So, over two days, Microsoft and Apple held consecutive press events to debut / refresh some of their higher-priced products. Microsoft introduced the Surface Studio, which is expensive and very pro/artist oriented, and Apple introduced their first significantly updated Macbook Pro in years.
Apple, in fact, refreshed basically their entire fleet of laptops. Except for the Air. The Air is too affordable for upgrades. And if they upgraded it, no one would want the Macbook.1
There is some fallout from today’s event… I don’t really know how to follow Apple’s thinking on some of their choices, nor can I identify what market they’re trying to pursue.
The big new feature (on the higher-end models) is an OLED Touch Bar that replaces the F-keys on the top row of the keyboard. This new Touch Bar can change based on the focused app, and the ‘keys’ on it can change in function and shape. This looks like a huge gimmic to me, and I’m not sure who this is going to benefit.
- People have complained for ever about ‘touch keys’, because…
- You can’t really develop muscle memory for something that’s constantly changing.
- What happens to the functions people use the F-keys for? Or the shortcuts people have assigned to them?
- What happens to anyone using their Macbook on a laptop stand/dock with an external keyboard?
- How good is the workflow when you’re constantly shifting your eyes from the screen to the touchpad?
- Do you use/need an ‘escape’ key?
If Apple were to add additional touch functionality, it would have made a ton more sense to integrate a touch strip across the top of the existing trackpad, which had it’s size increased some 63%.
The other ‘feature’ of the updated lineup is the complete abandonment of any port not USB-C.2 On the higher-end models, you get four of them. Seems well-appointed and future-focused, right? Think about this quick list of things you can’t do now:
- Plug in virtually any flash / external drive lying around the office.
- Plug in most peripherals more than 6 months old.
- Plug in the SD or MicroSD card from your DSLR.
- Plug in your new iPhone 7 headphones.
- Plug in any iPhone.
But hey- you can charge it from any of those ports!
Also, and I think this is going to be a dealbreaker for a lot of folks… The 15″ version is available only with a discete graphics card. Starting at $2399. Suddenly, my XPS 15 that I spec’d out with a 4K Infinity screen and a graphics card for $1900 doesn’t seem quite so ludicrous. Hell, the brand new i7 Surface Book suddenly achieved price parity, and it also has a detachable touch screen tablet with an active digitizer and pen.
Wrapping up, it was an interesting event. It’s nice to see Apple giving their lineup a much-needed spec boost. That said, the ‘innovation’ on display, namely the Touch Bar, seemed like something Samsung would have tried back in 2012. It does not feel, in a phrase, very Apple-like. It will be interesting to see what this does for macOS sales.
edit: I forgot to mention that even the 15″ Macbook Pro now uses a ‘butterfly’ keyboard. This is the exceptionally shallow keyboard that was previously found on the 12″ Macbook. If you’re a writer, I apologize.