No Escape

Apple, to the extent they ever were, has stopped being a company that can move quickly. They have long pipelines, characterized even by Tim Cook as a “treadmill of innovation”. They know which product they will put out, roughly, in a year, which OS it will align with, and which new standards will be ready by then that can be taken advantage of. I think this is why I am having so conflicted feelings about what’s going on now as different products transition in and out.

The new Mac Pro was introduced, and it again embraces what a fully loaded up computer can be and the power it gives to its user, going as far as to bake in the “cheese grater” worship into the visual. (They knew.) But it also starts at a wallet-melting $5999. (You know how much money that is? That’s, like, six Pro Stands!) The grater everyone was wishing for started at $2499, and was within range of many more Mac users.

The (12-inch, one-USB-C-port) MacBook was scrapped today, but so was the MacBook Pro “Escape”, the 13-inch model without a Touch Bar. The new models are upgraded and better, unless you want to do advanced things like press down a key and be reasonably sure which letter shows up on the screen and how many of them.

The last four or five years have been like a walk in the desert for Apple. They are exceptionally good at some things, like miniaturization and betting on new standards and “skating to where the puck is going to be”, and in a world where you risk getting stranded atop local maxima, it’s a good tool to have in your belt. But that’s all it is - it’s a tool.

Starting roughly around the 12-inch MacBook, they let it be their only virtue. The problem is that they are the only vendor in their own platform, and have an increasing number of people with a wide range of problems to solve. There’s nothing wrong with having a laptop with only USB-C ports, but if several years on people haven’t dropped the other ports, it’s quite possible it’s a good idea to have a computer with both USB-C and other ports on it. It’s quite possible you could shrink the Mac Pro down a bit to not be quite so monstrous, sell it with a moderately powerful i7/i9 (or AMD Ryzen, once USB 4 comes around and Thunderbolt support doesn’t have to be dropped) at less than half the price and rule the galaxy. It’s quite possible you could offer MacBook Pros with both Touch Bars and no Touch Bars, and letting people choose which they like.

None of this means they’ll have to stop doing what they were previously doing - which shouldn’t matter, but since to Apple “not being completely right” seems to be heart-aching, world-view-shattering anathema, maybe it helps. I notice that in the grand scale of things, a more capable computer in the MacBook Air won out either in the marketplace or in Apple’s plans (probably both) over the sleek-for-sleekness-sake 12” MacBook, and that seems promising.

Simplification is a useful tool, too. Having fewer products is better. But it’s only better as long as you end up making the right computer for your user base.

(Edit: Another positive sign I missed - the SSD upgrades have gone from armed robbery to mere pickpocketing. When you can slough off $1400 for an upgrade and prices are still high, at least you know they were extortionate to begin with.)