Nik Kantar

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

New Mac Order

Quick thoughts on Apple's fancy new MacBook.

A short while ago Apple announced the new MacBook.

It's a crazy thin device with a USB Type-C port on the left and an AUX port on the right. On the upside, it has a 12" Retina screen in an incredibly small package, but on the downside, it sports a Core M processor and a 480p camera.

As is the case with all new Apple products, it's a rather polarizing device.

What's Wrong With It?

The most common criticism is the lack of ports, as the only port present doubles as a charging port and it's USB Type-C. I don't find this an issue, as I almost never have any USB devices plugged into any of my laptops when I'm away from my desk at work. At said desk I can use the (admittedly fairly expensive) adapter as a sort of a dock — in fact, it might be even easier than the current array of cables I have to plug in and unplug all the time.

Another common criticism is the low power. The Core M processor won't be blowing anyone away, but it's probably enough for the kinds of tasks the target market intends on accomplishing with this machine.

The last major criticism is the 480p camera, and that's one I can't defend either. In 2015 that's more disappointing than the 16GB entry point for the iPhone 6/6S.

(I'm not addressing the complaint about the price as it would be redundant with the above mentioned criticisms.)

Who Wouldn't Want One?

Many people!

Just like the first Air, this is an early-consumer-adopter Apple device, meaning that the geeks and advanced users would find it difficult to adjust to life with their now-a-bit-useless USB devices. The users who like to use multiple large monitors will would be annoyed. Anyone running processing-heavy tasks would likely regret many things rather quickly. If you need a lot out of your computer, move right along.

Who Would Buy One?

My mom.

She has an 11" Air and does absolutely nothing with it that the new MacBook wouldn't do just as well.

What I really mean by that is that the less technical users are far more likely to be interested. They wouldn't miss the ports since they probably don't have a large collection of USB devices anyway. They wouldn't run multiple virtual machines concurrently. They simply wouldn't need any more.

The Future Is Airless?

My prediction is that two years from the MacBook's upcoming debut it will replace the Air as the entry-level Mac laptop.

The two machines are simply too similar for their coexistence to make sense. I'd wager that by then the MacBook will have more processing power (even if it's still from a lower tier processor) and people will have continued moving away from USB storage (which I'm guessing is the most popular type of USB device) and towards The Cloud, and the idea of a nearly-portless computer won't be so ridiculous after all.

I also expect the MacBook Pro to inherit some of the MacBook's features in the meantime. I can see Apple replacing the power and one of the USB ports with USB Type-C, or even going all in and replacing all power, USB, Thunderbolt, and maybe even SD ports with USB Type-C. I don't think the latter scenario is particularly likely, but I do think it's possible. USB Type-C will unquestionably be somewhere on the MacBook Pro by mid-2018.

Do I Want One?

Kinda'.

I love the form factor and I don't mind the lack of ports at all. What I do mind is the high price tag for performance far below even that of the Air. I run a Vagrant instance nearly 24/7, often in conjuction with a double-digit number of tabs across multiple browsers and Photoshop. However, with a bit more juice — which is inevitably on its way — I'll be in.

In the meantime, I'll keep working on my work-provided 13" Retina MacBook Pro with an i7 and 16GB RAM, and using my new Dell Chromebook for personal stuff (development included). (That last bit has already been a bit of an adventure, and will warrant a writeup in the coming weeks.)

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