Mashable published an excellent piece based on an interview with Phil Schiller, Apple Senior Vice President Worldwide Marketing, and John Ternus, Vice President of Mac and iPad Engineering. You should read the whole thing, and to get you motivated to do so, here are five things I learned from the piece.
1.) The logic board on the MacBook is 67 percent smaller than the logic board in the 11-inch MacBook Air. From the piece:
It's also evident in the MacBook parts laid out before me. The tiny logic board (aka the motherboard) fits in one of my hands. It's literally packed on both sides with chips of varying sizes and includes everything from memory to storage and even the display drivers. It's also deeply informed by everything Apple learned from building circuit boards for handheld technologies like the iPhone. As I examine it, Ternus tells me the board is 67 percent smaller than the one found in the 11-inch MacBook Air.
2.) One reason Apple doesn't talk much about its suppliers is because the company feels like doing so would be misleading. That's because so much of what Apple does is to jointly develop the parts in question that suppliers then make—very little is off-the-shelf. From the piece:
"The most common scenario is simply that what we got from a supplier basically has been created so uniquely for Apple that implying it's an off-the-shelf part like others may get would be really misleading," Schiller said. "So it's best not to even talk about the source because that implies things that aren't true."
3.) Apple is aware that it makes mistakes, at least on the surface. It's impossible to know how much of Phil Schiller's comment below is on the surface, and how much is bone-deep awareness. From the piece:
Inside the Apple bubble, a giant campus with more than 10,000 employees, it's easy to lose introspection. Yet, when I ask Schiller if Apple does everything well, his answer surprises me.
"No, of course not, of course not," he said. "And we don't want to sound like we're perfect. We never are, we always have to get better and always have to listen to where we're not doing well."
4.) While Apple is known to say "No" to a lot of what would otherwise be new products, the company turns that on its head when it comes to manufacturing. To hear John Ternus tell it, Apple people don't say "No" very often when it comes to new ways of doing things. From the piece:
Ternus, though, told me "no" isn't a very popular term at Apple. "There's 'Nos' in some way," he explained, adding, "There's 'Nos' about what we do, but in terms of how we do it, going and making the best product there really aren't a lot of 'Nos.' That's one of the great joys of working here. [For] something really compelling. We can afford to make it happen."
5.) MacBook tolerances are so tight, each device is effectively tweaked by hand, at least on the lid. The tiny differences that come with machining some of the parts have to be matched up—by people and with help from robots and laser-measuring systems—so that the right piece gets fitted to the right piece. From the piece:
"Every single unit gets measured on line for force required to open it, and we actually adjust every single unit," Ternus said.
In fact, Apple is apparently taking the time to custom-fit all sorts of pieces in the MacBook through a process it calls "binning." Since there can be minuscule variances that might make, for instance, the Force Touch trackpad not a perfect fit for the body or the super-thin Retina display not exactly a match for the top of the case, Apple finds matching parts from the production line. Even the thickness of the stainless steel Apple Logo, which replaced the backlit logo on previous MacBook models, can vary by a micron or so, meaning Apple needs to find a top with the right cutout depth.
There's more in the in-depth article, which represents an increasingly less-rare look into Apple. I strongly recommend it.