Apple Has Missed the Plot

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar DJ demo at "hello again" event

Past fumbles and recoveries

Apple took a Touch Bar knife to a gun fight in the wake of Microsoft’s stunning Surface Studio announcement. This reminds me a bit of when Steve Jobs was hawking DVD drives on iMacs when everyone wanted to rip and burn CDs; he then course corrected a bit later admitting the mistake. He also told us you don’t want to watch video on your iPod, and later graciously released iPod with video (or iPod, 5th Gen).

It also reminds me of how Apple was tone deaf to users asking for larger screens on the iPhones. Instead of listening, Apple gave us only a slightly longer 4″ iPhone 5 (assuring us we didn’t know what we wanted, that one handed use is where it’s at), rather than listening to our needs. In each case, Apple eventually bought a clue, course corrected, and was rewarded with far improved sales. 

“Apple knows best,” the new “not-invented-here”

Now Apple assures us we don’t know $%*& about how we want to use our laptops and desktops. They set up idiot straw man arguments that you don’t want to touch a vertical screen because of arm fatigue (true) when they filed patents on desktop iMacs that tilt down horizontally (and Microsoft made real with the Surface Studio), and despite kids constantly reaching out to touch vertical screens from intuition. Apple once again knows better. 

They give us bullshit toaster-refrigerator analogies that you don’t want to mix touch and powerful pc technologies, that such convergence shouldn’t happen. This is much like when tech pundits told us we’d never have phone and iPod convergence. Well, until Apple found the right recipe with the iPhone and caught the entire industry with its pants down

They have the gall to make this analogy when iTunes is still used on your Mac to sync your photo albums on your iPhone. Well karma is a bitch, and Apple is enjoying an ass full of fresh air courtesy of Microsoft’s Surface Studio.

Fiddle me this

What’s worse is Apple has engaged in nostalgia that Steve jobs wouldn’t have tolerated in comparing its original PowerBook (not the original behemoth Mac portable–way to be selective) to the latest MacBook Pro. Way to set the bar real low Apple, ‘hey, we’re a lot faster than a 25 year old laptop!’

Steve Jobs quote about moving on to something else after creating something great.
“If you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.” – Steve Jobs

Apple wouldn’t dare compare its 2011 MacBook Pro to the new MacBook Pro because it would be embarrassed by how similarly they perform. I say it’s worse, because these bozos running Apple actually believe an emoji Touch Bar strip—cool though it may be—is actually a revolutionary reinvention of the laptop. They don’t see this as the “B” level upgrade that it is. That’s what’s truly terrifying. These nimrods are actually pleased with themselves.

Had they just said, “Hey, here’s a nice B-level upgrade,” people would have taken it as such and moved on. That they have the gall to tout this as a revolution in light of the release of Surface Studio shows a Nero-like tone deafness, and evinces these people have lost the plot.

Let me count the ways:

  • They’ve lost the plot that we don’t need thinner iPhones but more battery. 
  • They’ve lost the plot that we hate large bezels (because Jonny Ive’s thin fetish has him making the lid taper in, which requires greater screen inset and bezels, and ironically results in greater dimensions and weight). 
  • They’ve lost the plot by believing you can do real work on an iPad Pro and ignoring the Mac (perhaps the ‘review’ and light edit work executives do on their iPads have them believing that’s how real people work. But even the niche of artists using an iPad Pro to sketch things will eventually move that work to a desktop to create and finalize substantial work product). 
  • They’ve lost the plot thinking iTunes and Apple Music is in anyway acceptable as a product by anyone with even a modicum of self respect.
  • They’ve lost the plot that creative professionals don’t need powerful Mac Pros with video cards, storage and other feature expansion abilities, and have fed them a disposable trash can
  • They’ve lost the plot believing that they are making tools for creative professionals (e.g., that a $5,000 MacBook Pro with only 16GB of memory and a Touch Bar is a reasonable creative professional offering). And that abandoning creative pro tools (Aperture, crippling Final Cut Pro, expandable Mac Pros, etc.) is a cogent strategy. 
  • They’ve lost the plot by not providing a first party display, and believing that referring us to a fugly LG monitor is somehow acceptable to users used to valuing attractive, well designed and complementary products.  
  • They’ve lost the plot by abandoning creative professionals and their needs when those users make Apple appear cool and are the people that dragged Apple’s rotting corpse out of bankruptcy.
  • They’ve lost the plot by not recognizing that convergence into mixed-mode UIs is useful and the future (e.g. voice, touch, pen, traditional mouse/track pads; check out how useful mixed mode UIs can be in the video below or in any Star Trek episode/movie).

And by the way, in light of the Surface Studio release, Apple chose maybe the worst thing to demo the Touch Bar. DJ software.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar DJ demo at "hello again" event
MacBook Pro Touch Bar during the DJ demo at Apple’s “hello again” event

Anyone that watched the DJ scrubbing the Touch Bar and didn’t think it would be 100 times more natural to scratch with the on screen turn tables on a the flat Surface Studio screen wasn’t thinking too hard.

Next: Doing Less with More and Dodging a Bullet

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This is why i don’t use my wonderful ipad air 2 (not pro) : unable to use any mouse unless i jailbreak the os. People want convergence of technologies: touchscreen, (and don’t serve me that mac os can’t be used with a touch screen, when windows can be), pen, mouses, touchpads, power. I still love my ipad for playing doom and using photoforge2. But don’t ask me to use any word processor on my ipad even though there is pages,word … Just figure it out: even with a an ipad pro you can’t use a word processor with a mouse!!!!!… Read more »

Bartholomew J. Woodcocke

“Furthermore, if you get a maxed out 15″ laptop with AppleCare in NY the total comes out to $299 for the MacBook, $349 for AppleCare, $412.51 for tax for a total of, you guessed it Bartholomew, $5,060.51. No conversions required.” In the spirt of your headline, I’m afraid I’m going to have to step up to the plate and call a foul on this one. 😉 To replace my 2013 15″ MB Pro Retina with a new machine of comparable spec, it would be about $3500 USD, not $5,000. An extended warranty and tax are extra costs for a competing… Read more »


I’d like to tell Apple that I’m leaving their ecosystem… but they’re not listening. It appears that Apple has decided to focus on iOS, and that is where the money is. The iPad Pro is their answer to a 2-in-1, and the MacBook and iMacs are more than good enough to write iOS apps with. It hurts us Apple lovers to know that the exciting things are happening elsewhere, in the Windows computers. It hurts to hear Apple execs explain that they’d already researched these ideas, and concluded that we wouldn’t be happy with it. There’s a revolution happening in… Read more »


It is time for Tim Cooke to move back to the second seat…


Have to agree with most of what John has written here. Apple truly is – somehow – managing to do less with more. Customers have to spend more, and buy more (dongles, cables, adaptors) to do the same.


@NorthSaanichBC and the others that expressed similar sentiments. Ever heard of “The customer is always right”? We are the customers and we are unimpressed. Last quarter Apple made more off of bloody services than Macs. Mac share of the global and US computer market is sliding. Yes Apple is raking in billions, but they are not using that to improve their core products. Maybe someday the Apple Watch will be a major profit centre. Maybe someday the mythical car will hit the market and revolutionize the industry. But that day is not today. Today we have macs that haven’t been… Read more »

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD


Well argued commentary, as usual. I’ve referenced and responded to some of your points on John Martellaro’s ‘MS takes Apple…’ column from 31 October.

TLDR: Don’t hold your breath for any one vendor. In an age of product/service convergence, platform promiscuity is enabled.

TLDR2: When mass increases directionally, so too does the centre of mass. Apple’s inclination is not directionless, but directional. Just not in your direction.


I dusted off my hardly-ever-used TMO login to say that this piece touches my heart in ways that I can’t even begin to describe. Losing SJ has crippled this once mighty ship… “rudderless” is the absolute correct word. Things have steadily worsened in these past 5 years. This makes me unbelievably sad; having stuck with Apple from the get-go, through the dark 90s and seeing the amazing turnaround and rebirth of the early aughts, only to see them founder now is heartbreaking. But, it also makes me so stupefyingly angry. They have made boneheaded decision after boneheaded decision and it’s… Read more »


I’m still in shock over the 4 USB-C (two USB 3.0 and two Thunderbolt 3) ports on the MacBook Pro. I’m having a hard time working out how to plan my periferal purchases so that I can use them now with existing and when all Macs have nothing but USB-C. I want to avoid money wasted on adapters but I see no way around this.


As a (very) long-time Apple user, I have to say I’m getting tired of the gadgets and gizmos: a watch, an touch bar, a thinner this, a thinner that. I want an iMac that I can open up in order to upgrade the memory, the storage… easily when the time comes, with a decent MacOS (I’m still quite happy with it and with the standard applications). Nothing more and nothing less. That Apple develops some decent pro computers next to the iMac, fair enough, but let’s forget about thethose gadgets and gizmos (Ganges?) for a while.

Bartholomew J. Woodcocke

If only Apple had some guy named John Kheit (whoever the hell that is) to save them with his ideas. Then maybe they could start to have some REAL success and make some REAL money….oh wait… I get it, not everyone is happy with every decision made by a business behemoth like Apple. Thus was it ever. But pulling out gross exaggerations like “$5,000 laptops” based on the USD/GBP conversion isn’t quality journalism. And Microsoft releasing their version of a Wacom Cintiq is neither innovative nor something to have a hissy fit about. As svanthem says…less whining and hysteria, please.… Read more »


Apple is too busy trying to make cars and think up new watch strap designs. Apple is distracted from the core goals Steve Jobs brought back to the company. I’ve also been watching some of upper managements egos rise over the years. Just like Steve Ballmer who thought he was a rockstar but was instead a sweaty gorilla car salesman.


“Multi-mode UI (e.g., voice, touch and desktop PC) convergence will occur. It’s not a question of ‘if’ but when, by whom, and with what recipe.” Apple understand this very well. A good example is the iPad Pro & I think that’s where the issue lies. While die hards are expecting Apple to target this paradigm with their Mac line (macOS / x86), Apple is starting to (and will continue to do so) tackle this coming from the iPad. So instead of thinking of touch based iMac, think of a desktop sized (28″) iPad Pro. iOS / ARM are the long-term… Read more »


Saying that John is wrong because Apple is hugely profitable doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Warning signs usually start to appear long before the financials reflect that a course correction is needed. Apple has been coasting on past success for several years now. The Tim Cook era has been about momentum, not innovation. Beyond making existing products thinner and lighter, what has Apple accomplished under the current leadership? The last five years have been a great time to be an Apple shareholder, but not such a great time to be a creative professional relying on Apple hardware and software. I… Read more »


““Apple knows best,” the new “not-invented-here””

Or as it’s more commonly known: “Stockholm Syndrome”.


@NorthSaanichBC I completely agree with your sentiments. All these armchair wannabe CEOs should check out Steve Jobs interview regarding his comments on the Post PC Era: Take note of the part where he says PC / Mac guys will get uncomfortable when this shift really happens. Well, it’s happening. Going by this video, this tells me that Apple is right on game plan & the only ones who have lost the plot are guys like John, who are pleading that Apple remains the same old Apple that they grew up with. Sorry, but that ship has sailed. Although Apple… Read more »