filings, Microsoft pitched Apple on making Bing the default search engine in Safari on at least seven different occasions: 2009, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2020. Each time, Google says that Apple passed on the opportunity due to search quality.


Also in the filing, Google wrote that Microsoft approached Apple in 2018 to tout improvements it had made to Bing’s search quality. Microsoft’s goal was to either “sell Bing to Apple or establish a Bing-related joint venture.”

John Gruber:

Calling these small earbuds “Extreme” would make no sense side-by-side with AirPods Max. To me, at least, “AirPods Extreme” would be the name for over-the-ear headphones even better than AirPods Max.


7 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

All the same, it seems odd – especially the idea that Ive would be motivated by the financial impact of forcing people to buy a more expensive model. Ive famously obsessed over design alone, and showed little to no interest in the business side of the company.

Jony Ive, at the apex of his creative freedom and power within Apple, pushed through the $10,000+ gold Apple Watch Edition while trying to position and sell the new product line as a fashion accessory. I don't know where the idea that he's "famously" disinterested in pricing comes from when his career has seemingly always aimed upscale, hawking a $977,000 red Mac Pro and $461,000 gold EarPods. His new company LoveFrom is known mainly for its expensive high-profile clients (the British royal family, Ferrari) and for poaching the remainder of Apple's design team.

Kevin Schumacher

Positioning the Apple Watch as a luxury fashion accessory wasn't exactly out of left field. Apple has long had a self-image, often echoed by the general public, of being something of a luxury brand. The "OMG $10k" headlines were more about tech reporters not understanding luxury fashion pricing. If the Apple Watch Edition was the only model, then you might be onto something, but it wasn't.

Your link is to a charity auction where the items sold for many, many multiples of their expected result. That is completely irrelevant to a discussion about whether Jony Ive thought Apple should sell a mass-market product (the MacBook Air) for a higher price for reasons of margin.

None of what you've said really bolsters (or detracts from, for that matter) the idea that Ive did or didn't push to eliminate the MBA in favor of a higher priced product, or that he generally did or didn't care about the business side of things.


"AirPods Extreme" does not sound like an Apple product at all. (Yes, I am aware of the AirPort Extreme and still stand by my prior sentence.)

@Kevin I think there was a story a while ago about Ive being upset about the design group receiving pushback about their ideas being too expensive or too difficult to manufacture. But I don’t think that necessarily supports the idea that he wanted to get rid of the MBA.

Anyone can say anything about a corporation selling 40 Billion dollars worth of products and services. Every quarter. So here my two cents.

We are near the end of the product portfolio lifecycle. Same as when the original iMac was sold in dozens of different colours. When technology will enable a new interaction paradigm to finally emerge, with Vision perhaps, we will have clarity again.

Product lines will be decimated by a new usability reference point. Married with higher than usual production costs and corporate caution. If not, Apple customers will begin to wonder where the next big thing is. Again.

It's a good thing Apple got rid of Ive. The damage he did to the pro like (both laptops and desktops) is quite impressive.

[The MacBook Air was] "seemingly neglected by Apple before the 2018 model. It’s also notable that this model, while a big upgrade technically, didn’t get a redesign."

That's a strange comment. Sure, the 2018 model is shaped like the previous models, with e.g. tapered edges. But it's 100% a new design. Would anyone say the VW New Beetle was not a redesign of the original VW Beetle because it's shaped to look like it?

>The "OMG $10k" headlines were more about tech reporters not understanding luxury fashion pricing.

The problem (IMHO) with the high-end Watch models wasn't so much that they existed, but that Apple had no upgrade story. If they had a trade-in program, say, where you spend $1,000 a year and return always get the newest model? That would make more sense. Instead, you spend five figures and then… are stuck with the first generation, with your battery life slowly fading away, and newer OSes eventually being unsupported. That's a _weird_ way to launch a product, like those editions were an afterthought, or begrudgingly done because Ive wanted it, not because there was much strategy to it. It's fine when your watch doesn't have fast-moving technology, but Apple's very much does. Adding insult to the injury, the original Watch, much like the iPhone and iPhone 3G, was IMHO quickly shown to be underpowered.

>That's a strange comment. Sure, the 2018 model is shaped like the previous models, with e.g. tapered edges. But it's 100% a new design.

I found that remark odd as well. Apple would absolutely consider the 2018 model to be a redesign. (As far as chassis revisions go, there seem to be four: the original 2008 one, the minor update in 2010 that removed the trap door and added an 11-inch model, the 2018 one that brought the display to Retina, and finally the M2 revision that removed the taper.)

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