Article: Slowly At First, Then All At Once
Aside from a few brief posts, it’s been a bit quiet on this site for awhile. Part of that has been because my day job has kept me quite busy, while the other part has mostly been that I haven’t felt like I had much worth saying. I’ve started a few pieces, but haven’t really gotten them where I liked them. Apple’s event last week got me thinking about a few things and the reaction from Twitter and elsewhere on the Internet pushed me over the edge to figure out how to put the pen to paper, so to speak.
While the new MacBook Pros are certainly going to be fine machines, and they will make a lot of people very happy, the broader implications have caused more debate. It’s great that the MacBook Pro was updated, since it is Apple’s most popular Mac. Disappointingly though, it did come at the price of higher prices, fewer options, and throwing away a lot of legacy technologies. While Apple has always been quick to eliminate ports, this isn’t a matter of ditching VGA, but rather HDMI and USB-A, both ports that are still in wide use and considered fairly relevant. MagSafe is gone, too, which was well-liked and probably saved some computers from plenty of damage. On the other hand, the iMac, Mac mini, Mac Pro, and MacBook Air still live in the non-USB-C past, and who knows when Apple is going to update them, if at all (yes, I do realize the Air is still being sold just to be the "cheap" Mac).
Reading countless pieces on the matter, I have found that I have one conclusion—I just don’t care about the Mac anymore. There are people that have said that with the caveat of a particular feature or configuration: "I’ll care about the Mac again when there’s a new Mac Pro," but it’s different for me. Maybe it’s that my usage has changed or that the Mac as a platform is mature. Maybe it’s that for many people, even an outdated, neglected-by-Apple model is probably good enough, but I really think that the collective attitude is in about the same place for Apple as me with the Mac lineup.
People have complained that Apple is lagging on some areas, skipping CPU generations, and falling behind competitors like Microsoft, who just released a pretty impressive computer, the Surface Studio, except that it still runs the dumpster fire known as Windows 10 (yes, I have used it enough to feel qualified to say that). Say what you will about Apple’s neglected, aged hardware, macOS is still great as always.
Maybe it is a little bit of work burnout from supporting Macs mixed with the fact that my 2014 Mac mini is sitting there acting as a place to hold archives of content or reprogram my old Logitech Harmony remote, but if something were to happen and I’d be Mac-less tomorrow, I’d probably be only upset for nostalgic reasons. I’m even in the progress of migrating my vast archive of old stuff to a Synology NAS, which is going to be the central hub for everything technology in my home.
For those who haven’t been along for the ride, I’m no recent Mac convert looking for greener pastures. One of my favorite Macs was a cobbled-from-used-parts Power Mac 7100 motherboard in a Quadra 800 shell: power, drive bays, and expandability! Plus, I built it myself, which I know a lot of hackintosh folks still are drawn to. My other favorite old Mac was a PowerBook 540c, which also was pretty darn expandable. Even then, the days of having USB hubs and as much crap as I could hang off the back of a computer just don’t appeal to me now.
At work I’m finding that my actual job responsibilities are mostly browser-centric or just need a good SSH client, so a Chromebit and iPad in tandem have been an enjoyable and more convenient combination. At home, I’m reaching for my iPad since my "computer" use is often while relaxing.
It seems Apple’s priorities are in different places, too. While the new MacBook Pro has certainly become more iOS-like, including simpler I/O, TouchID, on-board Apple Pay, and the Touch Bar, it feels late. On the iPad and iPhone, those features came naturally and most good developers took advantage of them when they could years ago. The fragmentation is also weird—desktop Macs don’t have these features yet, so what is enticing developers to really take advantage of the Touch Bar? Apple Pay is available on just about everything and we’re still seeing slow adoption in apps and on the Web.
I’m not saying it’s the end of the Mac, but the arguing and "they’re going to take away our Macs" mindset that so many folks have is starting to feel like a repeat of the closing days of the Apple II. The final Apple II, the IIgs, was a great machine in its own right, and it brought a number of ideas and features over from the Mac, including ADB ports, 3.5" disks, a graphical-user-interface and Finder. While better in some regards and less expensive than any Mac being sold, it also showed the widening gap between the past (Apple II) and future (Mac). That computer was introduced in 1986, the same year the Macintosh Plus was top-of-the-line with 1MB RAM and no hard drive, and discontinued in 1992, when the best Mac was the Quadra 950, topping with a 1GB hard drive and the ability to have up to 256MB RAM, albeit expensively. Although plenty of people were probably asking for just a better Apple II, that wasn’t the future.
There was also a card for some Macs that featured an entire Apple IIe for legacy programs and that was sold for an additional three years. By that point, Apple was moving the Mac to PowerPC processors, and the Apple II family really felt like a dinosaur. If the end of the Mac is anything like the Apple II, it will be a gradual process and computing as a whole will shift. It already has with the popularity of devices like Chromebooks, tablets, and smartphones. Traditional computers are great for many tasks, but a lot of people don’t need them or want to hassle with them.
The Mac Doesn’t Have to Lose
A lot of the negativity towards Apple’s focus on iOS is the notion that for the iPhone and iPad to win, the Mac has to lose. I have the mindset that the Mac should get some development and attention as long as Apple is making money off of it, and while I’m finding that it’s not the product meeting my needs, Apple shouldn’t end the product line tomorrow. Computing is shifting away from desktop operating systems to mobile and simpler alternatives. For some, they might be a great option if you give them a chance and are willing to re-evaluate your tools and processes. As for me, I’m moving to an iPad-mostly setup and will remember fondly all the great times I had with my Macs over the years. It’s been a great run.