The Mac needs help, and in a more than two-hour presentation today, Apple refused to provide it.
Apple makes great software. I use Windows and macOS daily, and macOS is cleaner, smoother, and more stable for basic tasks. Windows gives me the power I need to do great work, but I relax into a macOS browser window at home.
Apple’s Mac shipments have been steady year over year in a declining PC market, according to Gartner. So you could be excused for thinking Apple doesn’t have a problem at all; everything’s fine. That’s not the sense I’m getting from tech-savvy users, though. They’re buying new Macs because of macOS software, and they’re grumbling increasingly about the hardware. But they’re trapped, because, of course, no hardware runs macOS other than Macs. That raises the question of when, if ever, they’ll snap and jump ship.
Last year, I needed a new Mac, and I bought a 2015 MacBook Pro. Yes, I bought a 3-year-old laptop because it’s better than Apple’s current models.
Apple’s hardware changes in the past few years have been awful. Its flat, loud, painful “butterfly” keyboards are now subject to three class-action lawsuits and can be disabled by bits of dust. The Touch Bar is like OpenDoc and 3D Touch, an “innovative” Apple technology that lies nearly useless because third parties decided not to take it up. (And I was a 3D Touch believer!) The latest laptops have a ridiculous lack of ports.
(Yes, I know the 2017 Macbook Pro got a PCMag Editors’ Choice. We can have more than one opinion on our staff. Mine is that the last time Apple made great PC hardware was in 2015.)
It was almost laughable when Craig Federighi called out Apple’s software support for external GPUs, because what people really want is a 13-inch MacBook Pro with some sort of discrete GPU option and not Intel Iris Plus. Apple said in April that it won’t introduce a new Mac Pro until 2019.
But Apple has always been better at playing up its strengths than admitting its weaknesses. We saw this with its iPad-in-education event in March. Under-resourced, over-tested American schools are turning away from the iPad because they want something more durable and less expensive. Apple instead doubled down on rich, creative curricula those schools probably won’t be able to pull off. The new iPad is the best midrange tablet available today, and it’s not a realistic choice for most of the schools it’s aimed at.
With Macs, Apple is coasting on the stickiness of its OS here, and on the ties between macOS and iOS. I can’t help but feel they’re only getting replacement buyers at this point, and that they’re even losing some of those to compelling Windows PCs like the Microsoft Surface.
iPhones continue to sell in multitudes, and Apple’s “sneak peek” developer feature, making it easier for devs to bring hot iOS apps to Macs in 2019, is going to help the platform. Continuity, iMessage, and other cross-OS features also keep pulling iPhone users over to the Mac. But the platform will leak passionate professionals if its keyboards continue to be rage-inducing garbage and there’s nowhere to plug in peripherals.
The potential light at the end of the tunnel: macOS Mojave is coming out “this fall,” which means new Mac hardware is probably also coming out this fall. I wonder how many Mac users will switch to Windows before then?