The MacBook Family Will Continue to Evolve

Image of 16-inch MacBook Pro

Apple has recently shipped some really nice, updated MacBook Airs and Pros. But that’s not the end of their story. The MacBook family will continue to evolve.

2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch
2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch. Image credit: Apple

The MacBook Family Will Continue to Evolve

For starters, at Forbes, Ewan Spence writes: “New Apple Documents Confirm Ambitious MacBook Pro Plans.

Tim Cook and his team are expected to launch a significant update to the MacBook family in 2021 with a larger 14-inch screen in MacBook Air and smaller MacBook Pro, and the first release of a MacBook powered by an ARM processor rather than Intel.

Two new keyboard features are discussed based on patent analysis.

The first would be to allow the entire area below the keyboard able to receive touch inputs.

The second would be to add touch sensitivity to each of the keys.

Given the (healthy) competition between the iPad Pro and the MacBook family, it makes perfect sense to improve the MacBook’s touch input capabilities. (The display certainly isn’t going to go there.)

But upping the MBA to a 14-inch display when the 13.3-inch MBP cries out for the same upgrade is puzzling. This does explain, however, why the most recent update of the 13.3-inch MBP (in May) didn’t get a slight display boost to 14 inches — in the style of its 16-inch big brother. (It had been 15.4 inches.) Maybe it’s a supply chain issue.

Equally puzzling is a “smaller MacBook Pro.” I discount this completely as a misinterpretation of some rumor. But maybe it’s one of the ARM based models. Otherwise, I am at a loss. A 12-inch MBP isn’t a “pro” machine.

Of course, as author Spence reminds us, “The patents are all delightful, but a patent does not guarantee an appearance on a product.” Still, Apple’s MacBooks not only compete with iPad Pros, but with the notebook competition from Dell, HP and Microsoft. So one can expect Apple to always be aggressive on that front.

The Week’s Apple News Debris

• Meanwhile, also on the MacBook front, there is the enduring issue of when one should abandon the prospect of buying a MBA and seriously consider a MBP instead. Roughly along these lines, see this from Chris Matyszczyk at ZDNet. “A famous actor rages against Apple’s new MacBook Air.”

2018 MacBook Air
MacBook Air. Image credit: Apple. It remains a light-duty Mac.

Unfortunately, had “Clark Gregg, aka Agent Coulson from the Marvel Universe” selected a MBP for his graduate, he would still have been stuck with a 720p FaceTime camera. This limitation has been viewed as a notable mistake by Apple, but then author Matyszczyk’s story isn’t real clear why 720p wasn’t good enough for the Gregg family. Still, an amusing read.

• One of my most popular how-to articles of all time has been: “How To Convert iPhone Photos Back to JPG Format.” But it eluded the notice of the College Board and many high school students. As a result, The Verge reports: “Students are failing AP tests because the College Board can’t handle iPhone photos.

How to deal with HEIC images proves to be the hardest question of all

This is sad indeed. I can’t say Apple Apple is directly to blame, but it’s a sobering reminder that one should spend some time learning how the iPhone works and always be aware of the implications of Apple’s iOS technology updates that often become the default behavior.

iPadOS Home Screen,
iPadOS Home Screen, Designed for iPad

• Finally, over at TidBITS Adam Engst reminds us: “Why You Shouldn’t Make a Habit of Force-Quitting iOS Apps or Restarting iOS Devices.

When Apple’s engineers designed iOS, they took the opportunity to pare away behaviors and usage patterns that were unnecessary in a modern operating system running on tightly controlled hardware. Two of the most obvious were quitting apps and restarting/shutting down the device.

This is an essential read. Why?

For instance, once she learned in a TidBITS Talk discussion that force-quitting apps was a bad idea, reader Kimberly Andrew found that her iPad lasted 4 days on a single charge instead of requiring nightly recharging.

This is another one of those “the more you know” articles.


Particle Debris is generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article(s) of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

2 thoughts on “The MacBook Family Will Continue to Evolve

  • John:

    Competition between MacBooks and iPad Pros? Whoever heard of such a thing?

    Actually, it’s not only a thing, it’s bigger and broader than that, and is part and parcel of the messy process of evolution, to which we are more than living witnesses, but participants with a stake in the outcome. And yes, the competition is healthy.

    Our personal computers, most built around X86 processors, are the conceptual offspring of the big iron mainframes that many of us cut our teeth on back in the day (I still recall the ‘tutorials’ we had to endure in the computer lab in order to use the UNIX mainframe). The principal conceptual innovation during that period was the graphical user interface or GUI (thank you, Apple), that boosted user proficiency with the PC and accelerated consumer adoption and uptake, which in turn led to a paradigm shift in commerce, education, communication, and recreation – in a word, the global culture of work and play.

    We have accepted the notion that, one day, we would evolve beyond the current PC and its 20th Century take on the GUI. Popularly, we have even laughed at our own primitive take on personal computing in real time (Star Trek: The Voyage Home and Scotty talking into the mouse). The dawn of that day has broken; witness touch screen computing (iPhones, iPads), AI (Siri, Alexa), wearables (Apple Watch, Airpods) and the interoperability of our devices, facilitated by AI (eg Handoff) – all which combine to make the 20th personal computing use case appear almost as quaint to us as it did to Scotty in The Voyage Home (just look at the fun Captain Marvel in 2019 pokes at personal computing and digital entertainment in the mid-1990s – it’s hard to believe that this was a mere 25 years ago).

    The question stands unanswered; what direction will that take, and how will that be carried forward in use case? That question, in no small measure, will be answered by the consumer in a dynamic interplay between the tech industry, legislation and industry watch dogs paying attention to such key national assets as personal privacy and the security of our data.

    As a species, human beings tend to be cognitively concrete, ie literal, in how we interpret ideas and concepts. When Apple said that they viewed the iPad as the future of computing, many of us interpreted that as the actual device we call the iPad. I suggest that such a concrete conceptualisation is demonstrably wrong. The evolution of the original iPad to the iPad Pro and its supportive hardware, not to mention a dedicated iPadOS for the iPad writ large, is proof. And these are the low hanging fruit – porting of extant hardware, like keyboards and trackpads that expand comfortable, familiar input devices to facilitate uptake and adoption is smart marketing, and should not be confused with a new technology pandering to an older paradigm. Rather, it is taking the horse by the reigns and leading it to drink from a new water spring. It is still up to the horse to choose to drink.

    Rather, by iPad, Apple intend a fresh, 21st Century take on personal computing built around a touchscreen interface, written from the ground up with new code, processors and supportive technology, including voice activated AI that fundamentally change, not only how we interact with our tech, but the circumstances and use cases under which we use it, and therefore permit us to extend the power of that tech to new frontiers. If we want to talk about the directional porting of tech, we have ported more tech from these new touchscreen (iOS) devices to older tech, like the Mac, than we have from the Mac to the touchscreen devices (keyboards, folders – sort of – from the Mac to iOS; Secure Enclave, Siri, Touch Bar, expanded touch control gestures, to name but a few, to the Mac). The writing is clearly etched on the wall, and is written in the unambiguous and undying script of evolution, for those who choose to read it. The evolution is directional, towards the 21st Century technology. To the extent that it borrows from the 20th Century, it will be due to the limitations of our ability to economically implement the new technology with a consistent user experience, and the habits and preferences of a still active but passing generation. Our descendants will make new choices, and happily adopt new technologies and newer ways of work and play, just as we did from our those of our parents.

    Whatever computing looks like in the future, even 10 years from now, is difficult to say, but it will certainly involve expanded capabilities in both touch and voice, will see an expansion in wearable tech and smart devices, and will extend our computational power to use cases that will not only meet (eg Star Trek communicators) but exceed our fictional depictions of that future (eg the iPhone).

    Like SJ himself, I for one am not sentimental about our technological past, but look forward with eager anticipation to the next big thing.

    Ad Astra.

  • Lack of Intel x86 inside Macs is a deal breaker for our University. Because we need true full compatibility with the rest (95%) of the world (Windows). And I do not mean boot camp alone, but also VMware Fusion, for instance. And last but not least, being critically essential in our workflow, true full compatibility with Microsoft Office applications (Word, PowerPoint and Excel) to share documents and scientific meetings with colleagues, track changes while co-editing manuscripts for scientific publications, etc. If Apple does not release Intel x86 Macs, we will be forced to switch to Windows for sure at our Universisty. A shame for all. Did Apple remember and learn the lesson from the PowerPC (RISC as ARM) fiasco yeas ago?

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