Daring Fireball on the New Macbook Pro


John Gruber’s a smart man and he’s fun to read. I’d like to think this member of the Apple faithful getting stoked over a new laptop would be a happy development. But it appears the new Macbook Pro’s biggest accomplishments are better audio, some design refinements, and efforts to walk back decisions Apple spent years deliberately making. His article’s worth reading, but let’s look ahead to his conclusions.

“It feels a bit silly to be excited about a classic arrow key layout, a hardware Escape key, and key switches that function reliably and feel good when you type with them, but that’s where we are. The risk of being a Mac user is that we’re captive to a single company’s whims.”

That’s because it is silly to feel that way. Apple’s rolling back things that didn’t work without an apology or any recompense to the people affected by bad design decisions enshrined as wisdom by marketing. In lieu of that, they’ve given you a chance to enrich them further so you’re no longer affected by mistakes they won’t admit to doubling down on. You can’t deny their audacity with a blanket of relief. I’d argue they’ve crossed into bad faith.

“The whole saga of the butterfly keyboards — their unreliable switches, poor typing feel, and anti-functional layout — betrays a certain arrogance. The more powerful an organization — a corporation, a nation, a sports team, whatever — the more at risk that organization is to hubris. It’s power that allows one to act on hubris.”

Apple’s entire value proposition is that you set aside any notions you had before you bought into the club, then embrace what Apple gives you. From that point forward anything you do off the rails which they provide is a nuisance to Apple, if it’s not antithetical to the arrangement. It’s not like the functional pragmatism built over decades like Windows, or Linux’s melding of a Unixish foundation with a vast, hyper-eclectic range of choice. Apple’s way is arrogance. Based on their quarterly reports and how customer bitching is replaced by ho-hum acceptance of all but their worst missteps, this is de rigeur to a lot of people. I own an iPhone SE and late 2012 MacBook Pro myself. But if they start doing things that hurt you, it’s within your power to change where your money and attention go.

“We shouldn’t be celebrating the return of longstanding features we never should have lost in the first place.”

God, no. If you insist on hitching your wagon to their space gray star, don’t stop pushing them to be better. Otherwise you’re just paying to be mistreated.

“But Apple’s willingness to revisit these decisions — their explicit acknowledgment that, yes, keyboards are meant to by typed upon, not gazed upon — is, if not cause for a party, at the very least cause for a jubilant toast.”

So Apple engineering their way out of bad choices they insisted on making for years and letting customers eat it is cause for celebration? John, man, there’s a point where it’s okay to be mad at organizational hubris. Jesus. They charge a premium for tools that make your life better, they aren’t a non-profit aiding a community. And if the tools have done their job poorly, you should probably evaluate whether you want to hand over even more money to Apple on the back of an unspoken promise to be less terrible.

“This is a MacBook you can once again argue is the best laptop hardware money can buy.”

Maybe, if you like dongles and you exclude workstation-class hardware.

Oh good, a thing you plug your things into that you have to pack and carry along unless your Mac never has to touch anything

The late 2019 MacBook Pro has no ECC memory support. Connecting anything but type C devices is still contingent on hooking an array of dongles to your premium computer. They still don’t provide a Magsafe-style connector (though there are dongles for that!). If it’s anything like its predecessors, it will barely be serviceable. And the price starts high and cracks the sky.

Can you imagine a LAN party full of these?

user uploaded image
With apologies to Serial Experiments Lain. Image from here.