MacBook Pro: Apple eats crow

Apple just took a beating in the tech press. Here’s the company’s new line.

Apple PR (by email)

We recognize that many users, especially pros, rely on legacy connectors to get work done today and they face a transition. We want to help them move to the latest technology and peripherals, as well as accelerate the growth of this new ecosystem. Through the end of the year, we are reducing prices on all USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 peripherals we sell, as well as the prices on Apple’s USB-C adapters and cables.

Phil Schiller in The Independent

Q: Are you surprised by how vocal the critics have been?

A: To be fair it has been a bit of a surprise to me. But then, it shouldn’t be. I have never seen a great new Apple product that didn’t have its share of early criticism and debate — and that’s cool. We took a bold risk, and of course with every step forward there is also some change to deal with. Our customers are so passionate, which is amazing. 

We care about what they love and what they are worried about. And it’s our job to help people through these changes. We know we made good decisions about what to build into the new MacBook Pro and that the result is the best notebook ever made, but it might not be right for everyone on day one. That’s okay, some people felt that way about the first iMac and that turned out pretty good. 

Rene Richie in iMore

Based on the interview and, now, the discount, it feels like Apple was genuinely shocked by the reaction to the new MacBook Pro. When they don’t make major changes, they’re called boring and lacking in innovation. When they make major changes, they’re causing unnecessary pain to their customers and screwing professionals…

According to Phil Schiller, this is the best pro notebook launch Apple Online has ever seen, so either there’s a segment that’s genuinely just as excited by these new machines, or pent up demand is such that lack of legacy ports simply aren’t a deal-breaker.

Either way, it’s obvious Apple firmly believes this is the future of the Mac laptop, and the price drops are a olive branch and bridge to those still bound to present-day accessories.

Horace Dediu in Wherefore art thou Macintosh

The iPhone’s capacitive touch brought about the direct input method, a third pivot in input methods (first was mouse, second trackpad/scroll wheel). Each pivot launched a new set of platforms and the Mac is the legacy of the second.

It’s not obsolete but it is a decreasing share of engagement. Alternate ways of doing the jobs it does well with direct input are emerging on the third pivot but they are not yet good enough. The children are still adolescent and making lots of stupid mistakes. There’s still life in the parents.

The management thus has to focus on how to make the keyboard/trackpad interface better while still saying and believing that the future is touch.

In this context the newest MacBooks Pro are a logical extension of the second wave of computing while avoiding cramming them into the third wave. They are defined by their constraints. Seen thusly, the move from keyboard/trackpad to keyboard/touchbar/trackpad is pure genius.

See also Dediu in The Critical Path podcast #191: Bitch’n ain’t Switch’n

14 Comments

  1. David Emery said:
    I think both sides of the argument is right. Apple clearly is making a shift, but at the same time they ignored the impact that significant shift has on their user base. In particular, they forgot the cost as well as the emotional impact, of making most people’s peripherals obsolete.

    Frankly, there’s no good reason why Apple couldn’t have included at least one USB-3 old-form connector on the new MBP.

    And USB-C connectors and cables are a mess. See http://blog.fosketts.net/2016/10/29/total-nightmare-usb-c-thunderbolt-3/

    (p.s. many have asked, “who uses the SD card slot?” I used mine today to grab a couple photos from my DSLR of my dogs to post to Facebook and send to friends.)

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    November 6, 2016
    • David Emery said:
      “both sides of the argument is right” Sorry, should be “are right” 🙁 Note to self, re-read before posting.

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      November 6, 2016
  2. George Ewonus said:
    I am one of those who did buy (ordered and 3 to 4 weeks to go) the new MacBook Pro 15″. I am really looking forward to this machine and I see it as the right move forward for my company. I do recall having similar issues with peripherals, especially Thunderbolt 2 raid arrays, when we moved to the new Mac Pro. Fortunately by the time the machine was delivered Promise Technologies had developed the needed systems. I now see that Thunderbolt 3 raid arrays have just been announced in time for the new MacBooks. I am certainly not disappointed!

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    November 6, 2016
  3. Robert Paul Leitao said:
    Apple has successfully quelled a tempest in a teapot. Absent Apple’s decision to eliminate the traditional headphone jack on the iPhone 7 handsets I doubt the migration to new expansion ports on the MacBook Pro would have brought about such an intense and vocal response from Mac users.

    Although innovation demands an inexorable migration to new technologies as they arrive and are deemed to be advancements in usability and functionality, human nature being what it is, we are often comforted by the familiar. This is not to dismiss the legitimate concerns of power users such as Richard who is, for example, less enamored with the new Touch Bar and more interested in maintaining consistency in his workflow and making use of the peripherals in which he already made a big investment.

    With hundreds of millions of avid Apple device owners all over the world, the company will constantly be in the crosshairs of debate between a fast pace of innovation and those seeking consistency and the comfort of familiarity. For example, there was a vocal outcry of concern Apple planned to use the familiar iPhone 6 series form for the iPhone 7 handsets. Somewhere along the line the awful informal moniker of an “Anniversary iPhone” for the next iteration of the iPhone has entered the lexicon with expectations the next iPhone handsets will include all of the upgrades people fantasize are needed to somehow “save Apple” once again. Meanwhile, those of us with the new iPhone 7 handsets appreciate the many innovations packed into a familiar form.

    Technology transitions are awkward and deliver some negatives with all of the positives of continued innovation. For example, where are the AirPods Apple originally planned for delivery by the end of October? Eliminating the traditional headphone jack may have merit from the standpoint of innovation and making better use of the space within the iPhone’s thin enclosure, but the delay in delivering the wireless and innovative peripheral, though a minor and temporary inconvenience, leaves the migration away from the traditional headphone jack incomplete in a practical way. The AirPods resolve the vocal complaint iPhone 7 users can’t enjoy conversation or content while simultaneously charging their handset.

    Today’s debates are similar to the debates that surrounded Apple’s decision to abandon the floppy drive and become the first major manufacturer to embrace USB in 1998 with the release of the original iMac. A similar debate erupted twice over FireWire – first Apple’s decision to embrace IEEE 1394 only to abandon it not many years later. Another is Apple’s adoption of Thunderbolt and now the transition to Thunderbolt 3.

    All of these transitions provide an opportunity for discussion and debate. In this instance Apple, through a reduction in price of adapters, is signaling customer have been “heard”. This is not an issue of whether innovation is necessary. It’s really a discussion about how Apple responds to the needs of customers who have made significant investments in Apple-branded devices and peripherals when technology transitions occur.

    The fact that Apple has responded in this instance with a reduction of adapter prices through the end of the year is a signal the company continues to listen to its customers and responds as it can to reduce the inconvenience that occurs when new technologies are adopted to spur progress and accommodate innovation.

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    November 6, 2016
  4. Richard Wanderman said:
    For me, it’s not about the new ports and expense of dongles or the new keyboard, or the lack of an SD card slot (and I’m a photographer), or the 16GB or RAM.

    It’s about two things, only one having to do with this particular computer: Price (the new computer is more expensive than its predecessor) and its price gave me pause in ordering it, and a meta issue: Apple is not giving professional users (of which I am one) a roadmap that shows us that they are going to support us in the future. The Mac Pro may be dead in the water like the Thunderbolt monitor, but we’re not sure because Apple hasn’t said a thing and still sells it. Are they trying to get rid of those in the channel or does this computer (and Pro users) have a future?

    Why not update all models of Macintosh to USB-C so that people who own many Macs don’t have to deal with this awkwardly between different computers? Why not put the Touch Bar on the stand alone keyboard so everyone who uses an iMac or Mac Pro can use it?

    Apple is not a small company that has to scramble for resources and if they are scrambling for resources to get Macintoshes designed and built, then they’re not putting their resources in the right places.

    As a Macintosh user, I resent all the attention paid to their new headquarters while various models of Macintosh and Pro software are neglected.

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    November 6, 2016
  5. Fred Stein said:
    I see both sides, and still think Apple needs stronger offerings at the low end of the Mac, and not leave this price range to iPads, vs. PCs or Surfaces or Chromebooks or Android tablets. Apple needs more dogs in this fight. Perhaps Apple’s executives are too internally focused and don’t see this.

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    November 6, 2016

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