David Chang

@chang2301

Maybe this time, it will be Mac to be “Switched”

The new MacBook Pro is moving away from its core customers.

I stood up from my chair, a new wooden office chair in the library discussion room with the smell of young Swiss pine, and walked toward the whiteboard on the wall to host the meeting for our marketing project. I made my way behind my teammates’ chairs in the tiny meeting room, and when I walked behind Eddie, a brilliant guy who talked really fast, I tripped the charger cable of his white MacBook. What will happened next just flash through in my head, his laptop will fell and break. I’m so sure of this because I just tripped the cable of my own Toshiba Portégé the week before. But magically, nothing happened. He picked up his cable and laughed at me “Don’t worry David, it’s magnetic!”. That’s the WOW time for me to know MacBook and I told myself I would definitely get one in the future.

Unfortunately, the time to get a new laptop did not take too long to come. One year later, my Toshiba Portégé just kept showing me the blue screen and I know it’s time to say goodbye. I bought my first unibody aluminum 13-inch MacBook when it launched at 2008, and it stayed with me almost 8 years before I got my current 15-in retina MacBook Pro last year. Generally in the last 10 year, a MacBook Pro is more powerful and stable against other laptops using Windows as their operating system, especially when handling works such as design and programming. Before my first MacBook, I never had a Windows-based laptop that can maintain the speed and performance for more than 1.5 years, so I was pretty amazed about how my 13-inch MacBook has performed. Therefore, I pay extra attention to MacBook updates every year, however, it’s been a while since last big updates for MacBook.

It took Apple 4 years, 4 months, and 16 days for Apple to introduce the new MacBook Pro on October 27, 2016. To be honest, the new MacBook Pro is a product of disappointment and simply is not a “Milestone” or “A big step forward” as Apple’s marketing head, Phil Schiller, claimed. Although I don’t feel any compulsory emotion as others who waited for years for a revolutionary MacBook Pro, as a gadget enthusiast and as early adopter, since there is no WOW moment for me toward the new MacBook Pro as I had before, I can safely say that you should probably skip the new MacBook Pro 2016 and maybe wait for another year.

USB-C

Taking away ports including USB-A and HDMI in the old MacBook Pro and shifting to USB-C only needs courage (not the one for iPhone 7 headphone jack and EarPods), although a lot of people disagree with the move, I think it’s a necessary pain to move forward.

USB-C is smaller and thinner than bulky USB-A, and can handle power, data, as well as video on a single cable. The entry-level MacBook Pro has two USB-C ports, and the high-end one has four ports. On the new MacBook Pro, USB-C ports will become he only way to hook up your chargers, memory card reader, external output, pretty much everything. Even you have a slimmer new MacBook Pro, you won’t find your life a lot more easier to carry it with you on daily basis since you need to bring a lot of dongles with you in the bag everyday, which add weight and size to your bag. This inconvenience can be alleviated if Apple really care about their customers and did it right, however, they did not. If you are a loyal iPhone users and just bought your iPhone 7, sorry, you need to buy another adapter in order to connect your iPhone with new MacBook Pro. Furthermore, there’s no power extension cable with the new MacBook Pro as they did with the old MacBook Pro, and you need to purchase it for $19.

Adopting USB-C is a necessary pain.

Although USB-C is an open standard and you can find other adapter and dongle online for price lower than Apple, as a early adopter of new MacBook Pro, there is no way to get rid of the dongle hell in the beginning. From the long term perspective, Apple’s move to USB-C is necessary and help to set the industry standard. Some one got to do it.

Design

There’s no doubt that the new MacBook Pro is still the most beautiful laptop in the world. It’s slim, sleek, beautiful and even feels great with every touch. But to be honest, and a bit unfair for sure, we’re used to it. We’re used to what Apple has offered in the recent years and the design of new MacBook is simply another “Apple Product” instead of something that turns the world around.

The new MacBook is still the most beautiful laptop.

The design, like iPhone 6 & 7, is just identical as competitors’ product, stylish and with better taste. In other words, the new MacBook Pro’s design does not set industry standard as iPhone 4 & 5 did in their launch date. Although I think the team of Jonathan Ive did a good job to design the new MacBook Pro a better looking one than its previous model, it is not revolutionary, and even the Surface Book surpass it in many forms, in an ugly way though.

Performance

The new MacBook Pro uses the Skylake architecture for their chip, instead of the Kaby Lake that has been adopted by handful of machines. It was a safe choice to launch the new MacBook Pro on time, which is a slap in the face with Phil Schiller’s “The calendar isn’t what drives any of the decisions” statement from the interview with CNET.

OK, the chip is not impressive, how about RAM? Well, the new MacBook Pro has a maximum of 16 gigabytes of RAM, the same limit as the previous MacBook Pro.

But these are not the worst. The new MacBook Pro has become the first MacBook that did not to receive recommended ratings from Consumer Reports. The test found out that the battery life of new MacBook Pro “varied dramatically from one trial to another”. Before the consumer report, there were a lot of complaints online regarding the poor battery life of the new MacBook Pro. Some customers claimed that their new MacBook Pro can only use for 3 to 4 hours instead of 10 hours as Apple advertised. To me, it’ s the last straw that breaks the camel’s back since battery life is crucial for laptops and previous MacBook has done a great job in this category.

Touch Bar

So, here comes the Touch Bar, the one that ignite so many discussions in this new MacBook Pro launch. A lot of people are really excited about it, however, I did not find it useful for current offering. For now, Touch bar looks more like a gimmick to me and I think the excitement behind it only stems from the lack of improvement in laptop business for way too long. It’s like a drop of water fall into the dry desert — saturated but will evaporate hastily. The Touch Bar is really eye-catching in the first appealing because those keys it has replaced are something outdated. And then Apple present the use case of Emoji. WOW! That’s a really impressive marketing out there.

Use case of Touch Bar for native apps does not make much sense.

Nevertheless, when I get a hand on it, I don’t find it helpful in simplifying workflow. For example, when I open the Notes app and start typing, Touch Bar will give you suggestions of words. Like I type “I” and it display suggestions like “will”, “am” for me to press. To be honest, this is rather silly when I can type 10 times faster on my keyboard.

Also, when I open Safari, the Touch Bar will allow you to quickly select different browser tabs. In this case, I prefer using my usual keyboard shortcut of “cmd+number” or “cmd+option+left or right key”to jump from one tab to another, which are also faster than pressing on the Touch Bar.

Other cases like Touch Bar with Photo app and Final Cut Pro, are rather bad UX comparing to what Apple has achieved in the last 10 years. Apple is a pioneer in user experience, but with Touch Bar, it proves that its pace has slowed down.

That’s for the case of UX on Touch Bar so far, however, the future is still not defined. I am looking forward to more app integration with Touch Bar to offer a better experience than Apple did for its native apps. The key is, if you want users to lift their hands from keyboard and move to any specific button on Touch Bar, you need to offer them a stronger incentive. Right now, the incentive is weak. If Touch Bar can only offer users with tasks they can simply done on the keyboard, it will still be useless as the outdated keys it replaced.

Will developers and designers switch to Surface?

In the past, Apple successfully launched “Switch” and “Get a Mac” ad campaign to attract frustrated Windows users to try Mac. It was a series of successful marking that bring Apple’s MacBook series one of the top choice for professional customers like designers, photographers, and developers. But now, it’s Microsoft’s turn to ask consumers to “switch” to its Surface Book because of the disappointed new MacBook Pro launch. With Microsoft lurking behind, Apple really needs to think twice about who their customers really are and design the product for them. The new MacBook Pro has betrayed its core and most loyal customers, designers and developers, and while most of them are early adopters in this area, they can easily jump to other interesting product, such as Surface. Maybe this time, it will be Mac to be Switched.

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