Apple’s Mac Lineup: Judge, Jury and Execution

7 minute read
| Particle Debris

Preamble

Two camps have emerged from the aftermath of Apple’s “hello again” event. on October 27. There are those who have tried to explain and rationalize the gaping holes in Apple’s presentation. Part of Apple’s structuring of the event may have been driven by Intel’s CPU/GPU roadmap. Part of it may have been that Apple executives have been sidetracked by the Apple Car, Campus 2 construction and EU/Ireland affairs. Part of it may have been that they were taken by surprise by both the Microsoft’s Surface Studio design and the warm reaction to it. This might be constructed as some of the case for the defense.

The prosecution claims that Apple took too long update all of its Mac lineup. There should have been more periodic updates along the way for each kind of Mac. Leading up to the event, the often cited MacRumors Mac Buying Guide showed that all of the Macs, except the MacBook, have been painfully neglected. The addition of a Touch Pad to the Skylake-based 2016 MacBook Pros wasn’t enough of a broad corporate affirmation to both the mobile and desktop lines. The tagline, “hello again” suggested that Apple would reignite the Mac. It didn’t happen. Neglect and indifference to consumers as well as to technical and creative professionals were cited.

Below, I have a list of notable articles for each side of the argument. Then my verdict.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Apple’s MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

Apple’s Defense

1. Jason Snell presented: “Why 2016 is such a terrible year for the Mac.” He lays out the best defense for Apple by explaining Apple’s situation and the elements of the huge pushback. He’s critical of Apple in parts, but also explains some of Apple’s plight. With respect to Intel’s roadmap:

In this case, Apple’s timing appears to have been bad. There’s no way to know for sure, but it seems like Apple decided to dance to its own rhythm, skip an Intel chip generation, and then wait for the good stuff, only to get bitten by slippage in Intel’s schedule. If that’s what happened, it’s hard to blame it on Intel. After all, it was Apple’s gamble.

2. Horace Dediu, in his quintessential analytical style, lays out the business and market forces related to desktop and mobile computing. “Wherefore Art Thou Macintosh.”

If the market, the tendencies, the future and all the money are on mobile, it’s going to be hard for Apple not to place all of its attention there. This is a great article. An excerpt:

The Mac is thus not treated disparagingly. It deserves and gets respect. It is preserved but with limited responsibilities….

It’s [the Mac] not obsolete but it is a decreasing share of engagement. Alternate ways of doing the jobs it does well with direct input are emerging on the third pivot but they are not yet good enough. The children are still adolescent and making lots of stupid mistakes. There’s still life in the parents….

The Mac is what it is because it’s not alone. It’s part of a family. It is a parent. It strives to be better but will not take the future from its child.

3. Finally, belatedly, the defendant takes the stand. The Independent was later given an interview by Apple SVP Phil Schiller. “Apple’s Philip Schiller talks computers, touchscreens and voice on the new MacBook Pro.” SVP Schiller responds to all the negative outcry about Apple’s deafening silence regarding other Macs.

I hope everyone gets a chance to try it for themselves and see how great the MacBook Pro is. It is a really big step forward and an example of how much we continue to invest in the Mac. We love the Mac and are as committed to it, in both desktops and notebooks, as we ever have been.

Not everyone will see that mea culpa.  That one sentence in the event itself would have saved the day.  Now, on to Apple’s prosecution on page 2.

Next page: The Case Against Apple’s “hello again” event.

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wab95
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wab95

John: For a topic like this, it’s hard to know where to begin, so let me begin with a quote from HL Mencken, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong”. To illustrate, as a young intern, I had a complicated post-op patient who had had surgery for aesophageal strictures (look it up if you’re curious). During his recovery, he became febrile. We gave him acetaminophen (Tylenol), and did a workup to rule out infection. There was none. Still, he complained of fever. Clearly, in order to break his fever, I’d have to use… Read more »

brilor
Member
brilor
brilor
Member
brilor

Developer Marco Ament wrote a well-reasoned piece. See it here:

Scott B in DC
Member
Scott B in DC

Before I make my comment: “heads” – sadly there seems to be no editing for TMO comments! May I recommend Grammarly. Even if you just sign up for the free version and add the Safari Extension, it might be enough to help you get past those typing nits! Since it is getting to be all about the apps, the software we use, what is the difference if that software runs on a Mac or a PC. I can get along without Safari since I use Firefox as an alternative. Other than Photos, what other Mac-only software will keep my tied… Read more »

archimedes
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archimedes

“heads” – sadly there seems to be no editing for TMO comments!

archimedes
Member
archimedes

I’m not going to join the chorus calling for the head of Messrs. Cook/Schiller/Ive, but I’m puzzled as to why there has been no follow-through on the 2013 Mac Pro, and I agree that “Hello, Again” raised expectations to iMac ’98 level but delivered less of a step forward than Apple’s 2012 Retina MacBook Pro (or the neglected 2013 Mac Pro.) On the other hand, unlike many commenters here, I am a huge fan of the iPad Pro. I rarely use the Microsoft-style smart keyboard, but I use the iPad all the time and find the 12″ form factor to… Read more »

geoduck
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geoduck

For those that argue that it’s OK because Apple is still making money, I’d like to point out that no matter how Balmer’s Microsoft blundered, it was also profitable. No matter how utterly clueless, leaderless, or feckless Microsoft became, it still made money.

Jamie
Member
Jamie

I hate to admit it, but I agree with the other posters. Tim’s Apple seems to have lost its way. I have no idea who is ultimately responsible, I doubt very much it’s one individual, but I haven’t had thoughts like these about the company since the System 7 days. Something has gotta change.

jeffsz
Member
jeffsz

There is such a thing as “too much elegance and not enough practicality/value.” I think Apple has crossed over this line with the current crop of MacBooks (I will not call them Pro machines). Thin in a consumer device is nice but really is out of place in a Pro machine. Too thin? Yes. While some are claiming Tim Cook should go, I think his only failing is not having enough balls to stand up to Jone Ive and say, “No! Stop obsessing about thinness!” How about a screen with NO bezel… well, it needs to be thicker. How about… Read more »

bjeast
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bjeast

It’s been a long time since there’s been this much criticism about Apple from all quarters. I tried to give Tim cook the benefit of the doubt, but at this point he’s getting perilously close to Ballmer’s reign of error. Yes, the company is still making money. But the Mac is still suffering from neglect. Under his watch, there has been incredibly poor rollouts of the new Maps and Apple Music. Schiller is, amazingly, getting worse at presenting. In fact, this was the worst presentation ever. From the awkward, awkward demos of the touch bar, to the amazingly lame comparison… Read more »

Lee Dronick
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Lee Dronick

So who replaces Tim Cook? Certainly Jonny Ive. Elon Musk perhaps.

JoelS
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JoelS

Totally agree John, but it is worse than that. It is not just the Mac, there is lame all over at Apple. It is time for Tim Cook to go. It is deja vu all over again and they are playing the part of Microsoft 1999.

Lee Dronick
Member
Lee Dronick

Maybe Siri will get smart enough to tell Apple engineers how to…fix their Mac lineup.

And fix that horrid iOS Music app

geoduck
Member
geoduck

It has to be said. Tim Cook must go. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. I tried to tell myself that his style was different from Steve Jobs style. Not better or worse just different. That his Apple would be different from the old Apple but the core of what made Apple my favourite company would still be there. But there’s a difference between following a different course and being rudderless. Today’s Apple reminds me a lot of the mid 2000s Microsoft under Balmer. Lots of little pet projects that come and go, but the core… Read more »

Member
shameermulji

“Observers have noted that Tim Cook’s presentation seemed strained, not as well rehearsed, and invoked what seems to be filler material at the outset. The team seems to have been up late, re-thinking the agenda in light of what Microsoft announced. All the earmarks of failure to execute are there.”

In light of no evidence, that’s nothing more than idle speculation. I think Schiller did a stand up job.

MarcusNewton
Member
MarcusNewton

With my 20/20 hindsight, I think Apple should have released a spec-bumped MacBook Pro back in July with Skylake processors, and waited until June 2017 to release the touch-bar MacBook Pro with Kaby Lake processors. This would have allowed Apple to shift the blame squarely on Intel for a delayed redesign, instead of releasing a compromised MacBook Pro this month. One article I read this week said that this new MacBook Pro is not a continuation of that Pro line we are use to (the 2012 line), but it is instead the “full” version of the 12″ MacBook. Based on… Read more »

TT
Member
TT

Maybe Siri will get smart enough to tell Apple engineers how to…fix their Mac lineup.

Albatrossflyer
Member
Albatrossflyer

Until people stop buying iPhones because Apple won’t provide the MacBook Pros, iMacs, & Mac Pros they want, Apple won’t give a damn what you think about their computer lineup.

Imagestealer
Member
Imagestealer

Downright depressing, is what this is. I should have left reading this until Monday. I looked at that Surface Studio machine ad. That is a pretty slick looking piece of equipment. I am also starting to hear good things about Win10 (but it is still WINDOWS ) I then went to the Apple site and priced out a loaded 2016 MBP. (Warning, I live in Canada). Damn near had a heart attack! Almost $6000.00. That does not even include a monitor and the necessary converters to attach all my external drives and other devices. It is extremely unlikely that there… Read more »