Chuq Von Rospach on the MacBook Pro Special Event Controversy
Many people are angry about Apple’s special event last week, mainly due to Apple ignoring desktop Macs, but also because of the new MacBook Pros lacking a dedicated Esc key, having only Thunderbolt 3 ports, and being limited to 16 GB of RAM. But Apple veteran Chuq Von Rospach has penned a reasoned response to all those critiques, suggesting that Apple could have avoided much of the controversy simply by acknowledging desktop Macs and hinting at future updates. But he says the bottom line is that the Mac is increasingly becoming a niche product again, and many of Apple’s design decisions reflect that.
I, as many I'm sure, see the desktop Mac as the foundation of their Apple system. Notebooks, pads, phones, watches, TVs and networks are all seen as peripherals sitting on and being extensions of their desktop Mac. Ignoring and not mentioning the Mac felt like Tim flipping me and the whole system the bird by the end of the show.
by ignoring the Mac ad the professionals, Apple is again digging their own grave. MS will come back with a phone running basically on the same platform as their Surface- laptops and desktops. Google's pixel phone is technically already on par with the iPhone 7 and the android system offers better integrated with Win 10 and cloud services.
Apple is in danger of becoming the next Nokia or Blackberry ......
Well, that's just silly. There's no reason why a notebook can't be the foundation of an Apple system.
While the authored did have some points, I do debate how "reasoned" the article really is.
Take his comments about the four USB-C ports and dongles.
The one gem is "We need to remember that if they add all of those ports to the computer, you’re paying for them, whether or not you use them." This quote essentially implies that all those people who did not need those other ports where wasting money that they will not waste now. I would argue the opposite is likely true. There is no evidence that Apple reduced the price of the new MacBook Pros when they removed those "expensive, unused ports" rather than just increase their profit per unit. Nor is there evidence that removing those "specialized ports" reduced cost in the first place (as I understand it, the 15 MBP has two USB-C/Thunderbolt controllers...how does that cost compare with the controllers that were needed for two USB ports, two Thunderbolt ports, 1 HDMI port, 1 MagSafe port, and 1 SD card slot?). What we do know is that those people that DID use those "specialized, but unused" ports have to pay more in the form of dongles. So, the more like scenarios is the some people were essentially left paying the same level while other are now paying more.
That leads to this gem: "But watch the nerds complain about a $19 thing to customize their $2500 computer. My short answer: time for a bit of perspective, people." To be honest, he kind of sounds like all the Windows zealots constantly say Mac are was too expensive, so "why complain about another $20". To me, I look it as someone just paid Apple a fortune for their "Pro" level laptop, then why can't Apple at least toss in an adapter or two rather than charge another $20 or so. In other words, if I were to pay Apple $2500 (which I will note is not the price of any of the new models...the more accurate price, assuming a 15", would be $2400 or $2800 for the two base models), then my attitude would be why do I need to pay another $19 (currently $9 under Apple's "we are trying to rehabilitate our image until you forget" sale) in order to get it to function with at a minimum some devices that the vast majority of users likely use (i.e. USB-A devices).
Look, I am more accepting of no providing video "dongles" as Apple has done for a while. First, many people don't need them. Second, even if they do, then Apple does not know if that person would like a VGA, DVI, DVI dual link, HDMI, or regular sized DisplayPort "dongle"/cable. So, I am willing to cut them slack on that one.
And for the really specialized things like Firewire and eSATA, I agree no need. Only a small number of people use them.
Even as SD card slot/adapter I can cut them slack on as again many people don't need them (although in theory a MacBook Pro is kind aimed at pro level or prosumer level photographers), but more importantly like video adapters, not every one will necessary want or just want an SD adapter. Many older prosumer or pro cameras use CompactFlash. So, again, how is Apple to know what people would want.
And Ethernet again is likely not used by many (although I always use Ethernet if I can as it is much more reliable than WiFi, especially when dealing with Apple's somewhat outdated routers than seem to get more and more flaky in terms of WiFi in my personal experience).
That mainly leaves USB-A. The plain simple reality is that more than likely the vast majority of purchasers of MacBook Pros use at least 1 USB-A device on a regular basis. Whether a flash drive, external drive (for more storage since large SSDs on MBPs are still expensive or for backing up), a card reader (for a photographer since there is no SD card slot or if they need CompactFlash), a scanner or even a printer (not every one has networked printers at home even though they are more and more prevalent).
It is this last item where Apple dropped the ball. Yes, in reality is it not that expensive to go buy a USB-C to USB-A "dongle". But, that also means it is not that expensive for Apple to provide at least one free USB-C to USB-A "dongle" when you purchase one of their Macs that only have USB-C ports. And this would have saved Apple a major marketing black eye.
That then leads to the 16 GB limit. I will admit that I don't know much about the power/battery life trade offs that seem to potentially be at play with that. I have read enough to suggest that maybe Apple can "fix" this issue in the future if Intel "fixes" the issue.
But, I also think that ignores an important point. And that point is that Apple seems to be held hostage by Jony Ive's obsession with form over function. In particular, he whole obsession with making things thinner for the sake of being thinner and sexier.
Yes, it is nice that my mid-2014 15" rMBP is rather thing and light. But, how much would I really gain if I went out and bought a new MBP? I would save about 1/2 pound as I understand it and save like about .1" of thickness. I seriously doubt ANYONE will really notice the different of a 1/2 a pound when caring around a new MBP compared to the slightly heavier older MBP. The point is that I would argue that we have kind of hit the point of diminishing returns in terms of reducing weight and thickness.
And we might actually be impeding function. After all, how much extra battery life could there have been if the new MBPs kept the same form factor as the now replaced MBPs? Is it possible that extra battery life could have partially or even completely offset any extra power used by allowing for say 32 GB of RAM? There is, of course, a similar type argument to be made for have left the iPhone 7 a bit thicker.
While part of this is "my rant" on Apple's decided push of form over function, it also ties back to this article. Apple is supposed to be the company that innovates. Why then could they not innovate solution that included the ability to have at least 32 GB of RAM? After all, a MacBook Pro is supposed a "pro" level laptop that is supposed aimed at "pro" level users. And those users typically would benefit a lot from 32 GB (or more) of RAM.
Or has Apple decided to abandon their pro users? I have to admit that is seems more and more to be the case. The complete lack of any updates to the "trash can" Mac Pro (not to mention its poor user upgradability) and a 16 GB limited MBP seem to indicate it. Maybe the author is right and a new design (that puts function over form) for the Mac Pro is around the corner (thus the lack of updates).
That leads me to the last issue which is a fairly common issue for many people. It seems that the author lack the ability to put himself in other peoples' shoes. This is evidenced by him kind of "poo-pooing" the port issue by pointing out the ports he does not use (so obviously others don't use them either) as well as downplaying niches of which he does not seem to belong. OTOH, I am not a "pro" user, but I can still see their legitimate beefs with many things Apple. I am not sure I am even a "prosumer" at least when it comes to things like photography, video production/editing, etc. I use my MBP for very mundane things with the occasional game. I mainly wanted the extra graphics power IN CASE I needed it at some point, which no real expectation that I really would need it. About the most that I tax my MBP is by driving multiple displays as I use it mostly as a desktop replacement that I can take with me if needed. As such, would a new MBP work for my purposes? Yep. I would grumble about having to buy "dongles" since I do make use of at least one USB-A port and my two Thunderbolt 2 ports) or maybe even "dongles" for my "dongles" (i.e. say maybe a Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 "dongle" to then be used with my current Thunderbolt 2/MiniDisplayPort to DVI "dongle" for one display since the HDMI port is gone)...but it would work for my needs.
My point is that he seems to neatly dismiss a rather significant "niche" (i.e. pro users) because he cannot seem to put himself in their shoes. And frankly, so does Apple. Now, maybe Apple just does not see much of market there. If so, I cannot help but wonder how much of that is because Apple has consistently betrayed that market in recent years (killing the 17" MBP, 16 GB RAM limits on the MBP, the Mac Pro redesign, fluff updates to the macOS, and Apple just general focus on the consumer market at the expense of the pro market).
Oh, and I forgot to address that one "specialty port" that Apple had a really good reason for that somehow seems to have just "magically" disappeared. I guess some Apple exec would just say "it is magic".
That port is the MagSafe port. After years of Apple touting how the MagSafe port is so much better than anything you could get on a Windows laptop because the cable would disconnect before you could accidentally pull your laptop to the ground, I guess that no longer matters. Feel free to now accidentally pull your $2400+ laptop to the ground and kill it. I have to admit I am a little surprised that Apple did not release a $50 MagSafe "dongle" to help pad the bottom line some.
Oh, I should also now point out the cost, especially since we now know that the SSD is soldered to the motherboard. The Touch Bar machines are already more expensive than the "old" models by at least several hundred dollars, but frankly you should now automatically buy an AppleCare extended warranty since the SSD is soldered to the motherboard. After all, if the SSD dies in the second year of ownership (i.e. after the original warranty expires), you will now essentially have to almost pay for a new machine (i.e. a new motherboard) in order to get the SSD replaced. It will be interesting to see if this becomes an issue in 2018 when all these now year old Touch Bar rMBPs are out of warranty.