Wherefore art thou Macintosh?

Managing the Mac product line must be one of the most challenging problems at Apple. That may not be obvious given the product’s success. Consider what it has achieved:

  • The product is in its 32nd year of market presence. A longevity that in unmatched by any other PC maker.
  • Apple reached a top five position in the ranking of PC vendors. This was achieved for the first time only this year, far along in the evolution of the market.
  • With about $23 billion in revenues per year, Apple places among the top four PC vendors in terms of revenue.
  • With an estimated $5.5 billion in operating margin Apple is the most profitable PC vendor, capturing over 60% of the available PC hardware profits.
  • The product has retained an average selling price of over $1200 for at least a decade. At the same time the average pricing of Personal Computers has more than halved.
  • Although volumes have fallen for three quarters, the product grew volumes and sales for 22 out of 29 quarters. As a result, volumes almost doubled in eight years.[1]

The contribution of the Mac to Apple’s revenues is shown in the following graph.


It’s attractive and convenient to contrast the Mac with the rest of the PC industry. A David vs. Goliath tale of redemption. The classic comeback story. But the split between the two old rivals (Windows/MacOS) focuses the mind into a limited view of the computing market. The big change in computing has not been a growing Mac vs. declining PC. It has been a huge surge in mobile device use vs. a decline in PC use overall.

This data is visible in many ways. Browsing data shows mobile overtook PC use this year. Shopping data around Black Friday points in the same direction. Data on user interaction captured by comScore is shown below[2]


PC use went from half to a third of time while mobile went the other way: from a third to half of time within only four years. All the data is consistent: mobile use has swept PC use aside.

We can see the contrast simply by placing iPhone, Mac and all Windows PC on the same shipment graph.


This contrast is spectacular.

I bring this contrast up because I believe it is what focuses the minds at Apple. For them it’s pretty clear where the puck is going. And not just now. Mobile has been foreseeable as a disruption to computing a decade ago–at least to some of us.

And so what do you with the Mac?

To answer this we have to ask what exactly is the purpose of the Mac in the age of the Mobile device?

Note that this is not the same as asking what is the PC in this world. The PC is not having to share a resource pool with an iPad/iPhone. It does not have to answer for its existence to a phone. PC makers and Microsoft are not fighting with an usurper in their midst. They may see the outsider challenger but it’s not an inside challenger. This makes all the difference.

Indeed, because no usurper was allowed to emerge, PC/Windows never moved to a mobile evolution of computing. Microsoft’s platform future was lost because the antibodies which eat disruptions were left unchecked.

But Apple’s immune system was suppressed. It allowed a disruptor to emerge from within. Apple gave birth to its future by suppressing the reaction to that new seemingly parasitic organism. It took an immense willpower to allow this to happen.

But it takes us back to the question of what to do with the incumbent, the donor of DNA and resources. The parent that sacrificed for the child.

The Mac is thus not treated disparagingly. It deserves and gets respect. It is preserved but with limited responsibilities.

Which brings me to the question of what it is allowed to be and hence what it is. It cannot take on the role of being the future. That belongs to the touch screen devices. It will not morph into a touch device any more than a teen’s parent will become cool by putting on skinny jeans. What it will do is become better at what it is hired to do.

The key to the Mac therefore becomes that which the iPad/iPhone isn’t: an indirect input device. The keyboard and mouse/trackpad are what define the Mac. The operating system, the apps, the UX, are all oriented around the indirect input method. 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.

The touchbar coupled to the other two inputs is a totally new way to interact with computing products. It’s not an “easy” interface as it’s not direct manipulation. It remains indirect, a defining characteristic of the second wave. Indirect inputs are powerful and lend themselves to muscle memory with practice. This is the way professional users become productive. The same way keyboard shortcuts are hard to learn but pay off with productivity, touchbar interactions are fiddly but will pay off with a two-handed interaction model. They are not something you “get” right away. They require practice and persistence for a delayed payoff. But, again, that effort is what professionals are accustomed to investing.

This is a leap forward and a big deal. For 32 years the UX model of the Mac has been two-handed typing with one handed gesturing. Now we have the option of two-handed indirect manipulation: one hand on the touchbar and one hand on the touchpad[3]. Imagine you’ve been playing guitar with one hand for years and then someone lets you use your left hand. Holy cow.

Even so, it may seem that Apple is pulling punches. The product could have evolved into the full-touch, dual screens, pen input, hybrid model of Windows. But that only makes sense if you don’t have a mobile product that is promising the same and tearing up the world at the same time.

You’ve unleashed a disruptive force and now you’re supposed to retrofit the incumbent with the tools to compete. Why not just let the disruptor grow up unhindered.

The Mac is what it is because it’s not alone. It’s part of a family. It is a parent. It strives to be better but will not take the future from its child.

  1. The unit volumes in third quarter 2008 were 2.6 million. Eight years later they are 4.9 million and could easily be over 5 million in the holiday quarter. []
  2. Although US only, the global picture is likely to be even more skewed toward mobile as PC didn’t saturated global markets before the smartphone swept to power. []
  3. the iPad pro already encourages two handed direct manipulation []
  • Robert Shaftoe

    excellent summary

  • handleym

    “Indirect inputs are powerful and lend themselves to muscle memory with practice.

    touchbar interactions are fiddly but will pay off with a two-handed interaction model. They are not something you “get” right away. They require practice and persistence for a delayed payoff. But, again, that effort is what professionals are accustomed to investing.”

    I understand and agree with the sentiment. BUT how would you respond to these two complaints
    – the touchbar is too dynamic. Even if the system functionality remains as it is, every new version of the app will move and rearrange the keys, so that muscle memory does not really grow.

    – without grooves or even scoring on the touch bar, you can’t use it blindly. In that way it differs from
    + keyboard (grooves, keyshapes, raised dots on some keys all let you know where your fingers are)
    + trackpad (you see where you are by the cursor on the screen)

    Since I am not much of a touch typist, I don’t really care much about these two issues. But they are the concerns I have heard raised from some people.
    The first I’m not too worried about — you could equally well be scared that your F-keys would be redefined every software release.
    But the second seems to me that it could possibly be a real issue if the point of the touchbar is to be an efficient augmentation to the keyboard rather than an augmentation to the screen. Perhaps it’s fixed by adding some scoring to the touch bar, or some “orientation” dots above or below the touchbar, so your fingers can feel where they are?

    As I said, I’m not a touch typist. But I was a mouse user, and the ridiculous stupidity and non-functionality of the round mouse Apple shipped in 1998 were obvious to me from day one. I don’t think the touchbar is nearly as poorly thought out a product. But I do want to hear these issues addressed by people who ARE touch-typists and who are in a position to say how well this works for them.

    • Every app may configure the bar to its needs or (as shown during the demo) allow the user to configure it to their needs.

      Regardless, spend enough time in your core application (Photoshop, Final Cut, Xcode, etc.) and I suspect that you’ll learn to use it to your advantage.

      (What I’m wondering about now is a Magic Keyboard with a Touch Bar….)

      • mithlond

        That one does seem like a natural progression. The battery life of the keyboard may be the limiting factor. Consider the requirements of the touchbar display and T1 chip, compared to the current keyboard, which needs little more than a low-power bluetooth connection requires.

        Where the keyboard isn’t necessarily mobile they could perhaps get away with making it slightly thicker and packing in more battery.

      • Apple has (slowly) brought notebook features to their desktops and iMacs. Witness the Magic Trackpad and Trackpad 2 and Magic Mouse.

      • mithlond

        Yup. And I’m sure they’ll get the touchbar there no later than the battery hurdle is cleared to whatever standard they set for themselves.

        Now if they did it as a quiet upgrade (e.g. not at a press event) I think it would be the most substantial quiet upgrade in their history.

      • art hackett

        Most definitely. I’ve been using the fabulous trackpads since my first PowerBook in 1998 and dreamt of being able to use them with desktops because the alternatives then were worse than mice. I don’t understand all the whining about touching screens when the trackpads are so powerful and have a wide range of configurable gestures, let alone why anyone would use a mouse with an Apple laptop. If you absolutely must use a mouse at all, the Magic Mouse is a reasonable option, but many people still seem to just try to use them like a regular mouse.
        The touch bar seems to be a promising extension of the trackpad/touch, but as Americans say, there’s a ways to go.

    • mithlond

      Response to your points:

      “too dynamic”

      Mithlond’s Law (jmtu) states: “As the number of keyboard shortcuts in an app increases there is a corresponding increase in the likelihood that the app will provide for the user to customize shortcut assignments.”

      The user’s muscle memory will be built around the configuration they land on. As with any configurable key mapping, you do have to reset if you make changes. The dynamic nature is 99% upfront, and 1% later on when you realize you need to make a minor tweak. And you gladly relearn because the pain of change is exceeded by the pain of remaining where you are.

      “If every new version of an app moves and rearranges the keys”

      This may only be possible by removing features. Not sure what happens in that case, but a designer who removes touchbar-enabled features with every release clearly has an app that wasn’t well thought out enough to purchase in the first place. It has 1/5 stars on the App Store, so you know not to bother.

      “raised dots on some keys all let you know where your fingers are”

      Those same dots position your hands as you use the “without looking” buttons on the touchbar, similar to how a touch typist uses the function or number keys. The bits not designed to be used w/o looking usually have something you’d want to look at anyway (see the scrubbers in the demo).

      I haven’t used it, but it looks like the buttons intended to be used w/o looking are wide enough that you can incorporate them into your touch typing muscle memory. Though if you find you have to look, I’d say that the need to look is outweighed by the benefits of a dynamic contextual set of inputs – same as iOS devices.

    • jamesdbailey

      Obviously almost no one has touched the Touch Bar yet but I’m a touch typist and I use a trackpad almost exclusively over keyboard shortcuts. I’ve trained myself over the years to use a mouse and now a trackpad instead of keyboard shortcuts because in general it is faster and more flexible–at least on a Mac. I suspect that the Touch Bar would work very well for me after some time getting used to it.

  • jfutral

    Okay, most of this is interesting if not totally relevant. But this:

    “The Mac is what it is because it’s not alone. It’s part of a family. It is a parent. It strives to be better but will not take the future from its child.”

    Is just plain confusing. On one hand I hear how smart Apple is because it has no compulsion about disrupting itself. Now they are smart because they won’t disrupt themselves?

    “Indirect inputs are powerful and lend themselves to muscle memory with practice.”

    As someone who works in an industry with quite a few touch screen computer devices, direct input also lends itself to muscle memory. For instance, lighting consoles for live entertainment have both keyboard/keypad and touch screens. The best operators are most efficient when they use both methods of input. This direct/indirect distinction makes no difference. Muscle memory is muscle memory, as is visual association.


    • rattyuk

      You have an account on Techpinions, Jan Dawson clearly explained the “family” a few days ago.

      • jfutral

        I understand the thinking, even though the anthropomorphizing was a bit over the top. A more apt analogy would be Apple doesn’t want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

        The problem I have is this is traditional thinking. Apple could have done more but didn’t so as not to disrupt their mobile sales? That’s how mainstream businesses think, not how a disruptor thinks. Apple used to not worry about these things. Now they are consumed by it? And here people who used to trumpet Apple’s lack of concern about disrupting even themselves are now heralded for NOT disrupting themselves.

        That’s rationalizing, not analyzing.


    • Kizedek

      “On one hand I hear how smart Apple is because it has no compulsion about [not] disrupting itself. Now they are smart because they won’t disrupt themselves?”

      On the contrary, Horace makes it sound like Apple thinks that blending the two paradigms of direct and indirect, a la MS, is not disruptive enough.

      Since Apple had the courage not to kill iOS and iOS devices in the cradle to stop them from disrupting the traditional indirect paradigm, they can let that paradigm evolve to its full potential.

      In the meantime, Apple can continue to develop the traditional indirect paradigm and let it run its course.

      MS, in trying to blend “the best of both worlds” is in danger of fully succeeding in neither, nor as likely to find a disruptive path to follow. They have improved, but by continuing a “Windows everywhere” approach, for example, the resulting products end up being more niche than ever, despite their attempting a general purpose design and intent.

      • jfutral

        People have been blending indirect and direct for quite a while already. At east as long they’ve been able to buy an external keyboard for the iPad. People are already absent-mindedly blending touch and PCs until they realize they can’t. A touch interface has long been foreign to Macs, but not computers. Ever.

        And after almost 10 years, iOS cannot be considered, certainly not in tech terms, as still in the cradle.

        The indirect “paradigm” is not new. What’s happening here is Apple is artificially compartmentalizing. I really hope they are actually staling for time. No doubt reworking macOS is a daunting endeavor. Otherwise this is Apple getting caught off guard like the internet and mobile caught MS off guard.

        What is the phrase, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” sadly seems to begin to apply to Apple more and more these days.


      • Kizedek

        “What’s happening here is Apple is artificially compartmentalizing. I really hope they are actually stalling for time. No doubt reworking macOS is a daunting endeavor. Otherwise this is Apple getting caught off guard like the internet and mobile caught MS off guard.”

        Then this is where Apple can disrupt both itself and others. Hopefully they are working on something new that is neither MacOS nor iOS, but that will disrupt them both.

        Whatever “blending” has been going on, I just don’t see MS’ current Windows Everywhere/Surface play as something that is going to disrupt either iOS devices or Macs.

      • jfutral

        I hope you’re right. One thing I am observing, however, in the arts, particularly in the entertainment industry—long time Apple bastions—I am seeing people more and more switching to Surface devices. Not a wave, necessarily, but enough to be noticeable.

        I don’t think Apple’s typical audience will wait forever. As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t think it is because people _want_ touch screens on their PCs, but they certainly are starting to expect them, from all I can tell.


    • Shameer Mulji

      “Is just plain confusing. On one hand I hear how smart Apple is because it has no compulsion about [not] disrupting itself. Now they are smart because they won’t disrupt themselves?”

      Except that Apple has been disrupting itself in a big way since 2007 with the introduction of the iPhone, and later the iPad. The iPhone, and the smartphone in general, is the most disruptive force in mainstream computing. And there’s no turning. So understanding this, how does Apple, and other PC makers, keep advancing the laptop / desktop. That is the key question.

  • Corbin Supak

    Suggestion to change colors of the smoothed lines on the PC-iPhone-Apple chart. PC line keeps its blue, but the Apple line goes from green to red (red is prominent) and iPhone line goes from yellow to green (green is prominent) – conflicts with the legend. Took me a while to figure out which line was which. Thanks for the article! Made me think about my parenting!

  • “Even so, it may seem that Apple is pulling punches. The product could have evolved into the full-touch, dual screens, pen input, hybrid model of Windows. ”

    It does seem like Apple is pulling punches. But not because they aren’t throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks, like MS does.

    It’s because they have gone ~1 (iMac), ~2 (Mac mini), ~3 (Mac Pro) years without updating their desktop machines.
    It’s because they have raised the base price on their laptops out of competitiveness.

    I would love for Apple to be more aggressive with the Mac line. Update more often. Stay on top of the technology curve. They used to do this.

  • Hey Horace. I think you can add that PCs have a profit margin averaging $14.87. I’m sure Macs profit margin is way more than that.

  • berult

    From ambience organ-player to virtuoso Cathedral-Organist. From keyboard journeyman’ism to hammerklavier geniality. A one-liner Touch Bar calls for one-liner symmetry…

    What keen musician, in one’s right mind, wouldn’t forgo the imperialist nature of one’s set of hands, to let free the comprehensive, inquisitive, differentiated dexterities of closely-in-touch opus-brethren ?!

    From touch-type to…in-touch typing, …momentous indeed.


  • Andrej Balaz

    Defining the Mac by its methods of input seems a bit misguided to me. Stay in line with trying to understand the jobs it is hired for and you will arrive at a conclusion that the new macbook pro is not an upgrade in any relevant dimension of performance. It’s not important which input you use, it’s what you use it for and if it’s appropriate or not. Thing is, direct input is appropriate for quite a few tasks, from drawing to layout to moving things around on screen.

    In my humble opinion the jobs Macs are hired for (for people who pay 2000+ dollars for them) are those that require either high computing performance or a lot of visual space such as an external monitor (video, design, layout, coding) or a cohesive multitasking experience for complex workflows or production pipelines. Apple didn’t upgrade anything to helping getting these jobs done better.

    PCs help manage complex decision making processes based not only on their quick and seated input method but on the sheer multitasking performance they are offering. It is a workhorse made for concentrated working on complex problems that are beyond the scope of a single app. I think that adding the possibility of direct input across the entire screen would be a benefit to many of these jobs. Design work and multitasking are just a few examples.

    Fact is, for most people a pc is a complete performance overkill. They should buy an iPad. For those who cannot get enough of the raw pc power and complexity, the new macbook is an example of a stagnating strategy.

    Regarding the touch bar:

    A touch bar for indirect input seems a solving a false dilemma at best. Hitting something without looking will always be a usability problem. (typing on Smartphones without autocorrect is impossible even after years of practice) Knowing which function is behind a key in an app that I use often is not.

    • Andrej Balaz

      Sorry for the typos. Been typing on a direct input device ;).

    • reality

      “Apple didn’t upgrade anything to helping getting these jobs done better.”

      I have no idea what you are talking about here. They upgraded the computing performance from their previous laptops, greatly increased the storage performance to best-in-class, added thunderbolt 3 ports that can drive 5K monitors, etc. Are you talking about the same laptops from my reality?

      • Just adding features or specs doesn’t mean you’re helping customers make more progress with a product.

        E.g. Adding more storage space or adding ports doesn’t help me become a better content creator (E.g. illustrator).

      • BMc

        It was a legitimate response to the statement above. The person had stated that the new MBP’s did not improve in performance (CPU, GPU, RAM speed, Storage I/O speed), or with screen real-estate, when in fact it made significant improvements in those areas. These all help with efficiency.

        His stating that the new Touch Bar doesn’t improve workflow is premature. That might be true in the end, but since this product isn’t in anyone’s hands yet, it cannot be said. Simply speculation with a negative bias.

        Not knowing the illustrator’s job in any detail, a legitimate question is: would you sooner utilize the MS Studio (with its Surface Pen) or iPad Pro (with Pencil)? Or perhaps more accurately, have an iMac + iPadPro/Pencil, or single MS Studio, since that would be closer to same price.

      • jfutral

        In usual computer parlance “upgrade” and “update” take on two different meanings. I could be wrong, but I think the OP’s meaning is that this is more of an update and less of an upgrade.

        He’s not wrong.


      • Exactly. The OP is pointing out how the changes are unfocused towards helping a specific group of customers make progress.

        For example, Microsoft’s Surface Studio is geared towards creatives. That’s why it has the large touch screen that swivels. Compare that to the touch bar. It’s nice…but I’m not sure how it helps a particular person become a better writer, musician, artist, gamer…you get the idea.

      • Andrej Balaz

        1) I think that many of the work done on MBP Pros is done with external appliances, making additions on the device itself not really that meaningful. Compatibility with the ecosystem and higher performance (processor power was increased in single digits) would have been much more highly valued by performance-hungry customers. But even if we just consider the MBP itself, slimmer keys and a touchbar are gimmicky at best. (for many people not having haptic feedback on function keys, actually is a problem – e.g. in video editing, music)

        2) My other point was that dismissing a full-screen touch screen as a valuable proposition based on Horace’s “characterisation by input technology” is misleading. A full-screen touchscreen would have been a benefit for many jobs and interactions professionals do. Direct input does have its use on the screen even if its not the singular means of interaction. (drawing, brushing, resizing windows quickly etc, especially if combined with a good hinge – something that Apple is good at)

        3) Essentially Apple has decided to not upgrade their devices in meaningful ways, as many had hoped. For professional tasks, this expensive upgrade is unattractive at best. Performance is defined by the value you can draw from it. Shorter rendering times? Bring it on! I can see my creations faster! Wait, the processor is essentially the same as in 2012. More RAM to run virtualisation or my emulators faster to become better at coding? Oh yeah. Wait they capped it at 16GB. More affordable pricing so even people who cannot throw out 3k for a machine can get a great creative machine? Wait they increased the price for almost the same device.

        Within pro contexts, the choices made by Apple are not valid – they are not targeting professionals with them. Making the device slimmer, less compatible with the current USB ecosystem, more expensive and more focused on itself were on no pro’s list. Again, it’s the software that will hold people back from switching. On hardware side, Apple went numb.

        The MBP served as a great compromise between a solid workstation and a powerful machine to handle demanding tasks. In the past, a notebook was my only choice. Now I am thinking about abandoning it for an iPad and getting a solid workstation again for my studio…

      • illumination

        Stating your particular preferences as facts about what “targeting professionals” means is not at all illuminating.

      • jfutral

        That you can’t see that this is the argument many professionals are making is more illuminating.


      • illumination

        When you’re in the centre of a small echo chamber it feels like everyone is agreeing with you.

      • jfutral

        Right. You should try emerging from your echo chamber and actually listen.


      • illumination

        All data so far points to this being a very popular laptop design. I know it’s very hard for you to see out of the chamber, though.

      • reality

        Did you read the comment I was replying to before replying to me? I strongly suspect you did not.

  • PhillyG

    I noticed the “two-handed manipulation” during the Photoshop demonstration last Tuesday. That was only possible with two inputs, and would not be possible with a virtual touch bar on a touch screen; however, it might be possible using a seperate input like the Microsoft Surface Dial.

    Kudos to you for realizing the import, as every other review failed. Those reviews, which favored the Surface Studio over the Macbook Pro, also discounted the portability of a notebook compared to a desktop. It remains to be seen how many will choose a desktop device over a noteook in a “Bring-Your-Own-Device” environment. I am betting that the portable Macbook Pro, iPad Pro combination will win over the alternative Surface Pro, Surface Studio duo.

    • Jack Schofield

      The Surface Studio is a better version of the iMac. It’s not competing against the MacBook Pro. The Surface Book does that.

      The dial is a peripheral. It’s not bundled with the Surface Studio. It could be a peripheral to a Surface Book and a Surface Pro and a Surface Hub as well.

      > I am betting that the portable Macbook Pro, iPad Pro
      > combination will win over the alternative Surface Pro,
      > Surface Studio duo.

      The point about the Surface Pro is that it offers the functionality of both a MacBook Pro and an iPad Pro. You don’t need two devices. In fact, if you plug the Surface Pro into its docking station, with one or more monitors, it replaces an iMac as well.

      • Agreed on the Surface Studio, but the Surface Pro does not make for as good a laptop as a MacBook Pro. Keyboard/trackpad quality issues aside, lappability suffers significantly with the tablet+keyboard-cover design. It may be a good tradeoff for some, but as Horace explains, it doesn’t make sense in the Apple universe.

        (The “replaces the iMac” is not a compelling argument. You can use a MacBook Pro as an iMac replacement, too. And the new one is a potential replacement for a Retina iMac; the Surface Pro can’t drive a 5K monitor.)

  • Andrej Balaz

    One quick question: Is there a graph comparing consumption vs production time between PCs and mobile? I bet that desktop still have a huge share when it comes to content creation rather than consumption.

    • Just to add another graph request to Andrej’s: Do you have data on absolute time spent on devices?

      The graph above shows that the relative proportion of desktop usage has fallen to 33% but, given the enormous growth in total screen time, I’m interested to see whether Desktop usage is actually still trending upwards?

    • definitions

      If you want to narrowly define “content creation” to almost mean “things that people do on a PC” then yes, they will have a huge share. If you include things like sending messages, social media, taking photographs, etc, then no.

  • Mr Bee

    > “The Mac is what it is because it’s not alone. It’s part of a family. It is a parent. It strives to be better but will not take the future from its child.”

    The new Macbook Pro is all great, except only one thing: the lack of compatible ports on new Macbook Pro makes it disconnected to the other parts of the family. If I want to connect my new iPad Pro into my brand new Macbook Pro for the first time, how do I do that? If I want to connect my new lightning earphone from my brand new iPhone 7, where should I put it into my new Macbook Pro? It’s like my mobile devices are abandoned after their parents got divorced. They need external helpers (additional adapters) just to get connected to their parents. It’s so sad.

    • PBill

      You can get a USB-C to Lightning cable and connect either device to your new MacBook – no need for adaptors

      • Mr Bee

        Whatever the name is, what I meant by external helper is everything in between to enable connection between MBP to other Apple’s devices. Because it’s an extra baggage you need to carry around, no matter how small or light it is. They’re all current Apple products after all, why can’t I just plug them to each other, like the way they used to?

      • still

        You always needed a USB to Lightning cable to connect your phone to your laptop. And you still do.

      • Mr Bee

        Of course. Now, tell me, where do I have to connect my iPhone 7 USB cable into my new MBP?

      • still

        From the USB-C port, to the lightning port.

    • SockRolid

      Watch Jony Ive’s AirPods design video.
      What is the first thing Ive says?
      It’s “We believe in a wireless future.”
      Why don’t you also believe in a wireless future?

      • Mr Bee

        Dude… Apple is not a religion. Jony or anyone may believe whatever they want. I don’t care. I just want to plug my iPhone/iPad to my new MBP today, not in the future. Even Apple still gives me the cable, certainly it’s for a reason. Setup/backup/restore/sync through the cable is easier, more convenience, more reliable, and lots faster.

  • David Makropoulos

    Horace, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Fully agreed.

    Not sure if the TBar has hit the final form and placement, but it’s use should be obvious for anyone reading your analysis.

  • Glaurung-Quena

    “It cannot take on the role of being the future. That belongs to the touch screen devices.”

    I am getting really tired of seeing this canard that touch devices are the future and therefore PCs are the past. It’s like someone in the 19th century saying that railways are the future of transportation and steamships are the obsolete past.

    Computing isn’t a dog eat dog world where the new dog devours the old dog. It is additive. Desktops and laptops took over most of the trivial computing tasks that had been being done by room sized mainframes, freeing the mainframe computers (which are now called supercomputers) to work on calculations far beyond the abilities of any PC. Modeling the gravitational interaction of two galaxies colliding? Use a supercomputer. Doing payroll for your company? Use a PC (or rather, 1/20th of a PC located in a 1u rack somewhere in the company’s datacenter).

    The future of computing is that we will still have mainframes/supercomputers, still have desktops, and still have laptops, but they will only be called upon to do the tasks that the smaller, cheaper, and more ubiquitous computers in our pockets cannot do. Tasks that are best done with a large screen and a physical keyboard, or with massive amounts of storage, or with attached peripheral devices. Tasks that are too much for a passively cooled, battery powered SOC.

    Phones and tablets are taking over the trivial tasks being done by
    PCs, freeing them to focus on tasks that a keyboardless small screen
    device is ill suited for. Phones and tablets are going to be the most
    ubiquitous computers in the world going forward. They’ll be doing 90%
    of the tasks we ask of computers. But that doesn’t mean they are “the
    future” any more than trains were “the future” and boats were “the past” 150 years ago.

    • Sacto_Joe

      I personally divide by “fully mobile”. Smaller tablets, smartphones, wearables; these are fully mobile and require touch/audio interfaces. Larger tablets start to blur that line, moving towards requiring flat surfaces in some instances. Laptops and portables also fall in here. Then we move into the realm of more solidly desktop (recall that the original Mac was also “portable”, to the extent that special carrying cases were needed accessories). And, as you have correctly ponted out, some folks require larger monitors which are much less portable. (Eventually, we’ll have TVC’s (TeleVision Computers) thoroughly integrating computers and monitors on the one hand and VR systems that vie with large monitors on the other hand. Finally, in the distant future, VR and AR will merge, possibly with true computer-to-brain interfaces, and we’ll “paint” virtual worlds on the real world and vice versa.)

      In some ways, I see Apple and MS working towards fhe same middle ground, with MS’s desktop that folds down into an ergonomic touchscreen and Apple’s iPad Pro able to prop up and form a desktop.

      Where does the Touch Bar fall in this? Like the tilting touchable monitor, it’s also an ergonomic approach to integrating touch with desktops. And I can see it evolving much, much farther, to the point where haptic feedback tells us where to type by touch and the keyboard itself can become virtual. At that point, the keyboard morphs into a tablet driving a monitor – and once again we’re back to a touchable monitor being passe.

      • Sacto_Joe

        It’s important to note that TVC’s won’t be touchscreens….

    • Dan Fenner

      So the PC dropped from 50% On Horace’s “Percent Time Spent” to 33%. If this is a continuing trend, how low does the PC have to drop for the dog-eat-dog scenario? Let’s start low and work up: 5%? Then what’s left of the PC? Is 10% any better? How about 15%? Responsive Web developers already have the mantra, Mobile first. Once the PC “Time Spent” gets much lower, the Web experience will become neglected.

      Horace’s “Time Spent” is about Web browsing. I would also be interested to see if Web browsing overall has decreased over the past few years.

    • Space Gorilla

      I think what is meant is that touch screen devices will be the vast majority of devices in use when it comes to computing/time spent. In that sense it makes sense to focus mostly on those devices, and that is what will shape jobs-to-be-done, behaviour, and technology going forward.

    • klahanas

      Well said.
      Ah but each of the tasks that require a more powerful computer are, as I’m so frequently told, not jobs for “most people”?

      I’m with you that it’s a canard at best. Heck, I’ll be even more cynical. It’s holding back the high end to support the average. Very smart if you’re a seller of stuff.

    • “The future of computing is that we will still have mainframes/supercomputers, still have desktops, and still have laptops, but they will only be called upon to do the tasks that the smaller, cheaper, and more ubiquitous computers in our pockets cannot do. ”

      Yep. This.

      Computers – perhaps all tools – have faced limitations since conception. This directly impacts adoption and use-cases.

      Think size and (retail) cost on a time continuum as it relates to adoption.

      Miniaturization – to say nothing of connectivity – has only very recently become commoditized. Before tablets and smartphones were the obvious choice of the masses, desktops did the jobs most of us needed. But it took super computers fitting onto the desktop and into the home budget in order to grease the wheels of adoption.

      Thing is, professionals aside, desktops over-served in the majority of cases. Clearly, less capable devices would have met the needs of most, but connected mobile computing devices were unthinkable not very long ago.

      Tablets and smartphones became practical relatively recently.

      It’s natural, then, that the _average_ user (what, 80-percent of us?) would eventually move the majority of their computing needs from overpowered and pinned-down desktops to good-enough tablets and smartphones as soon as it became both possible and practical.

      So what’s next?

  • This is an excellent essay! A point I’d like your opinion on:

    “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.”

    I’d rather say the future is touch and voice – working together. This will require conversational interfaces – spoken or written – that are far better at handling context, the give and take of anaphoric reference, and understanding of intent.

    One problem with voice is looking like a fool and losing privacy while talking to your invisible aide. I guess we could either

    * Get used to wearing Iron Man helmets – not

    * Get much better at understanding subvocalization. I thought there was some promising work on understanding silent speech years ago – or maybe it was science fiction.

    * In the short term, I don’t know why Apple doesn’t offer a straightforward way to converse with Siri using the Mac’s keyboard (maybe I’m missing something). Seems simple and natural.

    • >One problem with voice is looking like a fool and losing privacy while talking to your invisible aide.

      Yes. Given that Spotlight and Siri work differently, now that Siri’s landed on OS X I’ve discovered that I’d like the option of typing in my query in addition to speaking it out loud.

  • Sacto_Joe

    Percentages are strange things. For example, let’s walk these figures back to where they originate from, which is Gartner. Per ( )*, Gartner is referencing PC shipments and sales. Well, how do we define PC? Is the Surface more of a PC than the iPad? How about the iPad Pro? Is the Surface included in PC sales? Is the iPad excluded?

    If the Surface is included as a PC and the iPad is excluded, then we may have the “smoking gun” for why Apple’s “PC market share” is shrinking.

    Here’s what Gartner had to say last year:

    “Microsoft’s Surface is classified as a tablet ultramobile rather than a hybrid ultramobile under Gartner’s definition, as the touch-and-type keyboard is optional. In the ultramobile tablet segment, Microsoft was No. 1 with 36 percent market share in 2014. Combining the ultramobile hybrid and the ultramobile tablet, Microsoft was No. 3 with 14 percent market share worldwide, just behind Asus and Lenovo…Gartner segments mobile PCs into notebooks and ultramobile premium. A notebook is generally 14 inches and larger with a clamshell form factor. An ultramobile premium is generally 10 inches to 14 inches, thinner and lighter with three form factors — clamshells, hybrids and tablets. In this release, we’ve focused on the hybrid form factor, including convertible and detachable products.”

    My guess: He’s including Surface as PC’s.

  • jimstead

    As observed, the mac is a successful and profitable business, and Billions are worth making even for Apple. And no it does not need to morph into an iPad. So they can continue making macs, to be what they are best at: code creation and content creation. An iPad Pro does not replace my two 27″ displays full of xcode and other tools (they did not need to drop their display products).

  • lcfbill

    Tim Cook likes to tell us that he can do everything on a direct input device like an iPad, but using an iPad for real work becomes really frustrating really quickly. Real work requires more precise input and it requires the kind of user interface precision that allows for files, folders, and the free form incorporation of multiple kinds of data into a new construction. None of this is really very easy or efficient to do on an iPad.
    So we are going to need computers for the foreseeable future. Now, the absolute best and easiest computer to use is the Macintosh. I think that maintaining a decent range of hardware options for Macintosh users is essential for me, and many others like me, to get work done. If Tim starts to let the Mac platform shrivel, he is literally making it difficult for many people to earn a living.
    Thank you for showing that keeping the Mac going is not just a service to humanity, it is also a very profitable enterprise.

  • Fran_Kostella

    I don’t think the new machines are essentially bad, nor that the new input touch bar is any kind of problem. I’m concerned that I can only use a Mac to develop iOS apps and that these new machines are not going to cut it as high end developer tools. And they are overly expensive for what they are. I’m currently using a 2011 MBP15 that I’ve upgraded over and over with better SSDs and more RAM than it technically can use, 16G. It is really starting to push against the limits of what I can do effectively and I know that one of the next OS upgrades is going to fail to install. I’ve yet to try installing Sierra, so I don’t know if I can even do that. Fingers crossed.

    I’m sure other professions need a hefty machine to get work done, but I find that software development especially needs a beefy machine (or two or three) as every productivity improvement has a great ROI. We need lots and lots of RAM and lots of display area and the fastest main drives. When working I might have a dozen major apps running and a dozen or two utility apps, 80 web pages, tons of data files. 16G feels cramped.

    I was hoping to upgrade to something with at least 32G this release and much more display capability, but it seems it is not to be. I hate the idea of spending $3K+ for a new machine that offers little in the way of more power or capacity, that only keeps me from falling off the upgrade path for a year or two until Apple finally realizes that iOS developers need powerful machines in order to do development work. If they are not going to provide that, then give us the ability to work on some other unix variant that we can upgrade as we see fit.

    I love my 12″ iPad Pro, but I am *never* going to be able to develop serious software on it. Yes, Playgrounds are nice, but just being able to compile code is the bare minimum needed to write software. If you haven’t participated in a modern software team you might think that some iPad style device can be used as a main device for development, but you would be wrong. Most developers have two or three large displays and have dozens or hundreds of windows a few keystrokes away. It is not uncommon to be monitoring a bunch of AWS services and two or three debuggers, debug proxies monitoring traffic, tons of files open on various editors, tons of web pages showing documentation, team ticketing, source control and communication systems and maybe databases and specialized tools running to help. Even just compiling a project might create a million new files on each run and access them multiple times, so I need fast drives. Paying a developer to sit around and wait is expensive, so it pays off.

    Maybe for small and very simple things a beefy iPad might work. Most serious work needs a lot of capacity to do correctly. These new machines may be fine for many, and there may not be that many iOS developers in the world, but this feels like a foolish oversight, almost like a betrayal. Keep moving, these are not the machines you are looking for.

    • SockRolid

      “… and that these new machines are not going to cut it as high end developer tools.”

      Have you used the next-gen iMac and Mac Pro?
      No? Yeah. Didn’t think so.
      So how can you say that they “are not going to cut it”?

      • Tim Locke

        The same way the dozens of other article authors who state the same.

      • reality

        Ah, so in a kneejerk fashion with no basis in reality.

      • Fran_Kostella

        I write five hundred words on the topic and you write one sentence, you provide not a single word to rebut anything I say and I’m the one making the “kneejerk” remark?

      • jfutral

        It’s kind of funny, but also sad, that there was a time that the Apple, and particularly Mac, advocates were advocates because they actually knew what they were talking about. They were pros, like you, who worked day in and day out on a Mac to make their living in one way or another. At the very least the Mac was part of their environment enough that they knew what the Mac was capable of and what it wasn’t capable of and why. Or they were so inspired by the Mac they delved into everything that could possibly be done on a Mac. Nerds maybe, but still inspired by what the mac offered and got to know it intimately.

        So when a fellow Mac proponent (why else would you—and I do mean you Fran_Kostella— have invested so heavily in using a Mac to make a living) had issues, they at least understood, even if they didn’t agree with the overall assessment. Maybe even had suggestions on how to deal with the new obstacles, perceived or real.

        These days it seems to be the loudest Apple and Mac defenders are… I can’t even speculate. They use an iPad at home and read Horace Dediu for some confirmation bias reason, and that makes them an expert, I guess. So they wouldn’t know legitimate concerns even when laid out for them.

        Maybe There really is no real need for a Macbook Pro. Maybe this is the evidence of that. Maybe all Apple needs to sell is a Macbook Proser line and call it a day.


      • Space Gorilla

        As a professional who uses iMacs, MacBooks, and iPads to make a living, I also want powerful machines, but there are always trade offs when designing anything. This current crop of new MacBooks are underpowered in some ways, but that will be temporary. As I understand it there are technical reasons related to power efficiency (battery life), and these should be sorted out in the next revision of the product line. I noticed Fran mentioned he would be holding out for the next revision, and I expect the next crop of MacBooks will be more powerful. Apple has prioritized mobility, knowing that there’s a bit of pain right now, but soon they’ll be back to more powerful machines AND great battery life.

      • pkop4

        Do you write software or process photos or videos professionally?

        If the answer is yes then I don’t understand how you can’t see that their “macbook pro” strategy is wrong.

        They can do everything they want to streamline / modernize ipad, base macbook product lines.

        But the macbook pro line and many of its features, the bread and butter for serious work (especially developers *the lifeblood of apple, the people that make the apps for iphone, watch, ipad*) cannot just be scrapped without consequence.

      • Space Gorilla

        Photos and some video, I’m a designer. I do understand the current MacBook Pro is underpowered for some use cases, but this is a temporary situation caused by some tech that isn’t ready yet re: power efficiency (battery life). My understanding is that Apple could have made more powerful MacBook Pro machines right now, but battery life would have suffered significantly. I’m willing to bet the next revision of the Pro product line will solve much of what people are complaining about today.

      • Fran_Kostella

        I agree with your explanation, but I’m very willing to accept less battery life for more power and capacity. Frankly, I could care less about thinner/lighter laptops and would have no problem with something a bit bulkier, if that is the tradeoff that was made. I don’t see why there isn’t a model that is oriented toward people who really need more than the new models provide. And the lack of ability to easily upgrade is very annoying.

        These look like fine machines, most users will be happy with them. But some of us are not going to buy them because they fall below expectations. In my case it is definitely not worth it as it is only a slight improvement over my fully upgraded 2011 MBP15. And for me, this is first time in a decade of buying Apple laptops to do development work that this has been the case.

      • Space Gorilla

        I’m sure Apple isn’t thrilled with some aspects of the MacBook product line right now either, but Apple isn’t going to move on battery life. The bet is that more people would be unhappy with a significant hit in battery life (or heavier thicker devices) than with the current product line up. And Apple knows they can solve most of the pain points in about 12 months. The world is mobile now and Apple is making that the priority. Time will tell if that is a mistake, but I doubt it, we’ll have more computing power soon enough.

      • desktop

        Buy a desktop, then. Desktops have been in decline for years because they’re not portable/conformable enough for people. That’s why Apple is pushing for portability in laptops; it’s how you increase usage.

      • whiny

        Haha, this is really whiny. There’s nothing about the new Macbook Pro that stops me, or any other “professional”, writing software or processing photos or video.

      • Fran_Kostella

        There’s nothing stopping me, but that isn’t the point. I could probably get a job writing visual basic forms if I lied about my qualifications and aimed downward. It would pay half as much if not less, would be nightmarish and definitely not fun or pleasant. However, my career has been about acquiring skill and experience and working on more complex projects and those that allow me to exercise my skills and abilities to the utmost. Self actualized individuals attempt to reach the highest levels available.

        For me that means doing complex iOS apps that require a lot of computing power to do well without friction. Likewise, I do a lot of detailed performance work on complex cloud apps, and this also requires a lot of computing and good network access. I’m aiming upwards to the future and to do excellent work as well as I can. I need better machines than these to achieve this. Yes, I could work with lesser machines, but that means I’m not doing my best work. I really do need more ram and a lot more display area.

        I’m not whining, I’m asking Apple to give better tools so I can do better work. This iteration just falls short of what I need.

      • Fran_Kostella

        One thing non-developers probably don’t understand is that upgrading is not optional for us iOS developers. Every version of iOS means we need to jump to a newer version of Xcode. Every year or so the macOS requirement for Xcode goes up and so we must also upgrade that. Every few years the hardware requirement for macOS goes up, so we have to buy new machines. You cannot just keep using one machine because one day Apple will make it obsolete. I have a small pile of laptops on the shelf here because of that.

        One major concern I have is that some version of something will not install on this laptop in the near future and so I’ll be forced to buy a new machine. I definitely don’t want to buy a machine slightly better than my five year old laptop, then be forced to buy another a year later because it actually finally meets my needs. If that happens I’ll definitely feel like I’m being charged double for what should be available today.

      • tmay

        More display area?

        You have the choice of two 5k external displays or four 4k external displays if you max out the use of the four TB 3 ports, which is technically a pretty robust system for a 15 mm thick and 4 pounds mobile notebook with 10 hrs of battery life.

        Apple does need to, as a minimum, refresh the iMac, likely when the Kabylake processor at the right TDP is available this spring, I would hope the the Mac Pro gets a refresh as well by WWDC so developers can use it for the next generation of Xcode; I don’t know if it is chipsets optimized for TB 3 holding it up or if Apple will kill it.

      • Fran_Kostella

        I hope this is true. I am a bit irked that there isn’t always an obvious top-spec machine now. Yes, I get that they can shift focus like this, but I’ve always reasoned that buying the newest machine would get you the longest upgrade time, so I don’t want to buy an older machine. For now I’m going to try to stretch an already old machine one more year. I really need more than 16G as a minimum. 32G, even 24G would work.

      • Space Gorilla

        I’d put money on it. The way I see it Apple has prioritized mobility, and aspects of that include weight, battery life, and thickness. Whether it causes some of us pain today, Apple isn’t willing to move on battery life, so right now that means some compromise on compute power. But I don’t expect this to be a long term problem, simply a transition. I remember the transition to OSX kind of sucked for a while, but that turned out fine. I think we’ll have killer MacBooks (including Pros) within a year.

      • tmay

        Apple engineered the late 2016 MBP for the Cannonlake (10nm) processor; that’s where the puck should be. The problem is that Intel was late with Cannonlake, so to get to the TDP Apple needed for the 10 hr life of a 75 watt hr battery, Apple is stuck with Skylake and 16GB of LPDDR3 memory, at least for another 14 to 16 months.

        Essentially, the only real downside for a “pro” today is that you give up the 16 GB; the rest is just Punctuated Equilibrium that “pro’s” could readily adapt to.

        What surprises me is that there are in fact few Windows notebooks with better specs than the MBP, and to get to what the “pro’s” think that they need, there are only workstations in a heavy and bulky laptop format.

      • Fran_Kostella

        Maybe it is worth paying a slight bit of attention when iOS devs start saying something like this? I can shift to writing something like python for backend service, which has a much less demanding technical footprint, and where a less powerful MacBook or cheap laptop is sufficient. I have many options that don’t need such good hardware.

        But I love doing iOS apps, it is a fun area to work in. But underpowered machines are always such a drag to work with that leaving for greener pastures is always a possibility if things get worse. Good devs make decisions like this all the time and when they make the effort to say something publicly it is at least worth considering that they aren’t being ideological or being fanboys.

      • pkop4

        @tim_locke:disqus <– is clueless. I've had a macbooks pro for 5 years and I'm also a developer.

        Apple is risking quite a bit of brand value with their current laptop strategy. These fanboys think you're lying to them when you clearly explain your needs as a professional and how apple is making their products less useful to solve these needs (jobs to be done).

        Another specific use case. Plugging in pro peripherals, monitors, SD cards, etc.

        This is all made harder now with their port removal strategy.

        Its ridiculous.

      • Fran_Kostella

        Totally agree on the ports. I usually have 3-4-5-6 things plugged in so would rather have more built in ports. Frankly, the style of the case is so much lower than my needs for ports that it seems silly to me to reduce the ports.

      • Fran_Kostella

        I just laid out a fairly detailed description of some of the needs and could easily write 20 pages on the topic, so I *can* say if they will cut it or not. You obviously aren’t part of a developer team, so you’d not be aware of what we need. I’ve owned or used well over 50 machines in my development career and I am in my 4th decade of doing software for my income, so I do have a good idea of what is needed. I am currently consulting at a shop where they gave me a new, top spec MacBook Air, and it is definitely underpowered and not very good for iOS development work. I can usually tell right away if a machine is going to be a dog or not for the kind of work I am doing.

        The iMac and Mac Pro are not laptops, so they are out. In a modern Agile development environment a laptop is needed since we shift around a lot, meeting together to solve problems as a pair or as a group and to meet with clients and to attend whatever “scrum” or other Agile meetings are required. Sometimes we need to visit remote sites and work there. A lot of our tech purchases are to give us flexibility and the rise of Agile methods may have something to do with the shift from “tower” machines to laptops for developers. In any case you are going to have a hard time getting people to switch back.

        I personally wouldn’t mind having a Mac Pro on a desktop and something like an Air for when I need to move around. One day soon an iPad might even work in that role. I’ve tried some of the apps that are supposed to let you remotely control your desktop, but they are not quite good enough yet, if ever. Good for note taking and browsing, but so is an iPhone.

        But now I need two machines to replace one, and Mac Pros are not competitive price-wise with a maxed out MacBook Pro. If I were working alone this might work, but now I have to convince managers that I need two machines and need to spend at least twice as much. Not Going To Fly.

        Finally, if you read what I wrote carefully, you’ll see that I plan on holding out for next year’s machines in hope that they are good enough.

    • pkop4

      Exactly. He’s missing the main criticism. There is absolutely a specific, necessary JOB TO BE DONE by pro laptops.

      Who does apple think will build apps for all their other products?

      They should be catering to the specific needs, use cases of DEVELOPERS / DESIGNERS.

      The macbook is NOT the macbook pro. That they seem to be missing this point is troubling.

      Removing hardware escape key, limiting RAM, not upgrading performance while keeping high price, REMOVING PORTS!!

      This does not help facilitate the job to be done by macbook pros. Do people not agree that these jobs exist?

    • Fran_Kostella

      In case anyone is still interested in this topic, and I think that Apple working to retain developers on its platforms is a critical topic, this blog entry covers the issue very well:

      I want them to get back to the place they were a few years ago, where nearly everything they did impressed the hell out of me.

  • iwod

    If we consider, in 4 – 5 years time. You can have a Macbook Pro with up to 8 Core ( TigerLake or After ), 32-64GB Memory ( LPDDR5, or even Wide I/O 3 ), twice the speed of GPU ( TSMC / GF 7nm ), likely 50-100% of SSD Speed increase. 100% increase in wireless connection speed ( 802.11ax ).

    All within the same 10Hr Battery Life and same form factor of the current Macbook Pro.

    Who is going to need these sort of computation power on a Portable Machine? Yes there are lots of people needing much more, but that is what iMac and Mac Pro are for.

  • hannahjs

    With your background in business and engineering I’d almost have expected you to be like the rest of the scenarists and theorists; but no, not you, Horace; you roll your own, using biological metaphors which seem exceptionally well considered. — Computers are tools, so examine the history of tools; they’re learnt extensions of our nervous and muscular/skeletal systems and involve muscle memory. — Natural human interfaces with tools are the key to widespread adoption. Even stone axes had human interface guidelines that evolved over generations of workers. — And the human immune system is another metaphor ripe for the plundering. This organic line of thought is rich, but it runs afoul of professional computer users aka neo-Luddites, who insist, outrageously (as John Gruber so brilliantly revealed) that Apple innovate but not change anything!

    The neo-Luddite position relies on the Steve Jobs car/truck analogy, one that is ever weakening as a glib explanation of computer usage owing to the changing face of transportation — an area that has been nimble enough to embrace Uber and self-driving vehicles, to mention only two potential disruptions. Your idea of comparing new technologies to biological processes, which adapt, makes more sense than analogies to obsolete technologies, which went extinct.

    I very much appreciate your abstract thinking. Usually, it’s only that type of analysis that makes it into the History — and Management — books after all the smoke clears.

    • jfutral

      I am an appreciator of artistic interpretation. But I think he hides a lot within in order to rationalize decisions Apple made on the Macbook Pro. For all the “the future is touch” talk one wants to couch in forced anthropomorphized language, professional users need to make money _today_ AND _tomorrow_.

      I think it is entirely unfair to charge people who wanted _more_ technology out of the Macbook Pro announcement because they _need_ more out of a Macbook Pro because they actually _use_ Macbook Pros to make their living. That is not the behaviour of a Luddite, “neo” or otherwise.

      No one has said Apple shouldn’t change. No one. The charge is actually, they didn’t change enough. The charge is the need for meaningful change. Change that actually benefits the user, not just the product maker.

      In addition to the whole direct/indirect input false dichotomy (when one of the best selling accessories for an iPad is an external keyboard, that undermines his whole premise right away), it’s a false dichotomy that one product has to “sacrifice” so the other can succeed. If what he and some others argue regarding the Mac being obsolete is true, then in actuality, additional innovation on the Mac won’t really affect the future of iOS touch devices. If pushing innovation on the Mac would truly have an adverse affect ion iOS, then touch is not the future it is proclaimed to be, but merely a diversion.

      Throw your customers a bone, for pete’s sake. For $1700+, they deserve it.


      • hannahjs

        Apple isn’t throwing bones to loyal customers any more than any other company ever. And they aren’t dancing with the ones who brung ’em, any more than any company ever. Apple may be a special company, but not special in the way you wish they were. They are special because they ignore the likes of us and consult a kind of crystal ball to see what’s coming; they don’t consult us at all, because we care only about ourselves today, and today is dead to tomorrow. It’s harsh, but that’s why Apple are special.

      • jfutral

        If reports are correct, apparently they do consult with us. They did send an email to Macbook Pro users about the mini-jack.


      • hannahjs

        That comes under the heading of observing what we do, then setting out to improve it. I consider this an exception that proves the rule — a feature that was not marked as a way station on their road map to the stars — not yet.

      • jfutral

        So your comment must be a good one, because it still has me thinking. Good job.

        So let’s explore this notion of what makes Apple special a bit more.

        I think Apple’s customers care deeply. Why else would they use Apple products in the face of a Windows/Android world where it would be so much easier to do otherwise? Apple’s customers have chosen Apple because Apple is extremely usable _today_, not some imaginary future. If Macs and iPhones were not usable today, they wouldn’t be worth buying, at least not for the professional for whom the Pro line of products is named after.

        I think you are wrong that Apple doesn’t care about what their customers want. I think they care deeply. I think they take backlash from their customers very personal. After all, it is customers that keep Apple in business. What is the point of a product company that didn’t care about their customers? That’s ridiculous even on its face as waxing as the philosophy might be.

        If Apple didn’t care they wouldn’t take as much time as they do explaining why they made the decisions they did. Not just at the keynote but in interview after interview. Apple wants to go, as we say so often, where the puck is going. That also means they want to go where they think the _customers_ will go. There is no point in going where customers won’t go, no matter the puck.

        I think Apple took it very personal when the pros turned on them with FCX, even as Apple thought they were addressing the professional’s needs as they expressed them. I think they took it very personal when the Cube flopped and became the entry-level mini. I even think they took the backlash against the mini-jack on the iPhone personal.

        I think the “courageous” quip was as much an emotional reactionary response as it may have seen a philosophical explanation. Using “courageous” to explain in general a company approach and process vs justifying a specific decision—that is NOT the same thing. Somebody’s feelings got hurt. It was an affront to the stated goal that Apple [wants to] make products that delight their customers. That is not the philosophy of a company that doesn’t care what the customer wants.

        As romantic as the isolated genius in an ivory tower looking down upon the “little” people and deigning us barely worthy of his wisdom might be, that’s not how businesses make money. Businesses make money by creating products people want.


      • hannahjs

        Of course they care. What I said was they ignore the likes of us, by which I meant they famously don’t use focus groups to ask what we want; instead they observe what we do and ask themselves if they can make it better, where “it” could be any aspect of our lives.

        And so they make things that people didn’t realise they wanted. Aspiration and inspiration run through all their offerings, and people sense them as magical. By people I mean a sustainable majority of customers whose sensitivity to the magic isn’t firewalled by entrenched bias.

        Apple’s courage is placing a big bet on what they think will become a winner, as opposed to the safe harbour of a conventional dense product lineup, where something, it will be assumed, is bound to sell well. Apple’s business model is not to meet today’s market needs, but to imagine the future in their crystal ball and then set out to create that future. This sort of gambling takes courage, no matter that it looks like reckless abandon to some of the entrenched.

      • jfutral

        Not to be pedantic, but one can’t ignore and observe at the same time. There is nothing safe about a customer who buys an Apple product. That is an act of courage more to be applauded than Apple’s. I think you and the other critics of the critics jump to too many conclusions on those brave souls who do plunk down money for Apple products _today_ for things they want to do _today_ as well as tomorrow, and especially _for_ tomorrow.

        I still think you are being too reductionist. And don’t pigeon hole me as “not special in the way you wish they were”. You don’t know what I wish. But at least you articulate it beautifully and as such stir my own thinking.


      • hannahjs

        Yes, I do tend to generalise overmuch and use pronouns like “you” in a misleading way. It is intellectually lazy of me and I shall try to overcome it, instead employing impersonal academic phraseology such as “one may suppose such-and-such” in place of “you fool, you believe this crap?” 😄

      • jfutral

        Who could ask for more? 🙂


      • jfutral

        Sadly, not enough to be a bone, but I think everyone who argues Apple is unsympathetic because “that’s not how Apple handles a transition” forgets how long they managed the OS 9-OS X transition. Too long, in my opinion, but they were absolutely sympathetic to a large degree to their loyal users.

        Part of what took so long was more the developers than the users, but I don’t think they are _as_ interested in leaving their current pro user base behind as the current trope painted by those who seem intent on rationalizing Apple’s moves.

        I really do think Apple takes these backlashes personally and more seriously (though not that much) than the people who make a living needing Apple to be their version of Apple when writing (such as the Grubers in the world).


      • Kenneth Berger

        You really don’t understand the concept of a platform, iOS is a platform that relies on touch (even with a keyboard) and Mac OS relies on mouse/trackpad even if you add a touch screen.
        I am a pro user by any definition, I have been using Photoshop since it came out and Illustrator since the 1980’s, I would love a mac pro desktop machine that was way faster than my laptop but it does not exist, unless you do VERY specific things (like 3D rendering).
        Did Apple make THE machine I wanted? NO. Will I happily by a new Mac Book Pro in the next couple of months? YES! I have been waiting for something interesting for a while and this is close enough.

      • jfutral

        “Did Apple make THE machine I wanted? NO. Will I happily by a new Mac Book Pro in the next couple of months? YES! I have been waiting for something interesting for a while and this is close enough.”

        This is what it all boils down to. Some are just less content and less happy than others. The thing I think is most telling is these are actual users who are disheartened, not just the Windows crowd griping about something they don’t use anyway. These Apple and Macbook Pro users were ready for an upgrade, not just an update, which is pretty much all that happened.


    • guyv

      Just a note that John Gruber was not the originator of the “insist that Apple innovate but not change anything” motto. He was quoting long-time Apple commentator Chuq Von Rospach:

      • hannahjs

        But he revealed it. I never said he originated it. My verbs tend to get misconstrued. I feel the need to adopt a steel-plate vocabulary. Does anyone else suffer such trivial misunderstandings?

      • guyv

        Apologies, I didn’t mean to be ungrateful, I like your great thoughtful post.
        I think I first was pointed to Chuck’s post by Loopinsight, then after I read it John Gruber also pointed to it. To my mind Chuck revealed it since we all had the information but he expressed and formulated it so he revealed it to us. So in this case I would attribute the brilliance to Chuck. See Chuck’s follow-on post that propose a 3×3 product Matrix as an evolution to the 2×2 Matrix asserted by Steve Jobs when he rejoined Apple.

      • badgrid

        Really bad grid. There’s no criteria for any of the labels so you can make any size grid you like and arbitrarily allocate products to them. And he thinks 16GB of memory isn’t enough for 4K video processing for some reason (probably doesn’t do any of that).

      • guyv

        I think you are right that he doesn’t do 4K video processing.

        “Really bad grid. There’s no criteria for any of the labels so you can make any size grid you like and arbitrarily allocate products to them”
        You are talking about the 2×2 grid, right 🙂

    • klahanas

      Just glib? The car/truck analogy was totally full of reality distorted bullcrap, made to appear to come out of a swan.

      Now where’s my truck? I need to outrun a Lambo, because in computing the truck is faster, corners better, and of course has much higher capacity.

      • hannahjs

        The driving paradigm changed, attitudes changed, business models changed, everything changes and Apple is one of the pre-eminent agents of change, from a sociological perspective more than from a strictly technological perspective. Which is about right: nobody really wants machine evolution to dictate how we humans live; we’d prefer it be directed by humans and for human betterment, a goal that only Apple has made an explicit company goal.

      • klahanas

        That’s exactly what concerns me the most. It’s a reversal of what Personal Computers were about to begin with. An IT department that the individual doesn’t command, evolving machines for its own interests.

      • hannahjs

        Great comment. It recalls Apple’s 1984 commercial. But now, shockiingly, the Pros that were born in that moment have morphed into a crowd that now condemns Jesus. They know not what they say.

      • Space Gorilla

        Design is about making decisions, and in that sense any company you buy computing products from is acting as your IT department in some way. Apple happens to be directly and strongly aligned with customers looking for the kind of value and experience that Apple strives to deliver. I want a whole, curated, regulated, and well-supported solution, and that is what gives me more freedom, not less. Apple’s approach is the most personal, for me. Obviously it isn’t for you, but that isn’t a universal truth, it’s just your experience when it comes to Apple’s approach. Some of us want curation and abstraction, and some don’t. Of course, there are always things to complain about when it comes to Apple, but on balance they are headed in the right direction, for me.

  • BoltmanLives


  • Steve

    The indirect input doesn’t really define the mac: the interface resolution defines the mac. This is because pro apps require the use of many UI panels, which require a display with a much higher resolution that those displays that need to respond to input from our stubby little fingers. Indirect input is a response to that constraint, allowing us to scale down our clumsy hand motions to match the resolution of the monitor.

    Of course, direct input exists for the mac, through the Wacom Cintiq, for example. But that’s expensive, as you know.

    The touchbar sounds like a good thing. Have you seen the control surface apps for iPad?

    • What do Pro apps have to do with the Mac’s raison d’être? The indirect interface defines the Mac because in 1984 the Mac was introduced with a mouse. It did not work without a mouse.

      • Steve

        You’re defining a direct interface as something that touches the screen, right?

        A keyboard is an indirect interface as well, isn’t it? So both macs and DOS/Win devices had indirect interfaces back in 1984.

        Here’s what I wrote: “the interface resolution defines the mac.” This is based on the idea that high screen resolution is the constraint that limits macs to indirect interface. The resolution drives the indirect interface, preventing the computers from using a direct interface … because our fingers are too big.

        (And I’m talking about defining the macs in their current context: relative to touchscreen iPads and iPhones.)

        Anyway: Resolution of macs + big fingers -> restriction of macs to indirect interface.

        (Recall that I accounted for the Cintiq in my answer.)

  • Colin Darby

    Here’s an idea – Apple doesn’t understand what the Mac is for anymore, or what pro users want.

    So – buy Apple buys Adobe and then spins them off as a separate company and gives them the Mac hardware.

    Adobe – making the hardware and software for real pros.

    That way they can continue making their skinny phones and pro users can go back to work knowing that they can just get on with their jobs, knowing they will be supported.

    • Claris

      I see all kinds of problems with this.

      All the pro users I know are getting increasingly frustrated with Adobe. I’m not sure they’d trust Adobe to run the Mac any better than Apple.

      A big chunk of the benefit of the Mac is the integration. Would they have been able to make something like the Touch Bar if hardware had been in a separate company than the software? Or are you suggesting OS X go to Adobe, too? Then what about iOS? Do we let them drift apart?

      Would Adobe want this? I get the feeling that Adobe would be perfectly happy if all the world were just Windows (less work for them). What’s in it for them? If Adobe tanks the Mac, Apple loses. Apple hates letting anyone else be in control of anything. Apple didn’t even want Adobe’s Flash Player on their Macs, because it crashed. Now they’re going to turn over the whole hardware business?

      Is there precent for this? IBM sold off their award-winning Thinkpad business, and these days they’re most famous for the malware they ship with.

      Who would design them? Is Jony Ive going to work both places, or are they going to diverge in design, too?

      I just don’t see how this is a good idea for anyone.

      • Colin Darby

        All good points but I just think that Adobe understands creative pros needs better than Apple does.

        I don’t think Apple has the know how now to create a pro workstation.

        Why can’t Adobe become an approved and only clone maker for Apple.

        If Apple can’t or won’t make a creative truck for us, I think Adobe would jump at the chance to do so.

      • billycravens

        “Adobe understands creative pros ”

        Related to my comment above, only a part of the total ecosystem that uses Apple’s pro hardware.

      • Colin Darby

        Yes I agree, and that part is well served by Apple.

        The pro market isn’t any more and by all indications from Apple, will continue in that downward spiral.

        I used to be angry with Adobe, however now I’m more angry with Apple.

        In this scenario, Apple could continue making the hardware they want to but they have decided to leave the ‘edge case’ market.

        Adobe could make the high end pro hardware that I and other creative pros need – it wouldn’t interfere with Apple’s market.

        Adobe could indeed simply tell us to switch to Windows but I and all the freelance designers and staff I oversee want to stay on the Mac.

        Right now I’m waiting to see the fate of the high end iMac and MacPro.

        If I think that Apple isn’t for me anymore then a switch is inevitable.

      • perpetuity

        I don’t see why Apple won’t put together a DIY box at market prices! Just configure online from a range of latest gear. I just built a monster Windows machine to play on with the most recently released CPU and GPU, two SSDs all for under 2k.

      • billycravens

        To be clear, what I mean is that there is a large pro market that doesn’t use Adobe products (developers that need pro hardware but not Creative Cloud)

      • perpetuity

        A kid can piece together parts to make an incredible workstation. Saying that “Apple doesn’t have the know how now to create a pro workstation” is a crazy accusation. Of course they have the know how…they are choosing to produce what they are producing and it happens to be short on some higher spec use cases.

        This has almost always been the case… my old 09 Mac Pro came with a middling graphics card but with beastly upgrade potential and Xeon CPUs! It was a beast.

        That they won’t produce another DIY upgrade-able machine anymore is on purpose. Nobody has to like their choice.

      • Colin Darby

        If they still have the knowhow (I’m not saying they didn’t in the past) then where is it?

        “Short on some hi-spec use cases” – some use cases being using 5400rpm drives still in a desktop iMac?

        Using GPUs that weren’t even red hot 3 years ago?

        Using mobile GPUs in a pro desktop Mac just because Jony wants them skinny?

        “Nobody has to like their choice” you’re right I don’t.

    • billycravens

      Apple pro hardware isn’t just used by creatives; it’s also used by many professional software developers. I developed in the Adobe ecosystem (and ran a user group), and I can tell you I don’t trust Adobe’s stewardship.

    • Kenneth Berger

      Adobe the company that had a bunch of great products and now has one and half great products (photoshop/Acrobat) they are as evil as it gets in terms of charging for updates that are slower and less reliable. Changing interface for no reason and after a decade they still can’t align the photoshop and illustrator interfaces. Please no one buys an adobe product they don’t have to.

  • Niran Sabanathan

    What is frustrating is that i want a tool to get the work done. A few iterations ago Aperture three and an iMac was the best tool I had. Unfortunately, it still is despite improvements in iOS. But, Apple does not want to support me with a robust platform and elegant photo management solutions (without robust, external Photo editing solutions – Photos is a washout.) New tools and borrowed DNA – just let the new solution be better than the old – right now iOS is severely lacking in automation and applying multiple processes to many items.

  • Confused

    “We can see the contrast simply by placing iPhone, Mac and all Windows PC on the same shipment graph.”

    Can you explain this graph? It’s hard for me to see the tiny lines, but it looks like the legend has blue, green, and yellow, and the graph itself has blue thin, blue thick, yellow thin, green thick, green thin, and red (!!) thick.

    What’s going on here? It almost looks like the thick lines are a moving average, except green thick is closest to yellow thin.

    • Retro

      Open the image in Photoshop. Make changes as you see fit. You have the power.

  • Retro

    Good points!

  • mike077

    This article still misses the larger point. Online usage is not a static pie. It’s growing. Mobile is taking a larger piece of the GROWING pie. Further, mobile smart phones have brought MILLIONS of new users to the internet who otherwise would not have bothered.

    All of this does not mean that the Mac/PC market is shrinking.

    Mac (and the PC) was and is and will remain a huge part of the work/recreation life for most people. Even teenagers today, once they get in to work and family life, will buy a Mac/PC for more serious work/play. You cannot efficiently write a paper, edit a movie or photos, or do serious design work, on mobile. It is far more convenient and efficient on a Mac, especially an iMac.

    The Mac is vital. It is, as Steve Jobs termed it, a “truck.” Maybe an SUV. And as everyone who has a home knows, having a truck or SUV is almost a necessity today.

    Apple, please give us updated iMacs. A huge market it waiting.

    • Steve__S

      “Even teenagers today, once they get in to work and family life, will buy a Mac/PC for more serious work/play. You cannot efficiently write a paper…”
      As a parent of said teenagers… I can tell you that kids will use mobile first and only resort to a full desktop PC/Mac if they absolutely have to. Many schools are issuing Chromebooks (which I’d consider mobile devices), kids use iPad and even edit on the phones when they need to. It’s what they know and what they’re most comfortable with. Sure, they’ll use PC/Mac when they have to, but that’s more of a last resort. I think you’d be surprised what you can do with mobile products these days.

      • ericinaustin

        Exactly right

  • pkop4

    You overlook the actual, legitimate critiques of their macbook pro strategy.

    Streamlining the “macbook” is fine.

    The macbook pro should be for pros. Why remove so many ports, needed by devs and creative workers, needed to interface with cameras, peripherals, monitors. What is the job to be done? It surely isn’t the same as the macbook. Why are they conflating these two?

    Everything you wrote about above should lead to the conclusion that: the percentage of power / pro users of macbook pros is *INCREASING* (the casual user has moved on)

    Therefore, they should be catering MORE to the pro need, not less.

    Increased performance for the price, keeping ports, not removing the escape key for developers etc. should be their focus, not streamlining just to remove a mm of thickness.

    These are legitimate criticisms. Nobody cares that they arent making the macbook pro a touch screen device. The care that they are making the macbook pro NOT a pro device.

    Doesn’t somebody have to develop / design all the apps for the ipad, iphone, watch?

    Does apple want them to use macbooks pros to do this, or not?

    • jfutral

      That’s the irony, isn’t it? For all of Apple’s touch devices, they still require everything to be be developed on a Mac. It would seem the Macbook/Mac Pros would be their _ideal_ development platform.. Macbooks and iMacs for the mainstream, Pros for the, well, pros, with all the possibilities pros need, because there is quite a range of pro needs out there.


      • Steve__S

        Who ever claimed that laptops were the ideal development environment? Laptops are a compromise by their very definition. You are compromising power for portability. That’s always been the case. Just because Apple could make a device that’s at least 2 lbs. heavier so that it can include a battery large enough to accommodate more memory and beefier graphics, doesn’t mean they should. There is a reason you don’t see people dragging these big monstrosities into a coffee shop or where ever else they choose to work. For that matter, the Thunderbolt 3 ports make these pro machines. Not only can you get a TB3 dock with a bunch of ports, you can also drive multiple 5K displays and RAID storge arrays, etc. That’s a pro machine.

      • jfutral

        Who in the world is talking about making the Macbook Pro 2lbs heavier? Why do people like you assume when PROS who want MORE from a laptop are asking for more than they are?

        Good grief. If your only retort is extremes, criminy. Talk about missing the point.


      • Steve__S

        Why don’t you try looking at recent examples of what people are referring to as “pro” laptops before commenting further. The trade-offs I mentioned are exactly what consumers are facing.

      • jfutral

        The people talking about the Macbook Pro are talking about the Macbook Pro, not some ambiguous machine that exists in your imagination.



      • Steve__S

        Perhaps your view is a bit limited on what people are comparing the Macbook Pro to. Specifically, many are suggesting a “pro” device must be something that can drive the Occulus rift… with a high powered graphics card on more memory (that obviously cant rely on LPDDR memory). These also require larger batteries and subsequently weigh more. Seriously, trying to pretend this exact argument isn’t common just makes you look silly. For that matter, if you’d like specific machines that do exist and Apple is being compared to, let me know….

      • jfutral

        No one here is thinking this. And none of the professionals who use their Macbook Pro for work who needed more from this update are thinking this. NONE.

        Now I am sure you venture into some obscure forums somewhere that have people who talk like this. Those are esoteric enough that so far you are the only one here looking silly talking about something at the very least no one here is. Criminy, not even over at Ars and that’s where the heavy nerds hang out.

        Go back under your bridge.


      • Steve__S

        Why do you even post? Every time you comment, you just dig yourself a bigger hole. You don’t think this is exactly what they are saying on sites like Ars, etc.? Try reading comments from the sites YOU actually reference.

        Do you enjoy being proven wrong? Seriously, just stop posting.

      • jfutral

        I read those comments and the many before this article. Where are they asking for a 2lb macbook pro? Did YOU read them?


      • Steve__S
      • Space Gorilla

        That first Alienware 15 inch laptop you linked to is actually three pounds heavier than the MacBook Pro. The second laptop is about two and a half pounds heavier. Clearly Apple could have built a machine like this but chose not to, and I think for good reasons.

      • Steve__S

        Agreed. That’s my point. Mobile design is about trade-offs. For that matter, I find it amusing how people attempt to determine what constitutes a “pro” machine.

      • Space Gorilla

        I would guess he’s referring to Windows laptops with similar specs as what people want in the MacBook Pro (32 or 64 GB RAM and so on). Those do exist, and guess what, they’re almost two pounds heavier than the MacBook Pro. So yes, there are significant trade offs.

  • Bodhi

    Don’t these statistics you graph just tell you about shopping and web browsing use. Not the actual hours spent working with applications on the computer. I spend far more hours on my mac desktop and laptops getting work done.

  • Dafydd Williams

    Just on footnote 3: iPad Pro also allows one hand, one Pencil. This shouldn’t be overlooked.

  • Donald Drumpf

    Shit, I’m a 45-year-old parent and wear skinny jeans. But I’m an ectomorph, so what else do I wear? Do I surrender to Dockers or other pleated pants that give me an artificial ‘gunt’?

  • Doesnt Matter

    For What its worth, I have had this thought and I know others have, I think that the thing I think about is whether or not things should be shifted from General Purpose computer (one that is largely more effectively served by an iPad or iPad Pro, perhaps) to a specialized device. Now more than I ever I think the Mac needs to be a specialized machine. Desktop and laptop lines should serve a purpose specifically tailored to target markets perhaps. Maybe thats what we are seeing with this new macbook pro, which seemingly is aimed at creative professionals on the go. I’m interested to see if this trend deepens and continues with the next release of the iMac, mac mini, mac pro etc. (Or some incarnation of those).

    On a somewhat related note. The only big market left for traditional computing devices like a Mac seems to be enterprise, and that is a growth market. Take for instance the data published by JAMF and IBM on support costs in the Enterprise sector being 535 dollars less expensive than a PC based deployment – even factoring Contractual Agreements, device management software, and hardware costs:

    I am surprised this isn’t more aggressively pushed to Enterprises in this day and age. I think there is still a huge enterprise market for laptops/desktops esp. since they pair extremely well with iOS. I feel like this would help bolster the Mac and even sustain revenue growth, and still provide a market for higher end Macs like the Mac Pro. Just a passing thought.