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MacBook

I started this piece with the intention of discussing the new MacBook Pro lineup, but on deeper consideration I needed to zoom out.

See it is easy to look at the various reactions and mixed reviews for the new Mac Pro notebooks and say it’s coming from longtime users who don’t get the modern Apple. It’s easy because on one level it’s true.

Most of the complaints are coming from long time Mac users; people who used the platform before Apple was cool and professionals. The problem for them and many others is that the Mac and MacOS are not the drivers of Apple’s business; iOS is. The iPhone along with the App store is the thing that drives the company and keeps it’s coffers full. Mac sales have increased, but the overall PC market is shrinking and mobile growth simply outweighs it.

On the other hand these same longtime users have reason to complain. Only Apple makes Macs. The Mac is the only OS that developers can build iOS apps on. Apple has cultivated a large following of creative professionals to the point where it is the de facto hardware/software platform. So an underwhelming MacBook is an issue. But the thing is those laptops are just another aspect of a larger change in computing; one where the PC/Mac going forward is simply  an appliance.

The Dumb PC

The idea of the computer as an appliance is not new: Oracle, SONY, and others have all thought up ways of simplifying the computer for regular use. The big difference now is there are now platforms that make the idea a reality. The difference between an appliance computer and a Mac/PC is the appliance hides the natural complexities of a device.

Think about your phone or tablet.

For most users this means running Android or iOS. Now running those systems means certain aspects of the device (files, downloads, systems, diagnostics) is not always easily accessible to users. The design is based around simplifying the OS so users get to the thing they want to do. An appliance also sometimes limits what the device can do in order to improve the user experience. For example Apple limits multitasking on iOS devices because it is not meant to be like a Mac. The point of the appliance computer or device is to make computing easier by reducing the stress points and design around a specific set of user tasks.

The Appliance Age

The perfect example of an Appliance device is the smartphone. It is a single task device which form factor means it has a set of restrictions on how it can be used. Yes the phone can be modified but most modifications are done by niche users. The phone can do everything a user expects from a computer, but in a fairly locked down manner.

It has been the explosion of mobile devices that has spurred on this Appliance age. The lockdown nature of the phone has influenced the thinking around the future of traditional devices like desktops and laptops. As mobile devices replace the desktop and laptop as the place where most do their computing they also replace the idea of what a computer is and what it should do.

Or to put it simpler: Computer companies are making laptops and desktops into hammers which after a while you toss at keep until the handle falls off.

Computer companies see the shift in usage and are now moving it up to the personal computer because even there usage has changed.

Blame Netscape

So how did we get to this point? Well beyond mobile devices there is the browser. The web browser was the first real step away from user’s needing to have high computer literacy to use one. While mobile applications have flourished in the last decade, desktop software has peaked.

On Windows the most used and updated x86 software has trickled to a handful; and most of it involves browsers. The browser has become the most important bit of software you can download. It is the window by which most view their device and use it. And the thing about the browser is it exists everywhere; it is a nondenominational piece of technology. Browser technology is why Google built Chrome OS. It’s also why, despite of an app gap, Windows tablets and 2 in 1s are good enough for many. Because the side effect of the web browser’s growth was that software development and deployment moved of the device and onto first the web, then the cloud.

The Days of PC’s Past

So returning to the MacBook Pro. The Mac is not dead, but it ain’t the future. Neither is Windows or Linux. At least they aren’t entirely the future. They and the desktop will be part of a future driven by mobile and an ever shifting audience far removed from the command line.

In my opinion the future will see mobile become the majority platform for computing. Desktop oriented task and niche activities like gaming will become this other category handled by a small market of OEMs and platforms.

iOS, Android, and to some extent Windows Mobile will all be there with appliance offerings running on ARM (unless Intel returns to mobile chip making.). And yes desktop systems will continue to be simplified for an income set of users who want to simply use a device.

Welcome to the real Post PC age.

 

Apple_Watch_Sport_1

So Apple revealed the Apple Watch, again, yesterday along with a price drop for the Apple TV and a new MacBook.

The Apple TV (Briefly)

I’m not going to go through the Apple TV news except to say it’s price has dropped down to $69 from it previous $99 price tag. Apple TV is also getting HBO Now, HBO’s new steaming service not tied to cable that will run you 15 dollars a month. No new hardware or services. And that was Apple TV.

MacBook, Slim and Plain

The most interesting device to come out of yesterday’s announcement in my opinion (and seemingly others) wasn’t the watch; it was laptop. The MacBook (just MacBook) is Apple’s first fan less laptop. Apple’s says it’s a reinvention of the notebook; with a 12 inch Retina screen powered by a Intel Core M processor and littered with batteries. The new Mac is thin, thinner than the Air and weighing 2 pounds.

MacBook

The keyboard is a new design that goes edge to edge on the device and is almost like the Microsoft Type Keyboard or the Dell XPS 11’s.The MacBook also comes with a new Force TouchPad that includes a form of haptic feedback and the ability to do a force click which brings out things like definitions and maps.  The MacBook comes in three colors similar to the iPad: Gray, Silver, and Gold. The big news about the device is it has one port, and that port is the not widely available USB-C. The new Mac is like a better designed version of 1st MacBook Air (that had more ports). The new MacBook will run you $1299 before tax. Personally I can’t wait for the PC clone of this thing.

And now the not iWatch

CTB_APPL_Watch

And this is part of where the wheels go off. Let me preface this by saying I was an Apple user and I like Apple products. Many of the company’s products are lust-worthy (see new MacBook). Having said that I don’t get the Apple Watch. Apple left the Watch to the end and added two products that shouldn’t have been there to I guess pad the affair out. What we got was one celebrity endorsement in the form of model/activist Christy Turlington-Burns (who’ll be blogging about her experiences) and a demo session by Apple VP Kevin Lynch that was sort of awkward. It was interesting that the watch section of the program was the part Apple CEO Tim Cook had the most stage time.

CTB_APPL_Watch_1

He tried very hard to make the case for the Apple watch and at best it seems its to provide glancible information without pulling out your phone. The Apple watch will come in three models: Sport, Steel, and Edition (Gold). The Sport is the cheapest starting at $349 and the gold Apple Watch Edition will run $10,000 on the low. Looking at the videos showing the process of making the watches its clear they were well designed; truly lovely pieces of wearable tech. The problem for me is the Apple Watch is more jewelry than tech. Beyond this being an Apple branded device I see no point why you’d buy it. It’s use cases are limited and niche. Like someone else said this will be bought so one can say, “I bought an Apple Watch”.

Maybe its me but the presentation left me feeling what I’ve long suspected; Apple is the Nike of technology.

Apple_Watch_Steel_Casing

images: Apple