The Mac startup chime is iconic. I see it as being like the heartbeat of the platform. It pleases me when I hear that “ding” when I start my Mac up, but it’s not just the startup music that Apple seems to have lost in its latest MacBook Pro product intro.
Where’s the ding?
It’s all about hearing the chime. You see, once the magical appeal of the new Touch Bar waned, many committed Mac users eventually found they felt a little deflated. It’s no surprise, because Apple’s top brass gave us no insight into the future of the company’s desktop products. This has left pro users feeling ignored and you can’t really blame them. Some key Macs haven’t been updated for years. This undermines Tim Cook’s September promise, “I love the Mac and we are very committed to it.”
Apple can’t spout “courage” when losing the iPhone headphone jack and then reasonably expect committed Mac users not to demand the same level of testicular fortitude when it comes to discussing the future of desktop Macs. Apple’s reticence to do so speaks volumes, especially as the latest iFixit teardown gives the new MacBook Pros an incredibly low 2 points out of 10 for upgradeability and repair.
Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller says the new MacBook Pro will allow Apple to “create many things to come,” including some the company hasn’t even thought of yet, but we still don’t know if those "unthought of" systems will include any relatively affordable desktop Macs with user serviceable parts. What about Mac users who need more internal and external flexibility in their computer, should they migrate to other platforms? I think Apple’s pro customers (who, like me, expected news last week) deserve to know if there is a future in the Mac desktop.
Good and bad
Despite my broad platform reservations, I think the MacBook Pros are coming in for much more criticism than the many great reviews suggest they deserve. Alongside the usual moans about price (particularly in the broken-by-Brexit UK), there have been complaints about the 16GB RAM maximum capacity; the GPU; and a tedious number of flawed reports claiming the new Macs increase the need for dongles. There are solid technical reasons for some of the design decisions Apple has taken, as dealt with very thoroughly in this excellent article by developer, Ben Slaney. I’d add that even Apple’s move to put focus on an LG 5K monitor rather than making its own (which surprised me) means it is leaving good money on the table to enable USB-C. The move to USB-C is the biggest deal in these machines, even bigger than the Touch Bar.
Putting the ding back
All the same there is a lesson for Apple in the reaction its Macs are getting. There was a time when every Mac introduction gained positive press, but those days seem gone and audiences appear more critical. That’s why clarity is so very important.
Apple did admit it considered converging both iOS and Mac platforms, “Each one is best at what they're meant to be, and we take what makes sense to add from each, but without fundamentally changing them so they're compromised," said Schiller.
It is possible that Apple sees the MacBook Pro as the future of the entire Mac platform, but I think it should say so. I don’t think it does – I can’t see it abandon the iMac, but if Mac users are going to be disappointed anyway (as many are), at least let them be disappointed with something tangible, rather than just broadly disappointed about something they don’t really know about. Being a Mac user should be something to sing about, not to worry about.
Meanwhile, if you pine for the chime in your MacBook Pro, here is how to bring that “ding” back. Apple’s challenge in putting the ding back into its universe appears to be a little more challenging.
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