The new MacBook Pros: Nine tough questions for Apple

Which MacBook Pro is for pros, the Pro, the Pro or the Pro? Owen Williams is confused.

Nine tough questions extracted (and reformatted) from Williams’ Apple just told the world it has no idea who the Mac is for:

  1. At the iPhone event in September, Apple told the world that headphone jacks were dead because wireless headphones are superior — so why is there a headphone jack on the Mac?
  2. Why can’t you plug the Lightning headphones that come in the iPhone box into the new Mac?
  3. Why doesn’t the iPhone come with the right cable for the new MacBook Pro?
  4. Why doesn’t Apple make a screen that properly works with its own devices?
  5. Why did Apple highlight how great the Touch Bar is for Messaging, but didn’t even port most of the new iMessage features to macOS properly?
  6. Do I have to carry two pairs of headphones now?
  7. How do I charge my Lightning cable mouse?
  8. Why remove the HDMI port, a standard that’s still incredibly popular for plugging into TVs?
  9. Why remove the SD card, a popular slot for… creatives using cameras?

Williams, who publishes a blog on Medium called Charged Tech, says he’s confused. I’m a little confused myself.

24 Comments

  1. Richard Wanderman said:

    It was a brilliant piece. Not perfect but it asked lots of good questions, both specifically about the new computer, and generally about Apple’s direction for the Macintosh line.

    As a “Pro” user, it was right in line with my feeling that Apple has abandoned us. This quote underscored that for me:

    “It wants the market that sits in coffee shops with its brand and only buys Apple, but doesn’t mind so much if the core demographic disappears.”

    These days Pros are called “creatives” (man, I hate that word even though I guess I am one) and for most of us, iOS just does not cut it.

    I would hate it if Apple went the way of North Face…

    1
    October 30, 2016
  2. Jonathan Mackenzie said:

    Aren’t many of these questions answered with one adapter?

    There are always design trade offs. if the laptop had come without a headphone jack, a person could say, “Well I could see for mobile, but come on, this is my laptop. There’s plenty of room for my headphone jack. Why did you take it away?”

    In fact the author is complaining about the presence of one old jack (headphone) while complaining about the absence of another (thunderbolt). It doesn’t seem to me like Apple is the confused one here.

    It’s a laptop. If you have to plug in a mouse, why assume you can use your legacy mouse without an adapter? The bar seems to be set way too high in the minds of some folks. Apple is told they must innovate or else, and yet if a standard changes or someone is missing a jack they find most convenient, there is hell to pay. Where they choose to support a legacy peripheral, they are chastised then too. This is just whining.

    Questions like why Apple doesn’t make an external monitor for this laptop are ridiculous. If you need an external monitor, you can get a great one that works just fine. It doesn’t have to have an Apple logo on it to be used. If you need the monitor, consider the desktop. If you need a laptop and must plug into an external monitor, go buy one. This sounds to me like a lot of carping about pretty mundane issues.

    1
    October 30, 2016
    • Richard Wanderman said:

      The external monitor issue might be thought of like this:

      If you use a MacBook Pro, Apple’s Thunderbolt monitor used to both power it and take video out of it with a single thunderbolt cable. Apple pushed this as a slick and great solution in selling the display. But, that monitor was never updated to newer USB and thunderbolt ports and got out of sync with Apple’s continuing-to-evolve minis and MacBook Pros. Many of us (me included) were waiting for an Apple update to this monitor to be in sync with our newer computers, then they dropped it.

      Third party monitors (short of the newly announced LG) do not both charge and push data with a single cable and ports being what they are, it was an issue.

      The current solution (USB-C/Thunderbolt 3) is great although the LG replacement for the Apple monitor isn’t out yet and will cost $1300 which is even more than the Apple thunderbolt monitor.

      Meanwhile, the rest of the Macintosh line hasn’t been updated with new ports.

      God help you if you dropped $6K on a high end Mac Pro which hasn’t seen an update in years and lacks modern ports. Does that computer have a future? Who knows? And therein lies an example of the rub:

      Would that machine have been more successful had Apple paid more attention to it? Would the Macintosh line as a whole, which has seen sagging sales more recently have been more successful in the past year had Apple done more frequent updates?

      I hate to think this, but it seems to me that Apple is slowly winding the Macintosh line down, hoping that the iOS line with iPad Pros will take its place for most people. Tim Cook has said as much (the iPad Pro is the future of personal computing) and when he says it, I’m unhappy as a Macintosh user.

      2
      October 30, 2016
      • David Drinkwater said:

        Agree strongly. I just got my new iPhone 7 Plus, and it was unpleasant enough not get it up to speed *with* a USB port to Lightning cable through iTunes. (I guess Apple has *forced* me into an iCloud Backup with enough memory to support a 256GB phone.)

        But no SD slot on a “PRO” computer? Totally unacceptable. I feel bad for DSLR photographers. You cannot do brilliant light-sucking photos on an iPhone. Sorry, the physics and optics do not allow it.

        Me, I wanted an SD slot because my employer is slowly opening up to Macs. I want a completely isolated and electable “work core” so that I could possibly live and work on the same computer. Call me crazy, but I do not like to travel with two laptops. That would have otherwise been a $250 laptop for my employer. “l buy the laptop, you buy the SD card!”

        And of course, not one standard USB port. Seriously?!?!?

        2
        October 30, 2016
        • Jonathan Mackenzie said:

          I understand that all users have their own use cases that they want to see supported. If you use your computer for a certain thing or in a certain work environment, you’d like a new computer that supports your current standard and your existing cables. Many users would like an update that boosted the processor and the storage and that would be enough to justify a new purchase every few years.

          That critique may be legitimate. But what I don’t understand is that Apple is being widely faulted for their path of innovation. Lots of people seem to be saying, “Innovate Apple, but do it in a way that meets all of my existing assumptions. Don’t disrupt my workflow while you take your product through disruptive cycles in technology. Bring me the computer of tomorrow, but don’t annoy me with changes.”

          It seems like Apple is in a no win situation. Their new line may be terrible, they might have made all the wrong decisions. But even if that were true, it’s not clear to me that they could have made choices that would satisfy the demand that they innovate while also pleasing everyone by giving them the same computer they are using now.

          2
          October 30, 2016
          • David Drinkwater said:

            “Innovate, but don’t abandon me”. Get it?

            There is room for a variety of ports. Apple chose to ignore that.

            I do defend Apple often, but not on this decision.

            2
            October 30, 2016
            • Jonathan Mackenzie said:

              “There is room for a variety of ports.”

              Folks want the ports they use now to never disappear. Apple has clearly shown they have never much cared for that. I remember firewire upsetting lots of people too. Apple has never seemed to be too allegiant to any standard nor impressed with any of them. I can appreciate why folks are annoyed by this. But Apple has been abandoning old standards almost capriciously for years. We can call it innovation or schizophrenia, but can we call it surprising?

              The chief criticism of the Macbook Pro seems to be “This is not the computer I was hoping for.” Which is another way of saying, “This is not the computer I expected.” Can Apple be both surprising and still meet expectations? It seems a real dilemma.

              0
              October 30, 2016
          • Richard Wanderman said:

            I think you’re on to something here. The complaints/rants about the new computer and Apple are all over the map and everyone has a very particular case. Apple can’t be everything to everyone. Great point and I take it.

            However, some of us aren’t complaining about the headphone jack or this or that port, we’re seeing a meta issue: Apple is not putting enough attention into the Mac. It’s that simple.

            Think about this: there’s more attention paid to the iPhone’s (changing) bezel and the Apple Watch’s bands than all things Macintosh. Doesn’t that strike you as odd given that Apple’s core “Pro” users are Macintosh users.

            Granted, the iPhone is Apple’s bread and butter but the Watch isn’t (yet) and they still make Macs.

            I think the underlying concern, maybe not well expressed, is that Apple is in the process of getting rid of the Macintosh line, and this is a serious issue for many of us.

            If Apple doesn’t pay attention to a line, its sales will sag. If its sales sag, Apple can justify not putting more money and attention into it. It’s a spiral down…

            I’m convinced that while Mac sales will never be what iPhone sales have been, EVER, they’d be a lot better if Apple understood better who their core, Pro users are and what they want. There is little evidence that this is the case and plenty of evidence that Apple is making a case to slowly phase out the Macintosh line.

            1
            October 30, 2016
            • Jonathan Mackenzie said:

              I can appreciate this concern. I’m first and foremost a desktop computer user. I think mobile is amazing and has its uses, but I always gravitate toward a desktop computer (even a windows machine) if one is nearby.

              But when I see the Touch Bar (not real fond of the name, btw) added to the new line of notebooks, I don’t see a company that is planning for PCs to just die and disappear. It seems like they gave serious thought to how to bring the mobile touch experience to a laptop (and I’m assuming desktop) sensibility. Microsoft has been persistent in its pursuit of touch screen in its literal sense. They followed this line of thinking all the way to the Surface Studio. Apple looked at the same problem and came up with a different idea. If Apple were convinced that the future was nothing but glass screens, they wouldn’t have worked so hard to integrate the keyboard with touch interface.

              So while I don’t think Apple is really intending to get rid of the Mac, I do think they are intending to get rid of cables everywhere and always. The future is wireless and Apple seems intent on ignoring current use of cables and removable storage. This will probably be an easier sell to younger consumers than those who have been using computers since the 80’s or earlier.

              And if they don’t fix their cloud, it will all be for naught. I assume they know this and I am guessing they’re working on that problem. And I also think Apple’s omelet isn’t done yet and all we are seeing are the broken eggs.

              1
              October 30, 2016
              • Richard Wanderman said:

                Good points all.

                I agree, wireless is the future but between now and the future there are people who need to do serious work with a platform they are locked into.

                And, while I use iCloud for lots of different syncing, it’s the most unreliable cloud service I use so if the future is client/server with the server being iCloud as it is, god help us.

                1
                October 30, 2016
        • Richard Wanderman said:

          I’m a pro photographer and the SD card slot elimination doesn’t bother me. I have a drawer full of USB card readers and no doubt there will be a version for USB C.

          Try setting up iTunes to sync your iPhone to your Mac via wifi. It will save you the headache of cables and it’s relatively painless. I’ve been doing it this way for both my iPad and iPhone for a few years now and it works fine.

          Every time you laugh iTunes and your iPhone is on your network it will sync.

          Let me know how it works and if you need help.

          0
          October 30, 2016
          • Richard Wanderman said:

            laugh = launch. Sorry. 😉

            1
            October 30, 2016
  3. George Ewonus said:

    As a creative professional (and aren’t we all) I am really looking forward to using the new 15 inch laptop. Has everything I need, 2TB SSD, Thunderbolt 3 and great connectivity to the new monitors. I would have to agree with Jonathan’s comments..

    0
    October 30, 2016
    • Richard Wanderman said:

      I assume you’ve ordered one. Please let us know what you think once it arrives and you’re set up on it.

      If you don’t mind me asking, what are you using now?

      0
      October 30, 2016
  4. Jim Moskun said:

    Apple engineers seem to be confused about the difference between a “truck” & a “car”. A truck needs more ports and certainly the capability of expanding RAM to greater than 16Gig (even at the expense of battery life.) A car needs to be sleek, secure and forgiving. I would certainly like to have a touch bar on the bluetooth keyboard that I use with my Ipad Pro (car) instead of those ugly “command” key shortcuts. Is apple afraid to take the leap into an ios/A-series replacement for PCs? Is Apple having second thoughts about participating in the “truck” business? Perhaps the new Macbook Pro is Apple’s El Camino – a very cool car in its time, but certainly not a great one.

    2
    October 30, 2016
    • Richard Wanderman said:

      Yes, the truck/car analogy works well here although even us users might be confused about where the MacBook Pro fits into that analogy.

      For the most part, Apple seems to be turning into a “car” business with users owning many smaller devices and the Macintosh line, especially desktops are trucks but aren’t getting a lot of attention.

      I guess I think of the MacBook Pro as a portable truck, a pickup truck (which I drive the analog of).

      0
      October 30, 2016
  5. David Emery said:

    This pursuit of ‘thin’ at the expense of functionality needs to stop. It’s one thing to abandon older standards when they’re no longer useful. It’s another thing to remove stuff that is still really useful (SD card) for the sake of ‘thin’.

    I’m looking at the new MBPs and thinking “anorexia”. More importantly, there’s nothing in here that makes me drool for a new MBP, but rather I’m thinking “my older MBP with the SD slot is still looking very good.”

    2
    October 30, 2016
  6. A friend of the blog writes…

    Good Morning Phil:
    Read your list of questions about the new MacBook Pros with interest and would offer the following thoughts:

    1. This is in my opinion a real worthwhile question. Add me to the list of folk questioning this decision. The only rationale that I can think of is that pro creative users use much better headphones and need the conventional headphone jack.
    2. A brilliant and totally appropriate question.
    3. Or perhaps the reverse – why doesn’t the MacBook Pro come with the right cable for the new iPhone?
    4. I suspect that the answer to this one relates to contractual obligations on volume of screens, and the next generation move to Sharp/Foxcomm. I’m not concerned about who provides the screen if it’s seamless and offers traditional Apple graphic quality. The LG version seems to so I will be ordering a dozen for my folks.
    5. It’s amazing how everyone wants everything from the beginning. In my opinion too, getting the Messaging app right would probably be a better use of resources than say Final Cut, but that doesn’t preclude Apple doing it shortly. By the time the MacBook Pros ship, the software could well be updated.
    6-9. All are appropriate questions, particularly the HDMI port and SD card slot questions.

    Overall, I felt that the whole product seems weekly conceived even though there’s a massive need for a refreshed product. I think that the problem is being driven by some [thing] else completely.

    Like every organization, Apple has a limited supply of top talent.

    1. Bob Mansfield who has been driving the A-processor development efforts in the background has been fully loaded getting the manufacturing capacity up to the level that it can compete with Intel. These are not trivial tasks as Intel has demolished more than a few capable competitors in the past. While most people think that Intel’s engineering design expertise is what drives the company, it’s really the production engineering teams that gave it the edge.
    2. Jonny Ive seems to think that he can manage the new office complex design, the new London office design and the creative side of Apple. In my opinion, splitting his time like that is not a productive use of his great talents.
    3. Project Titan was consuming cash like it was a black hole and had no real direction. Tim had to put a stop to the bleeding. Bob had the tough stuff finished on the processor, so he got reassigned. Always remember that Bob reported to Tim, not Steve, for the last three years of Steve’s life. Those ties are very tight because Bob (and Jim Williams and Eddy Cue and Craig F) get things done.

    In my opinion, Apple got caught. They weren’t yet ready to manufacture their new chips that they intended to use in the two low-end Powerbooks, and they had to jury-rig a PowerBook update out of less than they probably had intended. From what I’m hearing from upper NY, factory production has started but yields aren’t close to the necessary level yet, so they’ve pushed things off the introduction of Apple powered Macs for another generation of the A-processors. (That design is already finished and we’ll see that come late winter in new iPads.) —GJG.

    3
    October 30, 2016
    • Fred Stein said:

      Thanks Phil and GJG. Most thoughtful. Especially 2).
      Surely, Apple wants to drive sales of Lightning-connected Beats and third party headphones. Why make it hard? When they update the low-end of the MacBook line-up, will this folly continue?

      1
      October 30, 2016
    • Richard Wanderman said:

      What you’re saying in your last paragraph is that Apple is going to move the Mac line to ARM processors. Will those machines still be running Mac OS? I sure hope so…

      0
      October 31, 2016

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