Thoughts on the new Apple MacBook Pro

Having slept a few naps contemplating Apple’s new MacBook Pro. I have been a Mac user since it was the mark of eccentricity. I am writing this post on a 13″ MacBook Pro and have a house of other Macs and peripherals.

Theatre
Apple launched a new range of Apple MacBook Pro’s on October 27, 2016. This was a day after Microsoft’s reinvigoration of its Surface franchise.  Apple ignores timing and tries to plough its own furrow. But comparisons by journalists and market analysts are inevitable.

Microsoft has done a very good job at presenting a device that owes its build quality to the schooling that Apple has given to the Shenzhen eco-system over the past two decades.

The focus on touch computing feels like a step on a roadmap to Minority Report style computing interfaces.  Microsoft has finally mastered the showmanship of Apple at its best.

Apple’s presentation trod a well-worn formula. Tim Cook acts as the ringmaster and provides a business update. Angela Ahrendts sits at a prominent place in the audience and appears on a few cut-in shots. Craig Federighi presented the first product setting a light self-depreciating humour with in-jokes that pull the Apple watchers through the fourth wall and draws them inside ‘Apple’. Eddy Cue plays a similar role for more content related products. In that respect they are interchangeable like pieces of Lego.

Phil Schiller came in to do the heavy lifting on the product. While the design had some points of interest including TouchID and the touchpad the ports on the machine are a major issue.

Given the Pro nature of the computer, Apple couldn’t completely hide behind ‘design’ like it has done with the MacBook. So Phil Schiller was given the job of doing the heavy lifting on the product introduction.

There was the usual Jonny Ive voiceover video on how the product was made with identikit superlatives from previous launches. It could almost be done by a bot with the voice of Jonny Ive, rather than disturbing his creative process.

It all felt like it was dialled in, there wasn’t the sense of occasion that Apple has managed in the past.

User experience
Many people have pointed out that Microsoft’s products looked more innovative and seemed to be actively courting the creatives that have been the core of Apple’s support. In reality much of it was smoke and mirrors. Yes Apple has lost some of the video market because its machines just aren’t powerful, in comparison to other workstations out there.

The touch interface is more of a red herring. Ever since the HP-150 – touch hasn’t played that well with desktop computers because content creators don’t like to take their hands too far from the keyboard when work. It ruins the flow if you can touch type; or have muscle memory for your PhotoShop shortcuts.

Apple didn’t invent the Surface Dial because it already had an equivalent made by Griffin Technology – the PowerMate. In fact the PowerMate had originally been available for Windows Vista and Linux as well, but for some reason the device software didn’t work well with Windows 7 & 8.

I can see why Apple has gravitated towards the touchpad instead. But it needed to do a better job telling the story.

Heat
Regardless of the wrong headedness of Microsoft’s announcements, the company has managed to get much of the heat that Apple used to bring to announcements. By comparison Apple ploughed exactly the same furrow as it has done for the past few years – the products themselves where interchangeable.

The design provided little enthusiasm amongst the creatives that I know, beyond agitation at the pointless port changes and inconvenience that conveyed.

While these people aren’t going to move to Microsoft, the Surface announcements provided them with a compare and contrast experience which agitated the situation further.  To quote one friend

Apple doesn’t know who it is. It doesn’t know its customers and it no longer understands professionals.

Design
Apple’s design of the MacBook Pro shows a good deal of myopia. Yes, Apple saved weight in the laptops; but that doesn’t mean that the consumer saves weight. The move to USB C only has had a huge impact. A raft of new dongles, SD card readers and adaptors required. If like me you present to external parties, you will have a Thunderbolt to VGA dongle.

With the new laptop, you will need a new VGA dongle, and a new HDMI dongle. I have £2,000 of Thunderbolt displays that will need some way of connecting to Apple’s new USB C port. I replace my displays less often than my laptop. We have even earlier displays in the office.

Every so often I transfer files on to a disk for clients with locked down IT systems. Their IT department don’t like file transfer services like WeTransfer or FTP. They don’t like shared drives from Google or Box. I will need a USB C to USB adaptor to make this happen. Even the encrypted USB thumb drive on my ‘real life’ key chain will require an adaptor!

I will be swimming in a sea of extra cables and parts that will weigh more than the 1/2 pound that Apple managed to save. Thank you for nothing, Apple.  Where interfaces have changed before there was a strong industry argument. Apple hit the curve at the right time for standards such as USB and dispensing with optical drives.

The move to USB C seems to be more about having a long thing slot instead of a slightly taller one. Getting rid of the MagSafe power connector has actually made the laptop less safe. MagSafe is a connector that is still superior to anything else on the market.  Apple has moved from an obsession with ‘form and function’ to ‘form over function’.

The problem is one of Apple’s own making: it has obsessed about size zero design since Steve Jobs used to have a Motorola RAZR.

Price versus Value
So despite coming with a half pound less mass and a lot of inconvenience, the devices come in at $200 more expensive than their predecessors. It will be harder for Apple customers to upgrade to this device unless their current machine is at least five years old. I don’t think that this laptop will provide the injection in shipments that Apple believes it will.

A quick word on displays
Apple’s move away from external displays was an interesting one. There can’t be that much engineering difference between building the iMac and the Apple Display? Yet Apple seems to have abandoned the market. It gives some professionals a natural break point to review whether they should stay with Apple. Apple displays aren’t only a product line but a visible ambassador of Apple’s brand where you can see the sea of displays in agencies and know that they are an Apple shop. It is the classic ‘Carol Bartz’ school of technology product management.

More information
Initial thoughts on Windows 8 | renaissance chambara
Size Zero Design | renaissance chambara
Why I am sunsetting Yahoo! | renaissance chambara
Apple just told the world it has no idea who the Mac is for – Charged Tech – Medium
Apple (AAPL) removed MagSafe, its safest, smartest invention ever, from the new MacBook Pros — Quartz
How Apple’s New MacBook Pros Compare To Microsoft’s New Surface Studio | Fast Company | Business + Innovation – a subtly cutting article on the new MacBook Pro
New MacBook Pro touches at why computers still matter for Apple | CNet
Apple’s new MacBook Pro kills off most of the ports you probably need | TechCrunch

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Tim Cook on Apple’s strategy and Clayton Christensen’s “Jobs to be Done” theory – Business Insider – basically do the new products actually have use cases?

Merkel: murky internet giants distort perception of reality – The Local – “the algorithms must be made public, so that one can inform oneself as an interested citizen on questions like: what influences my behaviour on the internet and that of others?” 

“These algorithms, when they are not transparent, can lead to to a distortion of our perception, they narrow our breadth of information.”

This Cheesy, 1980s Promotional Video for a Northern Nightclub is UK Nightlife’s Finest Hour | Thump – OMG

Divorced by Apple in California | josh.com – which nukes Apple’s security measures if true

Xiaomi Mi MIX Is An Edgeless Concept Phone That’s Actually Available For Purchase: Snapdragon 821, 6 GB RAM And More : TECH : Tech Times – big challenge to get back its crown in China from Huawei and Oppo. P9 or this? No contest to be honest with you the MIX wins hands down

Microsoft Keeps Dossiers on Journalists and Sent Us One By Accident | Gizmodo – reminds me of the Fred Vogel dossier sent a number of years ago, its not NSA level dirt unfortunately

Why the fashion world won’t let Amazon in – via Fritha

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week:

You might have noticed a new set of random headers at the top of this blog. Retro Wave – PhotoFunia: Free photo effects and online photo editor – generated them
retro-logo 3

Korean DJ producer Mignon put together this banger for Ruffhouse Munich, it sounds like what I would have expected from early in the career of 2 Blind Mice

Matt Muir switched me on to this awesome mix of original sources used for samples of DJ Premier

It’s Nice That | Kodak returns to its 1970s symbol, joining the retrobrand bandwagon – looks beautiful and the K makes more sense in world of app brands

Stephen Colbert skewers Samsung over its Note 7  with this safety video

Oprah time: Democracy in Decline by Philip Kotler

When I was in college Philip Kotler was a constant part of my life. His Principles of Marketing was a core text for my degree. It is a bit weird reading another book by Professor Kotler; especially one on such a dramatically different topic.
Democracy in Decline
In Democracy in Decline Kotler addresses what are commonly cited as weaknesses in the political system of the United States. He provides an easy to understand guide to the US political system.  Kotler then gets into what he identifies as the key points of failure in the American political system.

  1. Low voter literacy, turnout and engagement
  2. Shortage of highly qualified and visionary candidates
  3. Blind belief in American exceptionalism
  4. Growing public antipathy towards government
  5. Two-party gridlock preventing needed legislation
  6. Growing role of money in politics
  7. Gerrymandering empowering incumbents to get re-elected forever
  8. Caucuses and primaries leading candidates to adopt more extreme positions
  9. Continuous conflict between the President and Congress
  10. Continuous conflict between the federal and state governments
  11. The supreme court’s readiness to revise legislative actions
  12. The difficulty of passing new amendments
  13. The difficulty of developing a sound foreign policy
  14. Making government agencies more accountable

Kotler’s viewpoint is unashamedly liberal and supportive of collegiate rivalry underpinned by compromise in politics. The White House he envisions is more like the Barlett administration in The West Wing or Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets rather than Hilary Clinton. The flaws he has identified are so big in scale that they would likely require a major re-engineering of American society. From the electoral system, the relationship between federal and state government, public policy and public service.

That kind of re-engineering would require widespread societal approval. That wouldn’t happen in the riven, polarised society of America today. The books measures would be completely against the interests of the conservative movement.

For the European reader, Kotler offers an interesting engaged analysis of the American condition, however there is little to no reflection on the commonalities of national populism in European politics. This book will only provide an understanding of the United States; and that’s ok.

Kotler has a sub-header in the tile of the book ‘Rebuilding the future’. In reality Kotler provides an effective diagnosis, but an not anything that points to an effective solution beyond hoping for the best.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

AT&T Is Spying on Americans for Profit, New Documents Reveal | Daily Beast – The telecom giant is doing NSA-style work for law enforcement—without a warrant—and earning millions of dollars a year from taxpayers

As Chinese Incomes Rise, So Does Pollution | The New Republic – it was a similar state in the UK and US during the industrial revolution. Super Fund sites would have looked familiar to the Chinese. That’s what industrially driven progress looks, smells and tastes like

The Decline in Chinese Cyberattacks: The Story Behind the Numbers | Technology Review – or just taking liberties that could be then easily bargained away to create the illusion of a win

Xiaomi is selling the concept phone of your wildest dreams – The Verge – impressive design, it will be interesting to see if it can take the crown back in China from Huawei and Oppo

The New York Times is buying The Wirecutter for more than $30 million – Recode – The Times will pay more than $30 million, including retention bonuses and other payouts, for the startup, according to people familiar with the transaction – so in reality less than 30 million but still a great result for Brian Lam and the team

What is Dolby Vision? | Electronics EETimes – high dynamic range video

Galaxy Note 7 Recall Dismays South Korea, the ‘Republic of Samsung’ – NYTimes.com – interesting how attached people are to the brand

Huawei Mate 9 to sport 4X optical zoom, cost up to $1300 | Phonearena – trying to use ridiculous pricing to develop a perception of quality

Homeless on Stockholm’s silicon slopes – POLITICO – with the implication that they prefer refugees over technical talent

Every LTE call, text, can be intercepted, blacked out, hacker finds • The Register – Ruxcon Hacker Wanqiao Zhang of Chinese hacking house Qihoo 360 has blown holes in 4G LTE networks by detailing how to intercept and make calls, send text messages and even force phones offline

GitHub – DaylightingSociety/WhereAreTheEyes: Surveillance Detection and Mapping App – interesting move that would be of value to the surveilled and the watchers

How I started my company in Japan | Danny Choo – really interesting read

Hong Kong lifestyle retailer accuses competition of copying design of his shop | SCMP – interesting area for IP, what about retailers that transplant formats (Yo! Sushi etc)

Move over K-Pop: desperately seeking an international cultural icon made in Hong Kong | This Week In Asia | South China Morning Post – how does Hong Kong claim is place on the international cultural stage?

Batteries May Trip ‘Death Spiral’ in $3.4 Trillion Credit Market – Bloomberg – of course this doesn’t seem to take into account the finite supply of lithium and rising cost of the metal…

My first virtual reality groping | Mic – why should we be surprised that VR mirrors the best and worst of real life?

History tells us where the wealth gap leads | Aeon Essays – really interesting read

Google Has Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking | Propublica – Google’s ownership of Android and Chrome make this particularly interesting

Kenny: Suggestion of EC probe into Ireland ‘wrong’ | RTE – Irish Times report stirred the hornets nest