I Have No Idea What Apple Is Doing Anymore
I'm just going to out and say it - I have literally no idea what Apple is doing anymore.
Four days ago, Apple unveiled it's newest item, the latest and greatest iteration in its MacBook Pro lineup, and sure, while it's definitely gorgeous, there's something strange lurking beneath the surface, and that's that Apple no longer has a unified, cohesive design language or product message.
What's strange is that there's nothing meaningfully wrong with what Apple announced. A lighter, thinner, and more powerful laptop is always great. Moving towards the UCB-C standard is a solid idea, and knowing how the entire industry likes to chase and out-Apple Apple, hopefully this will mean wide spread adoption. The Touch Bar I think is an amazing idea, because aside from the f5, f6, esc, and prt scrn keys, I never use the function keys.
What's strange is that aside from people still using really old machines, I genuinely don't know who the new MacBook is for. For the longest time, I'd tell people to wait and not buy a new MacBook, because there surely was going to be a massive refresh. The last one was the addition of a retina display some four years ago, and since then, the "refreshes" have just been improved processor speeds and new chips. My girlfriend, for instance, has a MacBook Pro from 2008, and if it wasn't literally about to die on her, I don't think she'd feel the need to replace it so soon.
Going through everything Apple announced, it just feels like a whole lot of nothing. The Touch Bar is a really great example of this. Microsoft is letting you touch the screen and interact with the entire display. Apple is instead making you look down at your keyboard to interact with your display. Again, I think the Touch Bar will be genuinely useful, because like Steve Jobs said of phone with physical keyboards back in 2007, sometimes we need something to dynamically change based on the current use case scenario. The row of function keys is definitely outdated, but again, was the Touch Bar really the best implementation of this idea? I'm not so sure.
Then we have the device itself. The Pro used to be the best version of what Apple wanted to showcase to the world, for professionals (artists and business people alike) who have big requirements to get stuff done. Now you have to choose between the Pro, the Pro, and the Pro.
The thing with this is that MacBook Air is essentially dead. There haven't been any meaningful updates to it in 385 days. And now there are two 13" MacBook Pros, but they couldn't be any more different. One has the Touch Bar, and one doesn't. One has four USB-C ports, and one only has two. Why not just call the non-Touch Bar model the MacBook Air to alleviate confusion? It's specs are actually worse than it's Touch Bar enabled brother, and is more in line with what previous MacBook Air users wanted in a laptop. But no, that would be too easy, because Apple itself considers the new line of Pros as competitors to it's old like of Airs shows that they're not really Pro laptops anymore.
The event itself left a lot of loose ends, which is very unlike Apple. For instance, back in September, when Apple announced the iPhone 7, they made a bold claim that the standard 3.5mm headphone jack that we all know and love were dead, because the future is wireless and not having wires is superior to having wires. If this is truly the case, then why did they include a 3.5mm headphone jack in the new line of MacBook Pros? Even worse, Apple delayed their wireless earbuds that they promised would change your world.
From there, the questions become even more insane.
Why isn't there a Lightning to USB-C cable to connect your iPhone to your new MacBook Pro? Why can't you plug in the included Lightning headphones that come in the box with the iPhone 7 into the new MacBook Pro? Why did Apple tout how great the Touch Bar is for messaging, but didn't even port most if not all of the new iMessage features to macOS? Why do we have to carry two sets of headphones now? How do you charge your Lightning Cable Mouse? Why remove the HDMI port, which is still a popular standard? Why remove the SD card slot? Are HDMI and SD Cards also a dead technology? If so, where's Apple's future proof answer to replace these now seemingly decrepit technologies?
What's worse than all of this is why it took Apple so long to get to this point? For so long now I've been telling people to wait, and even now, I can't actually recommend the MacBook without including its many many caveats. You could just as easily buy a 2012 MacBook right now and not see any meaningful difference, and therein lies the problem. The company waited four years, but didn't deliver any real future value other than it's new and this is right around the time that people are going to want to upgrade to a newer model.
Apple 2010: There's an app for that.
Apple 2016: There's an adapter for that.
What's frustrating is that Apple used to push products into the market that would change the way people thought. The iPod and iPhone were truly game changing devices, and rather than making us carry more stuff in our pockets, they reduced it to a one device for all. Now, they have different standards for their different products. Lightning on mobile and USB-C on desktop, and no way to communicate between the two outside of dongles.
To me, it seems that Apple had this event to remind people that yes, it does actually care about the Mac and not just its primary money maker, the iPhone, but they only care about it when it's convenient. Look at Mac Pro. The last time that was updated was 1,048 days ago. That, much like the MacBook Air, is dead in the water, meaning that the only Pro-grade machine worth buying from Apple is the new MacBook Pro, and even then, that's a hard sell. Even more telling is that six out of the seven Mac line products that Apple sells are listed as Don't Buy on the MacRumours Buyer's Guide.
It's not just that. Even Apple's own naming schemes are all out of whack. You have the MacBook, the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro, the Mac Pro, the Mac Mini, the iPad Mini, the iPad Air, the iPad Pro, the iPad Pro 9.7", the iPhone and iPhone Plus. It's all over the place with no sense of product cohesion anymore.
Earlier in the week, I wrote about how I was excited for this new era of the Mac vs. PC war. Both sides are bringing their industrial design A game (and with that exorbitant prices), but it seems now that Apple and Microsoft have switched places. Apple is now the giant monolith unwilling to take meaningful risks, ad Microsoft the scrappy underdog out-Apple'ing Apple.
For a company that prides itself on a singular ecosystem, and thinking of an end to end experience, or continuity if you will, Apple really has lost its way.