Mac-lash: The Apple MacBook Pro and the State of the Mac

It’s a familiar refrain, one that you may have heard elsewhere on the Internet. You know, the one of the long-time Mac owner, waiting for Apple to upgrade the MacBook Pro line. That upgrade came recently, with the launch of the fourth-generation MacBook Pro, a laptop that was thinner, lighter and more powerful than ever before, with a whole new Touch Bar interface that seemed pretty cool in the demos on-stage.


It’s a familiar refrain, one that you may have heard elsewhere on the Internet. You know, the one of the long-time Mac owner, waiting for Apple to upgrade the MacBook Pro line. That upgrade came recently, with the launch of the fourth-generation MacBook Pro, a laptop that was thinner, lighter and more powerful than ever before. With a whole new Touch Bar interface that seemed pretty cool in the demos on-stage. Yet, the mac-lash from among pro Mac users, many of whom have supported the company since before the iPod was cool, has been rather unprecedented, almost in a sense drowning out the short-lived hysteria that followed the iPhone 7’s headphone-gate moment.

It may seem strange, at first. There’s nothing seriously wrong with the new Macs – they pack in improved displays, a Touch ID sensor (finally!), insanely fast SSDs, better audio quality and the all-compatible USB-C port on a chassis that makes the much-loved and once-impossibly-thin MacBook Air look fat! But the more I think about it, the more I’m not entirely sure if these Macs are for the “Pros” anymore…or for that matter, who they’re really meant for…

 Mac-lash: The Apple MacBook Pro and the State of the Mac

Go beyond the slick industrial design – arguably still one of the best around – and you’ll see what I mean. You get newer chips in this year’s MacBook Pros but they’re the older Intel Skylake CPUs and not the latest Kaby Lake CPUs – Intel doesn't have a Kaby Lake counterpart ready yet – one of the downsides of both Microsoft and Apple’s heavy reliance on Intel for their chips.

The massive focus on thinness and power efficiency meant that even on the 15-inch mode, Apple had to forgo the outright performance benefits of the Nvidia GTX1050, opting for the decidedly mid-range AMD Radeon Pro 450 instead. SSDs in the Touch Bar models are without a doubt insanely fast, but they’re soldered on at purchase, and the memory options max out at 16GB of RAM. All these are non-issues for casual consumer use, but for the MacBook Pros erstwhile core audience – developers, many of who use their Macs to develop macOS/iOS apps – these are potential deal breakers.

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Even creative professionals don't seem too pleased with exclusion of the SD card slot and the #donglelife they will need to lead if they want to connect to external monitors, keyboards and accessories. Heck, even regular users will ask the obvious questions – why have two different headphone connectors in the latest iPhone and MacBook Pros? Why didn't the iPhone, launched just a month prior, ship with the right cable to charge off the new MacBook Pros? Why’s the super popular HDMI port missing?

Part of the problem is that the rest of the Mac lineup was so terribly neglected, with the iMac and the Mac mini seeing their last updates well over a year ago, two in the case of the Mac mini. Remember the 'Can't innovate anymore, my ass' Mac Pro? It last saw an update 1076 days ago!

The MacBook Air looks like it’s being eased out – a shame for what is still a capable and affordable portable Mac – without Apple offering a similarly priced alternative. The lack of clarity from Apple on the Mac portfolio is a problem, and for many users, the new MacBook Pros represented a window of an upgrade opportunity that just didn't materialise.

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Where do we go from here? If Apple were to want to soothe some frayed nerves – you know, other than temporarily cut USB-C dongle prices to appease the first wave of MacBook Pro buyers – what could it do? Would a built-to-order 15-inch model with special configuration for power users solve the problem? Not without a significant hit to battery at the very least. However, if there are updated iMacs or Minis coming early next year, it would do Cupertino no harm in conveying as much without really giving away anything most informed folks couldn’t guess for themselves. Or maybe talk about the Mac Pro and the intent to refresh it (if at all) or stick a knife in it and kill it off altogether. Incentivise the adoption of dongles by permanently discounting any dongles you buy alongside the new MacBook Pros, and charging the sticker price for any thereafter.

None of these would make Apple any less Apple, and as the company tries to consciously address a wider audience for its Macs, it would do well to ensure its most loyal and passionate customers don't get left behind.

The author is a technology columnist and commentator and has been contributing for the past 18 years to India’s leading news media. He tweets @2shar.

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