December 20, 2016

The Mac is not dead, maybe. Right?

A self-delusion in three acts:

Act 1 — No surprises.

Almost 7 years ago, I wrote the following regarding the launch of the iPad:

The arrival of the iPad at Apple Stores next month is going to mark the beginning of a deadly fight. Not with Google or Microsoft, but within Apple product lines. This is not a problem for Apple, since Jobs probably believes that if anyone is going to cannibalize Mac sales, it better be Apple itself.

However, for Mac fans, it’s judgement time. It’s now time to pay for sins against the Apple II.

Companies have limited resources. Customers have limited budgets. My dad programmed with punched cards, I used a Newton in high school, and my 1 year old is already bored with my iPhone 7. The deadly fight was likely over before it started in the minds of Jobs and Cook, but iOS sales sealed the deal.

Within the incoming tsunami that iOS devices represent, the Mac is the foamy crest a the top: clearly visible but irrelevant in the context of the wave. The end game is clear: an iPad(ish) device will be on desktops in 10 years. We’re just arguing and lamenting over the minutia of the transition.

Act 2 — (Nice Dream).

A leaked Tim Cook message yesterday:

Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we’re committed to desktops. If there’s any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that.

Just the fact that it needs to be made very clear, shows that it’s not completely clear. But while the overall message is dipped in shit, let’s not miss the chocolate filling: the Mac is not dead. Tim Cook wrote this knowing full well it was going to be leaked outside Apple — he wrote it to us.

Act 3 — Everything in its right place.

People-familiar-with-the-matter whisperer, Mark Gurman, today published a fascinating exposé of the alleged state of Mac affairs within Apple.

Gurman has proven to have excellent sources, so there’s little reason to doubt the overall story here. I’m a little skeptic of some of the details — not because they might not be true, but because without context the twists and turns of product development always looks messy in hindsight.

But the main point rings true:

Interviews with people familiar with Apple’s inner workings reveal that the Mac is getting far less attention than it once did. They say the Mac team has lost clout with the famed industrial design group led by Jony Ive and the company’s software team. They also describe a lack of clear direction from senior management, departures of key people working on Mac hardware and technical challenges that have delayed the roll-out of new computers.

On 2017 we will be accept this new reality. Our great expectations will give way for appreciation of at least being invited to the party: AirPods, Apple Pay, Apple Music, TouchID, Siri, APFS; they could not be supported.

The Mac’s are now the trucks Steve predicted. Heavy lifters with basically the same functionality over the years and limited innovation — other than features inherited from other vehicles in the product line. But they’re still needed, because until drones get big enough — you’ll need a pickup to move a stiff dead horse.

Apple Mac Opinion

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