Some thoughts on the Apple Keynote yesterday, the new Macbook Pro, and its impact.
Background: I switched from Windows to Mac in 2006. Never looked back. People have called me an Apple Fanboy for years – to which I replied I’m just a fan of good technology and I’ll switch when Apple no longer makes the best stuff.
First, the keynote itself: it was the most ridiculously bad Apple Keynote I have ever seen. I could have forgiven the long build-up full of irrelevant announcements about Apple TV and tedious slide show reminders about iPhone and Photos if Apple had delivered on the main promise of an awesome new MBP, but Apple did not deliver. In that context, this level of hype and build-up was frankly stupid and harmful. The stilted delivery that others have commented on just made it all the more obvious.
This was a shaggy dog Keynote.
The Macbook Pro
Second, the goods: the new Macbook Pro is unexciting. The Touch Strip or whatever they’re calling it is positively lame in comparison to the full screen touch screens competitors are putting out. The use cases they demonstrated range from uninteresting to terrible1 – the point of a keyboard is touch memory. Without that, there is no point in having the buttons off the screen. Just make it a full screen touch screen! I can see this touch strip being helpful in some circumstances, particularly for non-power users who can’t remember shortcuts, but this is not the target market for the expensive Macbook Pro! On the technical side, the specs are ok, but not great. The prices, though, are eye-watering. Overall this was a very mediocre product announcement from Apple, after two years of silence.
This was meant to be a great computer for the early adopters, the geeks, the artists, the troublemakers and the crazy ones. It is not – it’s a massively overpriced, average piece of kit with a gimmicky touch strip that you’ll be embarrassed about every time someone asks you if you are enjoying your thousand dollar function bar that you have to carefully look down at every time you want to use it.
If Apple had said “we haven’t changed anything about the mac, but made it really awesome, it has the best specs and some USB-3 ports and a great graphics card that you can do VR with”, they would have gotten away with it for another year or two. But this? I was ready to spend £4k on a brand new laptop before the Keynote. Now, I’m ready to switch away from Mac and have already 99% settled on the new Surface Book.2
Slow clap for Apple – from “please take my £4k” to “I’m switching to Windows” in one keynote. This is not the kind of new ground they were hoping to break, though, I guess.
Third, the glaring inconsistencies in Apple’s product range. If you buy a new Macbook Pro and a new iPhone today you will need a dongle to connect them. And to replace your current macbook you will need a multitude of expensive dongles that take up a lot of space in your bag and get lost all the time. Who thought that through?
Then there is the massive blind spot they clearly have about the Mac. Laptops and desktops aren’t gone yet. They’re still essential for most people. Maybe in 10 years we’ll all be using wearable computers exclusively but today, the laptop is at the top of the hill – I may love my iPhone, but I still do my creative and knowledge work on a computer. Even if I could get away with using an iPad most of the time, I still need a computer enough of the time that I have to own one. Which computer I own makes a huge difference to which ecosystem I’m buying in.
In this context, Apple has neglected the Mac Pro for almost half a decade (that’s a hundred years in the tech industry), did not announce new iMacs, and made a half-arsed upgrade to the Macbook Pro with nothing exciting about it.
And if the Apple ecosystem is no longer the smoothly integrated experience it used to be, well, then, why should I stay with it? I’ll be exploring my options to get the best experience for me.
This is not a company with a clear vision any longer.
Finally, Microsoft seems to have just finally emerged from its 14-year long Ballmer age. Gates was a demanding visionary, and drove product design accordingly. So was Jobs (even more so). Ballmer and Cook are great executives but not visionaries, it is now clearly the case for both of them, though there was some doubt about Cook previously, at least in my mind.
Satya Nadella seems to be a visionary, based on what’s coming out of Microsoft now. Microsoft could not have hoped for a better Apple Keynote to follow their exciting announcement of the Surface Studio (my, what a beautiful piece of kit) – a product Jobs would have been proud of I think.
On the mobile side, Google could not have hoped for a better timing for Samsung’s troubles, which may well establish the Pixel as the Android iPhone – and so make it easier for iPhone lovers like me to switch out of the Apple ecosystem.
The wolves are circling the Apple cart. But it’s a really big cart. It’s going to take them a while.
I think Apple will need another 5 to 10 years to realise that they need a different kind of leadership and culture than what is at play now, and another 5 years to change it. So I do not expect the Macbook Pro update in 6 or 12 months (if it comes) to be significantly better than what Apple have just delivered after 2 years of waiting. They did their best. And they’ll continue to do that. It’s just not good enough for me.
I don’t expect Apple to come up with anything as revolutionary as the iPhone or iPod or iPad in the next 10 years – at least while Cook is at the helm. I’m not going to hold my breath for it. I’m going to go look elsewhere for my shiny stuff.
Like Microsoft, I think Apple will continue to make mind-boggling amounts of money for those 5, 10, 15 years. It just won’t be from my wallet, I guess.
Time to switch! And of course the new Microsoft is totally on the ball with this. It’s almost like they have competent leadership and a clear vision of what they want to achieve.
I don’t buy shares at the moment, but if I did, I’d start shifting them over from Apple to Microsoft roundabout now.
It’s sad that as Microsoft finally wakes up, Apple is going to sleep. It would have been fascinating and exciting to see the old Apple and the new Microsoft go head to head at this game. Instead, from “Apple is the only game in town if you want a great computing hardware experience”, we’ve moved straight through to “Microsoft is the only game in town”.
As a DJ, I shuddered while the DJ was demoing his skills – so many buttons so tight together is begging for a slip of the finger, and in order to avoid it the DJ has to keep looking down at the laptop – a hunched over look that makes no DJ look good.↩
Worth adding that I am an influencer. My usage of Mac has resulted in many dozens of other people buying Macs and iPhones – including my own company buying over 30 Macs. This is not good news for Apple↩