Horace Dediu’s Take on MacBook Pro and Convergence is a Must Read

Touch Bar Retina MacBook Pro with USB-C ports

Horace Dediu has penned a piece on computers, mobile devices, touch input, and convergence that is a simply put, a must-read. Centered around Apple’s new MacBook Pro and Touch Bar, Mr. Dediu defines the difference between the Mac and Windows platforms as it pertains to the ways they are evolving. I don’t want to rewrite his piece, so I’ll just leave you with this passage and encourage you to read the whole thing: “Which brings me to the question of what it is allowed to be and hence what it is. It cannot take on the role of being the future. That belongs to the touch screen devices. It will not morph into a touch device any more than a teen’s parent will become cool by putting on skinny jeans. What it will do is become better at what it is hired to do.”

Check It Out: Horace Dediu’s Take on MacBook Pro and Convergence is a Must Read

8 thoughts on “Horace Dediu’s Take on MacBook Pro and Convergence is a Must Read

  • Bryan:

    I’ve also received notices of private messages (including from our own Lee Dronick – apologies for the non-response, Lee) but have not been able to find them on the new/revised website, despite clicking on the link in the notice.

    Perhaps your email went there(?)

  • Although I appreciate the point of the touch interface classification, I prefer the old truck/car analogy. Sometimes you need a truck, a pc, to do heavy lifting. But most of the time, you can get by with a car (an iOS device). Sure, phones and tablets will far outsell PCs now and in the future, but I don’t see a time when we don’t want trucks to do big jobs. Any craftsman or mechanic will tell you the right tool makes all the difference. I’m flying across the country today, and I’m happy to be using my iPhone 7, my iPad Air 2, and my old Macbook Pro for the various jobs that each one does best.

  • Bryan:

    I started to respond to your other article about the touch bar, but will respond here instead.

    I believe that Horace Dediu, for whom I have tremendous respect as an analyst, has provided an incomplete analysis in this case, and thus the prognosis for Apple’s touch bar is uncertain.

    Both his, and your arguments, about the elegance of Apple’s approach to solving the problem of the toaster-fridge, and his separate argument about input methodology for macOS vs iOS, the role of the Mac in the greater context of Apple’s platform, and the future of input methodology belonging not to indirect method of the Mac but the touch interface of iOS are all, in my opinion, spot on. Indeed, I also concur with his argument in favour of ‘the disruptor’ (iOS) growing up ‘unhindered’ by the legacy OS of the Mac. Let’s suspend voice interface for the moment, but come back to it in train.

    The problem with the argument lies in its inherent asymmetry, which renders it inelegant if not inherently contradictory. Beyond this lie two additional issues; the roadmap for a transition from indirect to direct manipulation, and the rate of that change.

    First, the asymmetry. That the macOS was created for indirect manipulation via a keyboard and mouse, and that iOS (the third wave as he calls it) was designed for direct manipulation are self-evident. However, as you have pointed out in your 28 October ‘Toaster-fridge’ piece, that Apple have acknowledged that there is a use case for a stylus and/or keyboard for iOS computers is not simply a concession to MS’s Surface, but a tacit acknowledgment that a more ideal user experience is the ability to interface with the OS in the most natural and therefore efficient manner for the task at hand. As most users are now iOS users, they are accustomed to direct manipulation. More problematic, Apple have now enabled voice interface with Siri on macOS, a feature ported from iOS. Just as users are not predominantly interacting with their iOS devices via keyboards, no one argues that macOS users want to predominantly interact with their MBPs via touch screen, but there may be occasions where that is the most natural and therefore efficient way in which to interact with it. If productivity on an iPad is enhanced when we can be multi-modal, which would it not be so on a macOS device, which remains the more powerful system? That we have indirect and voice interface on both iOS and macOS, but only touch on iOS with a predominantly and growing touch screen user base raises the spectre of an asymmetrical and less satisfactory user experience. That there may be engineering challenges to including touch on macOS, including a performance tax, is plausible, but to argue about horizontal and perpendicular surfaces and gorilla arms is not, particularly when this is already contradicted by Apple’s own solution to expanding the versatility and robustness of iOS devices.

    The second issue is the roadmap for transition from the PC (indirect manipulation devices) to iOS devices (direct manipulation devices). There is a demographic and use case transition currently underway that is on a generational arc. My kids and their future offspring will predominantly interact with touch screens. Whether Apple (and the industry writ large) adopts an inertial transition (allowing it to occur naturally over a generation) or a proactive one (engineered transition via an increasingly capable touch screen experience) or a combination of the two will affect perceptions of the user experience. Greater versatility across the Apple platform, allowing the interaction of choice will enhance that experience.

    Finally, is the rate of change for that transition. If the transition is prolonged, particularly with a less capable touch screen OS, the user experience will be likely be adversely affected, including user satisfaction.

    The touch bar is potentially an elegant solution, more so if it becomes even more capable, but only if users adopt it and perceive it as a natural and efficient solution, more or less on par with a touch screen.

  • I find that article fascinating. Horace’s take on the discipline it takes to allow one device to supplant or succeed a device by the same manufacturer is a very good argument. The observations of input methodology, direct vs indirect are very well thought out. Question is what is the next methodology? A convergence in one of the ways Dediu pointed out or will direct screen manipulation become the new dominant paradigm. If I look at my grandson, and how he uses a computing device; I would say direct manipulation is going to win in the next generation of computer users.

  • Interesting, and in line with other commentary that’s been around. Where, in this vision, will professionals end up? Will the future iPad Pro do everything we need? Or will someone finally try to connect external computing resources to mobile devices to get the performance for professional uses. It seems that the future always has better performance at smaller sizes which could be why Apple hasn’t tried something like a GPU in a dock. Maybe I keep trying to find a reason to believe some form of desktop computer will have to exist (as a dock or standalone) because o have worked with and loved that form of a computer for so long that I can’t imagine a world without it.

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