Apple knows best
Apple is trying to tell us how we should be using our computers in the future.
Apple finally updated its benchmark Macbook Pro computers last week. It made them thinner, faster and added a rather gimmicky touch bar which replaces the venerable function keys at the top of the keyboard. Oh yes, and it ditched every legacy port on the laptop with the exception of the headphone jack.
After removing the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 this year there may have been some trepidation among the faithful that Apple would deep six the headphone jack. But that hasn’t happened. Yet.
Among all the discussion about the price of the new machines – slightly more expensive than the old ones – the speed of them and their physical appearance, the more important discussion is about what Apple is trying to tell us about how we should be using our computers in the future, and actually the way we may very well be using them today.
The question here is about use cases. Take the laptop; there are two core use cases: you are either on the go – the mobile worker – or you are at your desk, essentially using your laptop as a desktop replacement.
What we are being told is that when you are at the desk you should be plugging your machine into an external dock that contains all the ports you require to do your work. You should not expect Apple to pander to every possible option that you might have. If you want a laptop with every possible port then buy a PC. PC manufacturers are notorious for trying to accommodate every option with the result that your computer looks more like collection of obsolete technologies than a well-designed work tool.
Don’t believe me? Take a walk around your office and count the number of notebook computers with VGA ports. In the Brainstorm office the answer is every single machine, with the exception of the Mac I am using to write this article on (but more about this machine later on). By the way, Apple hasn’t had a full sized VGA port on a portable computer since 2002.
A better way
These docks exist already. After the Apple announcement, Belkin announced this beauty which should cater for all your needs . It will cost you more but quite frankly if you’re spending the money on a new Mac we’re not going to quibble over the price of accessories.
The second use case is the mobile worker. Here you really shouldn’t be plugging in vast numbers of devices. Maybe an external drive, maybe your phone or a cellular dongle but given the ‘run-all-day’ nature of the Mac this isn’t something that should be too taxing or that a smaller USB hub shouldn’t be able to handle.
At the office you can have a connect one cable and have everything at your fingertips solution, and on the road you should be operating with as many wireless technologies as you can lay your hands on. If you think about how you should be using your devices it all makes perfect sense.
The truth, however, is that people don’t approach their computing needs in a logical or even sensible fashion. They would rather buy a clunker because it has a VGA port than adapt to new technologies. They would rather have something that fits how they work today than accept that maybe there is a better way of doing things.
However, accepting that users know better than it is not the way Apple operates. The best example of this is the original iMac where Apple deserted serial and parallel ports and the floppy drive for two USB ports, at a time where USB accessories were a rarity. If the new Macbooks follow form, Apple may have kicked off the switchover to USB-C in earnest.
And that is something that can’t come a moment too soon as the smaller and, more importantly, reversible connecter is one that should stand the test of time given that it’s already making inroads into the smartphone market.
The simple truth is that Apple knows that people are still going to buy its computers. And being in that position allows it to take risks that no other computer manufacturer will take. History tell us that the quality of the Apple products, something that no PC manufacturer can match, will ensure that the risk will pay off.
Oh yes! About that computer I spoke about earlier. It’s an entry level Mac bought six years ago and with only a memory upgrade to keep it up to date. It runs faster and is more responsive than the PC I bought my kids for Christmas two years ago and than my official office PC. For the first five years of its life it was used every day running Adobe InDesign and Photoshop. This is a machine that has worked hard every day of its life and still puts in a full day’s work. It’s machines like this that have created the rabid loyalty among Mac users and the reason that many will simple trust Apple to make the right decision when it comes to what a new Macbook Pro looks like.
There is no PC manufacturer that has the same loyal following and this machine is the embodiment of the reason for that.