Wait. That can’t be right? Didn’t Apple just have a big announcement and launch new Macs with some unheard of cool new features? Yes. Sort of. After a year of blistering criticism from Apple’s Mac customer base about the lack of relevant upgrades to anything Mac (macOS Sierra doesn’t really count since Apple is a hardware company), Apple introduced new MacBook Pro models.
What’s new? First, there’s the requirement of thinner, lighter, faster and all three of the MBP models are just that; thinner, lighter, faster; even thinner and smaller than an aging MacBook Air.
Oh, and speaking of the MacBook Air? Did Apple update the once and probably still popular Mac notebook? Nope. Instead, it killed the 11-inch MacBook Air entirely. What about the aging Mac mini? It’s still there, still starts at $499 for anemic personified.
Wait. Apple had to upgrade the Mac Pro, right? I mean, that has never been upgraded in nearly three years? Nope. No new Mac Pro for you, professional users. Apple wants you to buy a MacBook Pro because that’s what all the cool kids and pros use. Apple said so and it must be true.
How about the iMac? Microsoft just came out with a huge all-in-one Surface with a 28-inch touchscreen display that can double as a giant drawing tablet. Surely Apple wants to protect its professional customers with something new and exciting.
Nope. No new iMacs for you, either.
Even the diminutive and future entry-level Mac notebook didn’t get an upgrade, either, still stuck with that same lonely USB-C port. But it comes in four colors. What about a better-than-480p FaceTime camera? Surely Apple upgraded that?
We should be proud of Apple for not re-inventing the notebook and for not moving too far into the future too fast. The three new MacBook Pro models– thinner, lighter, faster all– have four Thunderbolt 3 ports, which also double as a power connector and USB-C port, and instead of a controversial Lightning port, Apple stuck with the headphone jack from the last century.
Plenty was improved beyond thinner, lighter, faster. The two high end 13-inch and 15-inch models come with better speakers with higher dynamic range, more microphones, faster graphics, brighter display, and a unique new touchscreen called the Touch Bar which lets Apple get into the touchscreen arena to compete with Microsoft’s touchscreen Windows PCs but without actually having to commit to a real touchscreen.
Here’s what Apple says:
The Touch Bar replaces the function keys that have long occupied the top of your keyboard with something much more versatile and capable.2 It changes automatically based on what you’re doing to show you relevant tools you already know how to use — system controls like volume and brightness, interactive ways to adjust or browse through content, intelligent typing features like emoji and predictive text, and more. And for the first time, Touch ID is available on a Mac, enabling instant access to logins and fast, secure online purchases with Apple Pay.
I need to see and use Touch Bar in person but I like what I see so far. Touch Bar means the ancient function keys become truly functional and change based upon the app being used at the time. That means each application can have a variety of keyboard centric tools and buttons easily accessible above the MacBook Pro’s keyboard; switch from one app to another, and the Touch Bar custom keys change to match the app.
System controls visible on the Touch Bar can be expanded, contracted, and even customized to reveal volume, brightness, and other controls. You can even be alerted to an iPhone call or FaceTime call from the keyboard– and answer with a touch to the Touch Bar.
In certain apps, including Pages, Keynote, Photoshop, and others, you can select from a palette of colors, or add emoji to Messages and Mail. Or, just use the Touch Bar as a standard Function key row.
Wait. There’s one more thing.
The Touch Bar also displays Touch ID on the Mac, just like on iPhone and iPad. Use Touch ID to log into your Mac. That helps to keep the Mac more secure than ever. Use Touch ID to make secure online payments with Apple Pay. And, get this, for Macs with multiple users, Touch ID even lets you use Fast User Switching to switch between multiple Mac accounts.
The Mac’s new screen is brighter, supports more colors, and has a higher contrast ratio. There’s even enough power in the high end MacBook Pro 15-inch model to drive a couple of LG Retina 5k displays.
There’s much to like, right?
Here’s the problem as I see it. Apple is moving ever more into this weird professional space that foregoes customers at the Mac entry level and customers at the real Mac professional level. An entire presentation of new Macs touched only one line– the most expensive MacBook Pro models, and absolutely no mention of the iMac or Mac Pro (the latter has never seen an upgrade in three years of life).
With the exception of these two new MBP models, Apple’s Mac line continues to get old and some models are dying. The 11-inch MacBook Air? Gone. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with SuperDrive and HDD? Gone.
Yes, I love the iPhone 7 Plus. The Watch has reached near perfection with Series 2. iPad Pro models are best of class.
Whatever happened to the Mac?