A few years ago, I said the (then still-rumored retina) MacBook would likely be the last computer I ever buy. I lied.
Don’t get me wrong, that MacBook is great. Yes, the one USB-C port remainsa stretch at times. But I make it work. The battery life is just okay. But that’s also not a major issue for me. As expected, it’s a near-perfect machine.
The bigger issue is that it’s just a little slow. I get a few too many beach balls when trying to do fairly simple stuff. So that left me with a choice last year: upgrade to the new, slightly faster MacBook. Or wait for the new, super-fast and newly redesigned MacBook Pro. I went for the latter.
I’m starting to think I should have gone with the former.
The new MacBook Pro is fine. It’s pretty fast — certainly faster than my MacBook. But it’s not noticeably faster from the machine I have at work: a MacBook Pro from three years ago. Generally, I like the new design. It’s sleek, a bit lighter, and I appreciate the multiple ports.¹
The battery is more troubling. While, again, it’s fine, it’s not great compared to that three year old machine I have. And, this machine will have the dubious distinction of being the first Apple computer I’ve ever owned that has broken.
Computers get messed up from time to time. But I’ve always prided myself in being able to fix such problems. This one, try as I might, I could not. One day, it simply would not turn on. After a visit to the Genius Bar, they confirmed the worst: it needed a full logic board replacement. A lobotomy.
It’s back now and working fine. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure they didn’t just give me an entirely new machine. The battery life actually seems better — could just be in my head…
Anyway, all of that aside, if I’m being honest, I still just don’t love this machine. And that has never been the case for me with previous Macs. Again, it’s fine. It’s thinner and lighter than my old MacBook Pro — but not more so than the MacBook. It’s faster than the MacBook, but not noticeably more than the old MacBook Pro. The big, new selling point of this device was supposed to be the Touch Bar.
Meh. One very big MEH.
I’ve had the machine for months at this point and I almost never use the Touch Bar for anything beyond what I would use the old function keys for — tweaking the brightness and volume, etc — and the default settings on the Touch Bar actually make that harder to do (though you can change them).
The customized Touch Bar bits are completely underwhelming. This is true both in first-party Apple apps like Safari and for third-party apps that did the work to integrate functionality. I almost never use any of these things.
Of course, I grew up used to the old keys. But it’s hard to see anyone getting much use out of these digital keys. They’re all style and very little substance. They seem to exist simply because something had to be new in the new MacBook Pro. Touch ID is by far the most useful part of the strip. But even then, I enabled unlock-with-Apple-Watch on the device, which happens before I even get to use Touch ID to unlock — so, Apple Pay? I guess?
(Aside: I almost wish the Touch Bar was at the bottom of the keyboard, just above the Touch Pad. At least it would be easier to get to!)
The issue, as I see it, is the same reason why I thought the MacBook might be the last laptop I ever buy. We’re simply at the end of laptop innovation.
Believe me, I know this is a very dangerous thing to say in any field of technology. I run the risk of Phil Schiller getting up on stage and doing a “can’t innovate anymore, my ass” while unveiling a new, sleek device.²
But I just don’t see it. The way forward is the iPad (and tablets in general) eating the laptop. This is still blasphemy to some folks, which is funny. This will happen eventually. Everything dies.
Or rather, fades…
My assumption is that the Touch Bar is some sort of toe-dip into having larger multi-touch areas (with haptics), eventually taking up the entire keyboard tray. Think: a giant foldable screen MacBook. But will that really be that useful? Maybe! But more so than an iPad? Hard to say…
Presumably, the real next “innovation” in Apple laptops will come from Apple developing their own silicon for them. But I suspect this may mean more for battery life rather than anything else. I would love a MacBook with an all-day battery. But again, I already effectively have that with the iPad.
So yeah, meh. The new MacBook Pro is a nice machine, but I honestly think I’d rather have the version without the Touch Bar. And I may even prefer the ever-so-slightly faster MacBook. And I’m this close to simply using my iPad (with keyboard) for everything.
A couple years ago, leading up to the launch of the retina MacBook, I wrote:
I believe as the iOS devices continue to grow in power and reach, the MacBook will eventually fade into the sunset.
In its place will be an iPad (with an optional keyboard attachment) that can do everything the current crop of MacBooks can do. And more. And that belief is why I also believe this new MacBook will effectively be the last of its kind.
I suspect this new MacBook will be the last laptop I end up buying. Again, that doesn’t mean the MacBook is dying anytime soon, but I believe this will be the pinnacle of the product. We’ll get spec bumps for years to come. But it will be the long, slow fade we just witnessed with the iPod.
Apple is about to whittle the MacBook down to perfection. Peak laptop. From there, there’s nowhere to go but to slowly disappear…
I’m more sure than ever that I was right. That’s not an indictment against Apple, it’s the reality of time and progress. Everything fades…