No, the Apple MacBook is NOT a '4-year Step Backward'

Image credit: Apple

The new Apple MacBook is designed for extreme portability and low weight. Its low power Core M processor provides support for thinner designs and eliminates the need for a fan. To achieve that, it makes a concession to speed. So while the benchmarks are similar to a four year old MacBook Air, this MacBook is most emphatically not a step backward, as Business Insider claims this week.


Particle Debris typically picks out a notable article of the week and comments on it. Regrettably, this week's notable article is a bad piece of Apple reporting by Mr. Rob Price at Business Insider from April 2. The vulgar, click-bait title is: "The new MacBook is a 4-year step backward."

First, let's be clear. The benchmarks that have been reported, in fact, do show that the Geekbench score of the MacBook is about the same as a 2011 MacBook Air. But that's only part of the story, and that's important to know.

The purpose of the 2015 MacBook is to provide ultra portability. Like an iPad, it needs no fan. The battery is designed for 9 hours of wireless web usage, even as the Core M processor is driving a Retina display. When one understands the design goal, specifications, and intended usage profile, then it's easy to see how a low power 1.1 GHz processor would not have the same horsepower as, say, a 2.2 GHz Core i7 in a 2015 MacBook Air.

It would be like saying that an iPad Air 2 doesn't have the same computational power of an iMac, and so the iPad Air is a giant step backwards. That ignores the fact that a 21.5 inch iMac weighs 12.5 pounds and an iPad Air 2 weighs 0.96 pounds. Each is designed for a different purpose.

Incredibly, Mr. Price writes:

But still: The device's processor is weaker than one included in Apple devices four years ago. It's just part of the extraordinary lengths Apple has undergone to cut down on the size of its latest laptop.

This sounds like a condemnation when it should be praise for Apple's effort to provide an additional choice in its lineup of notebooks. Sure, if Apple had cancelled the entire MacBook Air line, we could accuse Apple of a forced and unwelcome tradeoff of mobility against computational power. But the MacBook Air line remains intact, was just updated, and presents excellent options for customers who want more power in a (still) highly portable notebook computer that, by the way, has a fan and weighs almost a pound more..

It's one thing to put a new product into perspective, as I did, when it comes to choices. After all, the customer who may be upgrading from an older MacBook Air (from, say, 2011) has a choice. One could obtain a state-of-the-art MacBook, with all its attendant features but with similar computational power to the old MBA ... or opt for a 2015 MBA with more power than the old model being replaced.

However to cast Apple's new MacBook, in a headline, as "a 4-year step backward" is to completely misrepresent Apple's MacBook and its relationship to Apple's entire line of notebooks. Apple has nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of because different users have different needs. Apple has a comparison chart to make this clear.

Excerpt from the complete chart. Image credit: Apple

Business Insider does a lot of good reporting, but this particular article needs to be called out as an intentional neglect of the design goals of Apple's new MacBook and customer choices. It's a misuse of benchmark data in order to arrive at a deceptive conclusion for the sake of a spectacular, alluring headline. Such a headline, filled with the promise of authoritativeness, ends up not being authoritative at all, and that casts a poor light on an otherwise good publication like Business Insider.

Next page: the tech news debris for the week of March 30: Those obnoxious smartphone users who want privacy and security.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of March 30


According to the FBI, it is incredibly obnoxious for smartphone users to encrypt their communications. For our safety, we should dispense with secure transactions so that nothing escapes the FBI's attentions. Encryption is actually dangerous, according to U.S. Representative John Carter, the chairman of the subcommittee on Homeland Security.


Here's the story: "The FBI Would Like Us All to Unencrypt Our Phones."

It's just a rumor, but when independent rumors continue to build, one has to take notice. This one is for the mythical (but I think almost certain) "iPad Pro." See: "Rumor: Apple's jumbo 'iPad Pro' allegedly shown in spy shots with potential second port."

There's always a story behind the story and always a reason for what Apple does. Good reporting doesn't jump to conclusions based on face value, but digs for the facts. So it was refreshing to see this informative article by Peter Kafka at Recode who explains why, "Apple Asks TV Programmers to Supply Their Own Streams for Apple’s TV Service."

Image credit: Apple

Are you thinking about an Apple Watch? Are you intrigued by what may be coming down the road? Jordan Kahn at 9to5Mac does a nice job of exploring the possible future of the Apple Watch. "Envisioning Apple’s next-gen Watch: new materials, sensors, price points, & more."

While you may not be particularly interested in IBM enterprise apps, you should be interested in how well Apple is working with IBM and how well Apple is succeeding in the enterprise. See, for example, another good article from 9to5Mac : "Apple + IBM add 8 new enterprise iOS apps, first for industrial products & healthcare industries."

Finally, if you read Jeff Gamet's introduction to Amazon's Dash buttons, then you will surely enjoy The New Yorker's humorous social commentary. "The Horror of Amazon’s New Dash Button." Cognitive dissonance often arises when the excesses of business fly in the face of (or try to modify) human nature, and that always opens the door for sharp and insightful social commentary. Enjoy.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) 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 holidays.