The new iPhones are here. The new iPads are here. The new Apple Watches are here. There’s even a new Frogger game in Apple Arcade. You saw all of these on the stage this week at Apple’s annual September jamboree. But no Macs on show, and definitely not the new MacBook Pro flagship.
Does Apple care enough about the MacBook family? Or is Tim Cook scared of what it represents and the dangerous challenge it makes to the closed nature of his iOS-powered narrative?
Caring about a product is not a binary option. I’ve no doubt that Tim Cook has a MacBook within reach when he travels, and he can see that the laptop still sells enough to warrant a line in the annual report. But is it a priority? Does Cook as a CEO and Apple as a company see the MacBook Pro and the other macOS powered laptops as a signpost into the corporate future?
From the evidence on show at Apple’s biggest product launch of the year, the answer has to be no.
It’s clear that a new MacBook Pro is coming, and it’s clear that it’s going to be a corker of a laptop. With a 16-inch screen squeezed into the same chassis as the current 15-inch MacBook Pro, with Intel’s latest chipset, and (hopefully) improved support for graphics cards (likely in external caddies, but maybe there’s one SKU with a build in high-powered card), the MacBook Pro could be lined up to challenge the current wave of high-powered Windows 10 machines.
In a launch event than even Apple’s closest fans suggest was rather thin, there was clearly space for the Mac if it was loved enough.
Then there’s Apple’s push to software and services. Yes the MacBook Pro (and indeed the entire Mac range) can benefit from the likes of iCloud storage and Apple Music on the desk-bound machines, these are very much focused on and promoted by the mobile hardware. Apple has a blind spot for watching video and playing games on macOS. It’s an iOS subscription world and macOS gets the scraps. Is that the love you want in your laptop?
Apple may talk of open nature and giving the user every possible experience, but the restricted nature of iOS as seen on the iPhone and the iPad, the lack of cross-platform compatibility with its major services, and the territorial gates it places on the peripheral community are subtle indicators of an approach based on customer lock-in and velvet lined prisons of data and apps.
The Macs are perhaps the last pieces of hardware in Apple’s ecosystem that do need a wide range of unsupervised compatibility so it can serve the market. There’s no easy way to get a thirty percent rake on everything on your laptop as there is with your tablet or phone.
Apple is not going to drop the MacBook Pro line up in the short- or long-term future, but neither is it going to get the same levels of care and attention from the executive team. The 16-inch MacBook Pro, as well as updates to the MacBook family – hopefully with improved keyboards – are coming. But don’t expect Apple to ever give it top billing.
Now read more about the three features the MacBook Pro need sot fight Microsoft’s Surface Book 3…