On April 19th, Apple announced an update to the 2015 12-inch MacBook. But the extent of the update didn't suit many observers. By some distorted logic, many didn't know what to expect (except Skylake processors), but when they finally saw it, they were disappointed. Why is that?
Image credit: Apple
Actually, I'll argue, we should be quite pleased. Let me explain.
1. Here's what Apple thought was important to highlight. "Apple Updates MacBook with Latest Processors, Longer Battery Life & New Rose Gold Finish."
2. Here's what many observers noted. For the class of the CPU, compared to, say, the MacBook Air, the price is too high. In other words, the conceit is that the only thing that should drive the price is the overall CPU power of the notebook. It is asked, why buy an underpowered MacBook with a Core m3/m5/m7 that remains underpowered?
The Buyer Psychology
I think there are several reasons for the power-user mentality. First, many observers may not appreciate the engineering tradeoffs that are made. If they, perhaps, were to intern with Apple from the design to shipment phase, they'd see how factors such as a fanless design, the battery capacity (41 watt-hour), the best available processors from Intel, and the interior remaining space (and thickness of the lid) all create a set of engineering compromises that must result in a product up to Apple's standards.
For example, the thickness of the MacBook lid probably puts a design constraint on available technology for the resolution of the FaceTime camera at 480p. Want 720p? Really, really need 720p? Tell Apple you want a thicker notebook that weighs more. Or select a different model.
Two USB-C ports is good, but requires some engineering to deal with the doofus who decides to plug in two chargers at once to get "you know, faster charge time!" That engineering costs time and money. But the complainers want a lower cost.
After all those engineering decisions were successfully made by the intern, they'd be proud of what they had achieved instead of being critical.
Secondly, what's overlooked is that we as customers are not paying for blazing CPU/GPU speed per dollar spent. In this product, we're paying for a thin, lightweight notebook that happens to look very cool, comes in a variety of technically pleasing colors, and uses the latest USB-C technology. (Even though there is no Thunderbolt 3 in this entry-class MacBook.)
A litmus test of the critical approach is to ask, "If you want more CPU power, why not select a MacBook Air with a Core i5?" The answer might well be that the keyboard is too clunky, it's not ready for a USB-C future, and it doesn't have a Retina display. "Then why not get a 2015 MacBook Pro?" The answer may well be that it doesn't have Skylake CPUs. And. besides, it's too expensive.
This thought experiment reveals that many critical observers don't wish to cope with hardware and cost fundamentals. They want every cool thing, rolled into their ideal notebook, and they have specific ideas about how much they think it should all cost to meet their budget.
And yet, from what we've heard, the 2015 MacBook has been selling really, really, well. Could it be that Apple has a better handle on what the customers want than any single observer? Gulp.
Next page: What Apple Has Actually Achieved Here
Page 2 - What Apple Has Actually Achieved Here
Image credit: Apple
Here's what Apple really did achieve for the same price as last year.
- New Core m3/m5/m7 processors are about 20 percent faster than last year's.
- "New Intel HD Graphics 515 deliver up to 25 percent faster graphics performance." [From Apple.]
- Faster 1866 MHz memory access compared to last year's 1600 MHz.
- Significantly faster PCIe access to storage. We think it's PCIe 3 vs last year's PCIe 2. (To be confirmed.)
- A extra hour of battery life.
Think about that. More speed and a longer battery life. That's typically an engineering contradiction.
These improvements are all pretty good, so long as one respects the fact that this MacBook is a lightweight, sleek notebook to be used primarily for messaging and communication, email, internet browsing, writing and editing. non-intensive graphics work, remote access and so on. Asking more is just not warranted.
The Rest of the Industry
Meanwhile, since the introduction of the 2015 model, many supporting accessories have come along. There are small USB-C hubs. There are fully powered USB-C docks. There is a LaCie hard disk with passthrough power. If someone really wanted the 2015 MacBook, but the lack of conventional ports gave them pause, it's a whole new ballgame this spring with ample accessories and a much better performing model at the same price.
That's assuredly Apple's marketing position: waiting is no longer necessary if that's the customer's vision for a modern notebook.
A Mac For Everyone's Needs
Apple makes great computers. It builds a variety of models so that a wide range of customers can meet their needs. Right now, there are three lines to choose from: The MacBook, the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. When there's a job to do and an observer or customer can't find the right Apple model with the right options to get that work done, I would suggest that it's called unjustified, technical whining.