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On the Sad State of Macintosh Hardware (rogueamoeba.com)
317 points by willlll 37 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 332 comments

I work full time for an IT company that supports Apple products and we are in the same position. Its hard for us to recommend upgrades unless there is an hardware failure that's beyond the replacement cost. I still rock a 2012 MBP that has RAM, HDD, ODD, and ports. It can be service by removing 8 screws. IMHO it is the peak Apple Laptop. After 2012 they started being anti-consumer, anti-repair in laptop design.

I'm the sysadmin in my company, and as noted in previous posts we have a lot of these USB-C MBPs. They're a logistical pain trying to keep up with adapters and I find the keyboards AND trackpads to be unusable - I was trying to click-and-drag on a colleague's computer earlier and just couldn't manage it, it kept registering a double-click. Apple also have incredible spite for soldering the RAM and SSDs to the logic boards to prevent anyone upgrading. I recently had the displeasure of trying to rescue a file off a non-booting MBP. It took me a multitude of hours and Target Disk Mode didn't even work. If one of these machines outright failed, I would have to write off the hardware and all the data on it.

I just sold a 2011 13" MBP I got from an office clearance on eBay. Despite being 7 years old, I got the equivalent of a couple of Chromebooks for it, with the new owner extremely eager to get their hands on it. I upped the disk to an SSD before I sold it and installed High Sierra, and it ran great.

From the same clearance, I got myself a 2014 Retina. Can't deny, the screen is gorgeous, the trackpad is great and the keyboard is very usable. It was already maxxed out with RAM, but despite having an upgradeable SSD, my upgrade options are limited because Apple use a proprietary form factor. I absolutely loved my old Discrete MBP, which I used daily for 5 years and took around the world with me, but I hold the Retina at arm's length. My other laptop is a custom-built gaming machine where I can push the RAM up to 64GB if I want to, as well as fitting SATA and NVMe SSDs. The lack of upgradeability is a real limit to the range.

We also have XPS 13's, which despite copying Apple on soldering in the RAM, have standard m.2 SSDs. I got an enclosure to drop the disks into if necessary.

As best I can tell with everything in Apple's current lineup, if it breaks or is outclassed, even within months of its release, you just throw it away and buy a new one.

I can't help but remember Tim Cook commenting how he noticed Windows users switching to Mac were coming from hardware that was 5 or more years old. His comment was how 'sad' this was. This was startling because it shows how long non-Apple hardware lasts, and how fundamentally Apple does not understand this. They would much rather you renewed your computer as often as you renewed your iPhone.

> I was trying to click-and-drag on a colleague's computer earlier and just couldn't manage it, it kept registering a double-click.

Not sure if this is your issue, but (at least) the new MBP has two levels of "clicking" on the touch pad. If you just press with a little force, so that no tangible "click" occurs, you get one behavior. If you push hard enough to feel a "click", you get different behavior.

Mentioning this because it drove me a little nuts until I figured it out.

My gf uses mid-2012 MBP 13, which we upgraded with SSD and 16GB RAM. If it ever fails, there're simply no Macs for her on the market that it could be replaced with and I don't see her going back to Windows - which means I'll probably have to setup a GNU/Linux working environment for her and to make sure Wine runs her Photoshop version well.

Alternatively we may try to get another mid-2012 MBP, as having a Mac around is good when I have to build and test macOS and iOS ports of my software. I can't see us buying any newer MBP, it doesn't make any sense economically.

> If it ever fails, there're simply no Macs for her on the market that it could be replaced with and I don't see her going back to Windows - which means I'll probably have to setup a GNU/Linux working environment for her and to make sure Wine runs her Photoshop version well.

Out of curiosity, does your gf actually need a unix based OS? If she uses Photoshop daily and otherwise doesn't do any work that benefits from Linux - why not just use Windows?

She strongly prefers macOS to Windows, so I just assume it will be easier to configure some GNU/Linux DE to feel somewhat familiar. Plus both of us haven't used Windows for many years now, while she knows macOS, and I know Unix in general quite well.

Also, if I can avoid having Windows running on our home network that's a bonus point for me ;)

Why can't she just use a newer MBP 13? Is it because you don't like the anti-consumer build, or does she have an objection of her own?

Basically, for a consumer (non-business, non-gamer) who just needs a laptop that works, running software they are familiar with, I don't see a reason to avoid new Macs.

I understand that the anti-consumer builds are annoying. But, for a non-tech-geek who will likely never upgrade internals, what does it matter?

She had an objection on her own, earlier I wasn't even aware that Macs were so bad since 2012 - I thought it was just a few most recent models. She already upgraded some of the internals earlier (well, had a service point to do it for her). I think she has even chosen this model especially due to non-unibody construction, as already some newer ones were available when she bought it (and it's not her first Mac) - we haven't knew each other back then.

I don't see how upgradability is a geek-only matter. Sure, most people don't do it themselves - they go to the service point and have the replacement done for them. They absolutely do upgrade though - sometimes you get to the point where everything is sluggish, and money don't grow on trees. Plus of course there's a whole environmental impact to consider.

It's actually geeks that have to have the latest and greatest, from what I can see. Most people I know don't replace their phones until it's broken, while Apple geeks always sell their iPhones whenever a new one comes out.

I used to upgrade my laptops and desktops, but these days, the hardware is mostly fast enough that for home use, I haven't seen the need. I just buy them maxed out, use for 5-10 years, and replace. By that time, monitors have gotten better, ports have changed, or there's some other compelling reason to upgrade.

Is there even any MBP 13 with more than 16GB RAM available yet?

There's a multitude of things that are wrong with new MBs, not just the lack of upgradability.

No doubt, but I find that true of many laptops. Dell had the webcam mounted on the bottom of the monitor, so friends/family got to stare up my nose. Others aren't reliable. Some are made with flimsy feeling plastics. Plus, there's the whole Windows 10 problem (I dislike it, I hate that it spams me with ads, don't trust Microsoft - not that I implicitly trust Apple, I just distrust them less than MS).

>and to make sure Wine runs her Photoshop version well.

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing

Actually, if you use playonlinux to broker your wine installations, it does a pretty good job making sure any dependancies are installed. They fully support CS4 and CS6 - https://www.playonlinux.com/en/supported_apps-6-0.html

CS6 is from 2012.

And by fully support do the mean clone stamp overlays, smooth zoom, basically anything that requires graphic acceleration?

AFAIK Photoshop uses OpenGL, so graphics acceleration is probably one of the easiest things to get working on Wine.

If that’s all I needed was the occasional way to build and test iOS apps, as much as I would would hate it, I might buy a Mac Mini. On the other hand, I might get a low end iMac.

I genuinely had no idea Apple was still selling the Mac Mini.

the last update to it (3 years ago) was borderline insulting, the model before had a removable base where you could upgrade the ram yourself. The last update they did placed a metal sheet in this area. https://i.imgur.com/TXocZ4d.jpg

Unfortunately it was nerfed in late 2014 by going to 15W CPU's. No more real quad-core i7's...

> Unfortunately it was nerfed in late 2014 by going to 15W CPU's. No more real quad-core i7's...

Hilarious since it is a giant chunk of aluminium, more than eight times the size of a typical 35W NUC-type machine, and has a fan.

While I agree with you, it would probably be good enough for light IOS work.

I'm not convinced that consumers care if their laptop has easily replaceable parts. Consumers definitely like thin laptops though, which is at odds with repairability in most cases.

There is a large amount of truth to this. However, I think Apple has taken it too far in two ways.

1. Things like the new MBP keyboard are objectively worse than the old keyboard in terms of user experience. This might have saved half a millimeter in height of a closed laptop. What's more, repair costs are _insane_. Even after a year of using this I still prefer the old keyboard.

2. They've added features that serve little more purpose than raising the ASP of MBPs. Top of that list is the touch bar. I consider the 2011-14 Macbook Air to be the pinnacle of Macbook hardware. Decent ports, good form factor, decent CPU (by comparison the 12" Macbook IMHO makes too much sacrifices to the altar of thinness) and, best of all, a great price. The fact that you could buy such a great machine for <$1500 was amazing to the point that I didn't really care what happened to it. I'd just buy another one if it died or I lost it. That made me more comfortable buying it and using it wherever.

The problem is that consumers won't see the downside of this until they've been around long enough to start failing outside of warranty and then outside of AppleCare. At that point paying $500+ (or whatever it is; I don't know the specific number) just to repair a keyboard is going to be pretty hard to swallow.

Do consumers really care about thin laptops or is it just that Apple (and other manufacturers) can't come up with any other more interesting ideas that they could use for marketing purposes. Light weight laptops I can see being interesting for when you actually have to move it around, or significantly longer battery life could be an attractive addition to laptops. It really seems like pushing so hard on the idea of how sexy thin laptops are just demonstrates that they are completely out of ideas. There must be something more meaningful that they could change on a laptop and push just as hard on that to convince people it is worth lusting over.

I don't care about thin in laptops. I barely even care about weight. Once you're past the portability threshold where it is light enough and self-contained enough to be hand carried from place to place, and return to workstation functionality by plugging in no more than 3 cords, I'm done with size and weight. I simply don't spend that much time carrying a laptop around.

I really like the mil-spec ruggedized laptops. I look down a row of those, and it really strikes me how they're all the same size, they're covered in ports (behind little gasket-protected doors), and they are so unapologetic about size and weight that they have sturdy carry handles attached.

So what I really want most is a standardized form factor. Then my concern is for the closely related concepts of power, cooling, and heat dissipation. My Third choice would be 1920x1080 display resolution or better. After that, battery life. If you're designing your laptop to be too thin and light to accommodate a standard TRS audio mini-jack, you're not designing for me.

The other thing lappie makers are doing is touch screens, which are just awkward on a laptop, and usually unusable in a docking station anyway. Never mind about turning the function key row into a touchscreen.

I don't care about thin in laptops. I barely even care about weight. Once you're past the portability threshold where it is light enough and self-contained enough to be hand carried from place to place

I care about weight. A lot. Because I travel.

People on HN like to say a particular laptop is "light enough." Sure, if that's all your carrying. But if you have a bag or briefcase full of other things like documents, every ounce counts.

I want to know who is making you carry paper on an airplane.

Even classified documents can be shipped. There's really no reason I can imagine for anyone to be hand-carrying paper documents in the passenger compartment of an airplane in 2018, outside of a diplomatic pouch. And in that case, the laptop probably has to be disposable anyway.

>I want to know who is making you carry paper on an airplane.

Um, some of us still use (gasp) paper notebooks and pens. Imagine that! (I'll stop using them when you give me something with comparable power consumption and handwriting latency).

Besides that, in my bag you'll find a Fuji X100 camera, a Polaroid Snap, a (yes, paper) passport, a wallet, a couple of chargers, a cell phone, some pens, allergy pills, etc.

All of that has weight.

As for shipping - one point of bringing something on a plane is that you can use it on the plane.

Anyway, the point is - weight matters. There are things other than the laptop that a lot of people carry when traveling - be it personal or business travel.

My iPad pro with apple pencil actually does a really a good job of having handwriting latency and really good power consumption. I took it to a conference in Anaheim and spent an entire day taking notes on it. I've got the keyboard attachment so if i really need to be fast I can just flip it and go. However, to your point, it probably is heavier than a notebook and regular pencil, and it is one more thing to charge at some point. There's definitely pros and cons to it. I lean on it mostly because I probably will take it with me anyway, so having it, plus a notebook really is more weight, and having the ipad out is more convenient than having my mbp out at a conference. :/

They might not think about it when they buy their first laptop, but trust me, everyone cares about a $200 replacement part vs a $3000 replacement laptop after it's happened to them once. I've had the most tech-illiterate people I know explain this to me as the reason why they stick with their old Mac or buy a Windows PC. Their technical details might be off, but they definitely care.

When a motherboard failure wipes out their soldered on SSD I'm sure they'll care.

Sure, if that was a common occurrence I'm sure people would care, but it's not so they don't.

Motherboards fail more often than you'd imagine, liquid damage being a common cause. The chips may be fine but since they're part of the failed motherboard Apple won't do a thing to recover the data. Unlike removable storage where you can move it to a working machine.

Do you have a source on that? The mac users I know are especially worried about data loss because of the high rate of other failures on their new MBPs. One of my co-workers temporarily lost some of his work because he hadn't pushed his changes to git and his computer had to go back to apple for repair because it wouldn't boot. He got the computer back the next day, so all was well, but it makes you wonder.

SSDs failing, maybe not, but I gather that mechanical failures on the new MBP keyboard are also very expensive to fix.

On the other hand, when a spilled cup of coffee fails to fry the electronics because the whole thing is sealed up, they'll learn to value the closed chassis.

Which of these events do you think is more likely for the typical user?

This is actually why the fragile keyboard on the latest MacBook Pros is such a problem. It compromises durability in a part of the laptop that is actually very important.

I would agree with you if the chassis was sealed in the USB-C ones, which it isn't. A cup of coffee spill is still as fatal to a MBP as it's ever been. My 2011 ThinkPad X220 has drain holes in the keyboard. These laptops have moisture detectors to void your warranty.

Give me maintainable laptops, not throwaway ones, for the love of...

Yeah, but once your computer is out of warranty, you'll definitely appreciate the ability to replace parts.

I spilled soda pop on my 2008 Macbook's keyboard and fried it. Fortunately, the computer still worked (I ended up carrying a USB keyboard in my bag as I was consulting on site, which was awkward, but at least I could do that without being stuck without a computer for a few days). I ordered a second hand replacement from OWC, and after watching a video, I had the keyboard replaced in less than an hour.

>Yeah, but once your computer is out of warranty, you'll definitely appreciate the ability to replace parts.

On a laptop I don't really think so. An extended warranty runs about 3 years and most Macs I've had have lasted about 5. At that point I would just rather get a new computer anyway than bother sprucing up an old one.

I did have one computer fry in about 3 years because of a logic board issue, which pissed me off royally. But in the grand scheme of things, the money I would have saved by having a user replaceable GPU vs. just upgrading the thing 2 years before I was ready to doesn't amount to very much. If I was very money constrained it would definitely be more of an issue, but that's never really been Apple's target market.

> An extended warranty runs about 3 years and most Macs I've had have lasted about 5. At that point I would just rather get a new computer anyway than bother sprucing up an old one.

Isn’t the point here that it’s no longer so good to replace a 5-year-old Mac?

My MacBook Air is about 5 years old now, and yes, the USB ports and some keys on the keyboard are becoming unreliable, and the power cable has frayed despite a protector, but none of the current models are tempting enough to make me want to upgrade the way I used to.

>> On a laptop I don't really think so. An extended warranty runs about 3 years and most Macs I've had have lasted about 5. At that point I would just rather get a new computer anyway than bother sprucing up an old one.

That depends on whether you got a laptop with a real processor or a low power processor. A 2011 15" MBP with a quad core i7 holds up pretty well even today in terms of CPU performance.

Data you haven’t backed up is data you don’t want. Regardless of whether the SSD is replaceable or soldered on, if data loss is your problem you should have been backing up.

That's not how users think and you know it.

There's a comic and I can't find it right now where a person is lamenting the fact that they have no backups while their computer is not booting.

Then the computer works and they exclaim that "thank god I don't need to do any of that", it's funny because it's quite relatable to a lot of people.

This happened to me and I was rather disappointed. I had backups but Apple didn’t even offer to try and recover data at any cost, or allow me to keep the parts with my data still on them.

I'd like Apple to give it a shot and find out. I was happy enough lugging around my 2011 MBP even though it was much thicker than my current one (a 2013) which is itself much thicker than the newer ones.

Make a thin MacBook, sure. Then make a proper MacBook pro and make it about the hardware and not beauty. I believe there is actually a market for it.

At this stage, I'm convinced Apple have forgotten how to make Pro computers.

You can buy an iMac Pro with an 18 core Xeon, 128GB ECC RAM, 4TB SSD, and Vega 64 graphics. If that's not a pro computer, then I'm not sure what is.

What kind of pro computer doesn't come with top notch support?

"Apple REFUSED to fix our iMac pro" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-NU7yOSElE

"The Apple Store Genius Bar broke my $5000 iMac pro" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MG_NRcy5mxU

It's unwise to extrapolate that the iMac Pro doesn't come with top notch support from a single instance of bad support.

I side with Apple in the Linux Tech Tips issue, though. They're under no obligation to fix it after he broke it by intentionally violating the terms and conditions.

Those aren't even close to the only two issues reported. They're just the most visible.

Nice specs, but you can't upgrade the SSDs, RAM is possible but breaks warranty, can't upgrade the soldered GPU, and it's unclear if the CPU is actually upgrade-able. So I would call it disappointing, as a 'Professional' product.

It's a professional tool. When the GPU is too slow or I need more than than 18 cores or 128 GB of RAM, I'll just buy a new one. I'm pretty sure that won't happen in less than 5 years.

As for storage, I'd be crazy not to keep all important files on a backed-up RAID array. It's a professional tool, after all.

(and I keep my music on an off-site-backed-up RAID array)

Yes, I just bought one for someone at work, got a good deal at Microcenter but I’m still annoyed that I couldn’t get one with less than 1 TB and pay less; the internal drive is not where our data goes.

Unless you have a really nice RAID array, internal still beats external. I like to back up hourly (a timeboxed rsync) to an external disk (and use Time Machine too on Macs).

It's not about performance, it's about location and a little bit about capacity. Everyone in the office keeps the data on a largish NAS over a 10 gigabit network.

Consumers differ. Pro users care, and they have traditionally been the primary macpro audience.

> I'm not convinced that consumers care if their laptop has easily replaceable parts.

That's like saying that you're not sure consumers dislike the idea of falling victims to price gauging schemes or even being forced to scrap perfectly good hardware due to a minor issue with an otherwise perfectly modular component or the inability to upgrade low-performing hardware.

"like" and "dislike" aren't the same as caring. In this case, caring means they feel strongly enough about it to purchase or not purchase a specific laptop. I'm sure plenty of consumers dislike their laptops lack of repairability - I also think that they don't care.

Careful here.

Anecdotally I'm aware of more than a few folks who replaced their bottom end PC/Windows laptop with a brand new machine because it was supplied with far too little memory, but hit a £399 or £499 price point, and they installed one too many bits of crap. So they spend another £499 on another too lightly specced laptop when £40 doubling memory would have fixed all their issues. PC makers have always been happy to sell machines with barely enough RAM to reach the desktop let alone run or install anything.

A lot of consumers don't know what they're buying, how much memory Windows needs, how to upgrade even when possible, or how to uninstall things they no longer need (eg iTunes after they switched to Android, Massive HP drivers remaining when now running an Epson printer and vice versa). Helpful in-store sales people don't help with this.

Most of us on HN however would prefer to buy the least standard memory/SSD possible and immediately bump it at Crucial or some such for a quarter of Dell, Lenovo or Apple's price.

I use a mid-2012 at home too. The RAM/HDD slots have been updated multiple times. I love how long the device has lasted me.

I love refurbishing these models. You can upgrade the RAM to 16 GB ($110), Install an SSD ($150), and replace the battery ($65) in 15 mins. Your biggest hurdle is having a $1 tri-wing bit for the battery and it will run MacOS as well as any current model.

The great thing about those models. You didn't have to max out right away and pay the exorbitant prices.

When I bought my 2011MBP, I slowly upgraded the parts as prices came down.

My advice to people buying Mac laptops today is to max everything out if you can afford to, because you're generally going to be stuck with the RAM and storage for as long as you keep the computer. (Yes, I know you can upgrade the SSDs, but it's a little more complicated than running to your local computer store to buy commodity parts).

That's what I did with my 2012 13" MBA--my wife still uses it, and it actually still runs current software pretty well. If it weren't for the lack of Retina display I'd probably still be on it.

Right now, I'm holding onto my 2015 13" MBP with both hands (also maxed it on the same principle) until Apple releases a halfway decent MBP again. I use a 2016 15" for work, and still can't type well on the damned thing after having it for a year and a half.

Thanks to those removable screws, I upgraded my mid-2012 with an SSD and it boots blindingly fast. Only when I do particularly complicated graphics work do I notice any lag - other than that, this laptop is a champion and I see no laptop on the market I would rather use

I'm typing this comment on a Late 2011 MBP right now, with upgraded ram and an SSD. Works great! I agree with you though, 2012 was peak MacBook.

The retina display though. it's difficult to go back once you get used to it..

I work for a media company and we have 5-6 year old MacBook Air and MBPs that are constantly being serviced.

Fun fact: the MBA apple symbol light shows a noticeable light ring on the display after this amount of time.

I am amazed that sales staff still want MacBooks, but I put it down to the brushed metal finish.

I love all the responses about how folks are able to prolong the lifespan of their older Mac hardware (I'm running a 2010 MBP myself). I imagine that's part of the problem -- Apple sells more hardware if you can't upgrade.

Not necessarily. I used to get the newest model every other year. Following the discontinuation of the 17" laptop, I held onto that until it died, only then buying the newest MBA. On the desktop side, my Mac Pro is eight years old now, and it has long been upgraded as far as it can go. Sometimes I miss things like AirDrop from my phone, but I don't miss them enough to spend money on what is effectively a downgrade in usability. I'd love to upgrade and have no issues spending the money in theory, but I can't justify the expense for the current hardware.

I bought 6 separate Apple machines between 2005 to 2012. Either because the upgrade was worth it, I had a nice bonus, or some other non-important reason.

The last piece of Apple hardware I bought was a new mid-2012 Macbook Pro. After seeing where Apple was going in 2013 / 2014, I have had zero desire to replace it. I upgraded everything in it, and replaced the optical drive with another SSD. I'll be sad the day that thing finally dies. I'm not sure if I'll go with another Apple machine or XPS with linux. I really don't want it to die lol.

truth. someone needs to step up if not apple. plenty of us still build things with actual computers even if we arent an easy cash cow

The 2015 MB Pro was damn decent. I bought my daughter a refurb 2012 Pro 13" with 16GB of RAM and yes, it is damn decent.

Not sure what the hell is wrong at Apple. My work machine is the 2017 MB Pro and its awful, I hate it.

It's always interesting how something monopoly-like makes companies lazy.

I am a cs-student with 3 1/2 year old a machbook pro, which I bought when I started my studies. I must say that I am still very, very satisfied, it's holding up great. Great display, suprsingly good battery life etc.

If something happens to my macbook, i would probalby spend a serious percentage of my savings saving on a new laptop. It's a very imporant part of my life, i do most of my work with it and I highly value the flexibility.

In this hypthetical scenario, i would really like to buy a new macbook and would probably go through a lot of financial pain if they took their line-up seriously. But it's really getting ridiculus.

I really don't understand why they fail so hard to update their hardware.

Sad fact is that Mac sales are now 10% of Apples revenue. I think the only reason Macs receive any attention at all within Apple is because you need Macs to build iphone/ipad apps. Another way of framing this is - how much effort do you put on the bottom 10 percent of your TODO list.

The Mac line brought them ~25B revenue in 2017, in one of their best years ever.

Looking at a business of this magnitude, I don't see how it matters what percentage of the total revenue this is. There's so much money to be had here and, unlike an individual, a company's attention shouldn't be so limited as to essentially make them forget to collect this additional revenue.

This is the part I just don't understand. The Mac is a $25B business by itself, and yet it seems to be operated like a vanity project, largely limiting itself to flashy launches like the Touch Bar or iMac Pro instead of maintaining a steady update pipeline like any other B2B product company.

I have no idea if macs only account for 10% of Apple revenue, but assuming it's true, it doesn't matter what dollar amount that 10% works out to.

We find percentages useful precisely so that we can see through deceptively high dollars to the truth that they don't really play a big part in total dollars brought in.

The fact that it's 25B (if it is, again, no idea) only serves to illustrate the heart-stopping scale at which Apple does business. We're talking about a company for whom even such a sum is a bottom 10% priority from a pure revenue standpoint.

Taken separately, this makes some sense, but they already delivered the hardware on this and put in the work on the designs. It doesn't make sense to fail to even put in the minimal amount of work to update the line in a well run company.

The only reasons I can think of are that they have taken designers completely off the mac line and put them all on the iPhone and other lines or else that they have put alot of designers on some kind of secret project, like moving to a different architecture and it's taking longer than expected to get it right. And even these don't seem to match up with how the company of 10-15 years ago would run things.

Oh definitely, I wasn't weighing in on how apple views macs, just that countering "it's X%" with "but that's $Y" doesn't really work.

As to the actual matter at hand, I hope the output we're seeing now is the result of a de-prioritization, because I don't like to think of these results as best efforts.

>> a company's attention shouldn't be so limited as to essentially make them forget to collect this additional revenue.

For a publicly-traded company all that matters is stock price. One would assume that collecting revenues has a direct impact on that price, but we are not in so rational a world. Today it is all about growth potential rather than current revenues. Apple could be turning huge profits on laptops, but if they see that as a mature market then they will and must ignore it.

Given Apple's grip on users, they may even see laptops as a competitor to their iPhone business. Time on the macbook is time not on the iPhone. The intent may be to transition all macbook devotees away from lap/desktops altogether.

> For a publicly-traded company all that matters is stock price.

Really? You don't want to qualify that at all, maybe?

If not, please explain the first 10 years of AMZN.

He said potential growth. People see Amazon as a growth business.

Another way to look at that is the company risks up to 10% of its top line if it doesn't support the product line. Everyone's priorities may differ but if I'm running a business I don't casually give up 10% of my revenue. That's a lot!

It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario in that you can't get past that 10% unless you really devote the energy to it, and you can't justify the energy when it seems to contribute so little to your revenue.

At one time Apple had a lot of passion for desktop and laptop computers. Today, they just seem to be nonchalantly kicking the metaphorical can down the road. You can't blame consumers for not going crazy for products that Apple isn't crazy about themselves.

While true, Mac is still larger in revenue than the Apple Watch and the iPad -- both of which receive regular updates.

OTOH it's a lot more of a headache to maintain the complete Mac lineup than a few iPad models.

> Sad fact is that Mac sales are now 10% of Apples revenue. I think the only reason Macs receive any attention at all within Apple is because you need Macs to build iphone/ipad apps. Another way of framing this is - how much effort do you put on the bottom 10 percent of your TODO list.

I think it's wrong to analogize a large corporation to an individual like that. An individual only has a limited capacity to divide its productive capacity, but a corporation almost has an infinite amount.

One of Apple's problems is that they often take what are probably good ideas too far. Some focus is good, but too much can be bad. Back when Steve Jobs took over, it was probably right for them to hyperfocus on a small number of models and software products, but the situation is different now. There's no good reason for a company as successful as they are now to not give the Mac division the resources and leadership it needs to be successful. Unfortunately, they seem to be neglecting it instead.

I'm still using a 2011 MBP, and I'm quite satisfied. I've replaced the battery, upgraded the RAM, upgraded the HD, and replaced the HD cable, but it's still sufficient for my needs (heavy compute gets done on remote servers anyway).

I'm on Linux though, so given recent fails and the general trend towards non-repairability and non-upgradeability, there's very little incentive for me to consider Apple hardware when I eventually upgrade.

Last year I upgraded a 2011 and 2010 MBP to a new MB and MBP. The older laptops I had already maxed out RAM and replaced them with SSDs. The new laptops were worth the upgrade for boot time, wake from sleep, weight, and battery life. However, every criticism about the new laptops are true--even if you throw money at dongles, cables, and wireless replacements. What's ridiculous is I bought an Apple usb-c to hdmi cable and it has very large amounts of signal issues on both the MB and MBP. Thankfully a third-party usb-c to displayport doesn't have those issues. Lastly, since the RAM and HDD aren't upgradable I had to pay higher prices upfront instead of upgrading after the fact like I've been doing for over a decade. Unfortunately, this was also true when looking at similar Linux/PC laptops.

I think if I had a 2012 model I would have been able to wait longer for new laptops. Currently, I'm very likely dumping the MBP as soon as new ones come out with a better keyboard.

When I did my shopping last year I was prepared to get a Linux laptop if things looked comparable and the price was significantly cheaper (assuming the risk of unknown problems like battery or hardware longevity) and the prices were roughly the same with other compromises I wasn't prepared to make.

2011s are a great machine. But as of the next MacOS release 10.14 they are no longer supported, as 10.14 will enforce Metal and those pre 2012s don't have the right gpus for it. I recently picked up a lightly used 2015 because the current touch bar ones continue to have problems.

I'm using Fedora anyway, so the software part doesn't bother me.

Could you justify your first sentence some more? Your claim is that Apple is a monopoly - over what I wonder? Neither Mac OS nor iOS are a monopoly. Monopolies do trend towards efficiency of effort on their behalf and so-called 'rent seeking' but I'm not really sure that is what we are seeing here. Sticking with a tried and true keyboard design would be the monopolistic bent, avoiding any significant upgrades or consumer oriented innovations.

Despite people's claim, the new macbook pros do have big innovations. You might not like them, but here they are: - Thin -> substantially thinner than my older mac book pro. It's nice! - Keyboard is part of making it thinner - Touchid built in - oled/dynamic keyboard/touch strip

These are consumer oriented innovations, even if you do not like them (personally I don't like the keyboard or the touch-strip.

In recent year MBP have been a near monopoly for developers machines, at least in small-to-medium startups.

Apple still sells the 2015 pre USB C MacBooks new. If I had to buy a MacBook, that’s the one to get.

I've run into a few issues with the Early to Mid 2015 Macbook fans. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but I've seen it across three machines.

Not for much longer I think, they are already unavailable in the UK.

The iPad Pro is the future of Apple. I am beginning to suspect that general purpose computing has no future apart from Linux—and even then, those of us clinging to it are going to start looking a lot like Amiga enthusiasts who’re keeping their old machines alive by sheer force of will.

John Gruber made an observation countering this narrative[1]

To sum it up; looking around you don't see people in coffee shops using iPads (or any tablets)--it's all laptops. Even though iPads have outsold laptops by a significant margin for years now.

As a bit of a tangent (also mentioned by him); anyone who is productive on an iPad Pro uses a keyboard. Apple has refused to add touchscreens to laptops, but iPads with keyboard suffer this exact problem. So something still needs to evolve.

I see iPads/phones replacing the entertainment needs a general purpose computer used to fill and maybe Apple gets out of general purpose computing. This is also happening for "light" computing needs in business; like POS and inventory. But I don't see any sign that a PC going away at all for workhorse tasks just yet.

[1] https://daringfireball.net/linked/2018/06/13/ipad-trackpad-i...

> Even though iPads have outsold laptops by a significant margin for years now.

Actually they barely ever did, and the peak is past. For example in 2017 there were about 164 million laptops sold versus 161 million tablets of all types.

In 2007 it was 109 million laptops and zero tablets.

I was thinking about Apple Laptops vs iPads since the whole assertion is that Apple is giving up on computer hardware because iPads will replace them. The best numbers I could find [1][2] is that Apple sold 19 million Macs (desktops and laptops) and 43 million tablets in 2017, with similar numbers the previous year. My point still stands: if Apple is betting that so many iPads are starting to replace the functionality of traditional computers and they're selling very large numbers of them, how come they're rarely, if ever, seen where we see them in public use such as cafes?

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/276308/global-apple-mac-...

[2] https://www.macrumors.com/2018/02/05/4q17-ipad-vs-other-tabl...

It's hard to imagine when there is still, like, active PC gaming communities and PCs are so important to office work.

I remember seeing a lot of this take when people were buying up iPads, but I think there are real limitations -- tablets are just not really good for doing work.

I very much hope you are right and I am wrong. The iPad Pro seems to be trying to mitigate some of those issues—at least for the growing segment of the populace who’d prefer to do everything on their phone.

I don’t like where Apple is going, but I can easily see a Macbook a generation or two out whose software is more iOS than macOS, and whose character is pretty locked-down / appified.

Nah, Mac OS dev tools are far too *nix-based. That's assuming Apple values its developer base.

Tablets are perfectly capable of doing work - tablet operating systems on the other hand....

If Apple would just add support for pointing devices and if they would allow access to arbitrary files stored on USB devices via the Files app, the iPad could serve the needs of most people.

So basically if they turned it into a laptop

Yes. But with a much more consumer friendly OS. It would be easier to add laptop capabilities seamlessly to iOS than touch screen capabilities to OS X.

I don't see how you figure. Windows 8/10 does the latter and it works fine. Yes, controls in applications not designed for touch interaction don't work well without a mouse and keyboard, but again, I contend that a keyboard and mouse are much more suitable for productive work.

Windows 8/10 don't "work fine" as a touch screen OS. Most programs people use everyday still use menus that are not optimized for touch and there is still a special "tablet mode". Even parts of the OS itself are not geared fortouch.

If you aim to replace office productivity apps you're going to run into the exact same problem

There is already both Microsoft Office for the iPad and Apple's iWork suite.

Yes, and they provide a fraction of the functionality.

The question is how many people use the missing functionality? Also, office development is not static. MS is continuing to add functionality and with the better scriptability coming with iOS 12, iOS will get more powerful.


Nobody uses all of the esoteric features of Office, but most people use at least a few.

Are there professionals who use an iPad for the majority of their work beyond sending emails and interacting with web apps/their mobile clients?

I rarely see the people who bought in on the iPad revolution almost a decade ago use their iPad beyond light browsing and sending emails.

To me, it seems to have replaced the morning paper more than it has laptops.

I don't disagree with you about the fate of general purpose computing, but I doubt the iPad Pro is the future. I think pfranz[1] makes a good point about laptops, but that doesn't mean that laptop has to be a Mac. Given the change in name for Apple Books, I get the feeling that an iOS, ARM-powered laptop called the iBook is that future.

1) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17313710

> The iPad Pro is the future of Apple.

Maybe it's more accurate to say that iOS is the (present and) future of Apple. All arrows seem to point in this direction. It's a mobile, run-anywhere world that Apple sees as the future.

In that vision, MacOS machines are a cash cow business. And the corporate playbook for those is min-investment, max harvesting.

Not at all.

Someone has to write all the software, and they're not going to be writing it on an iPad. Even with an external mouse and keyboard.

The iPad Pro is a general purpose computer by any meaningful definition of the term "general purpose computer".

> It's always interesting how something monopoly-like makes companies lazy.

> I really don't understand why they fail so hard to update their hardware.

It's not because of their monopoly-like status, it's because they make so little money on Macs compared to the vast sums of money they make on iPhones. They probably look at their developers, and ask "how much is it worth to us to have this developer work on a Mac? How much is it worth to us to have this developer work on an iPhone?" and the iPhone wins out every time.

Which... well, sucks, for the rest of us, but it's not laziness—it's opportunity costs.

But then, they lose interests (and endorsements) of software engineers and IT professionals. And, in the words of Steve Ballmer "developers developers developers".

If they want to sell hardware, they need to convince me to recommend them to the person who asks my advice. (rhetorical "me")

"developer work on an iPhone" . Sorry, I don't get it.

I mean Apple developers / engineers, either being assigned to work on the iPhone hardware & iOS software, or the Mac hardware & macOs software.

They don't update their hardware because of the reasons you stated in your post. People love Macs and would buy them regardless of hardware.

I don't want to go all "640k RAM" on this, but I think people's hardware needs have plateaued in recent years. The average person mostly uses a laptop for the web browser and a handful of other simple programs. Even gaming, many users' most hardware intensive task, has shifted in recent years to be less demanding.

So the question is why should Apple update their hardware more frequently? The HN reader, the software developer, or the content creator are simply not big enough audiences to motivate Apple anymore. A MacBook with 2-3 year old hardware does everything that your average Mac user would want.

It's an interesting question.

I'd be happy if Apple could just get back to more-or-less annual hardware upgrades, really. While I agreed with Rogue Amoeba in a previous comment, it's worth noting that nearly everything we're kvetching about -- iMacs, MacBook Pros, even the weirdo one-port MacBook -- tends to go, well, about a year between updates. It's possible that this is really kind of overblown, and people are (still) feeling salty over the current generation of the MBP. (Which, for the record, I own one of and have used two others at two different jobs, and which I really don't think is at all the trash fire it's made out to be -- which isn't to say I wouldn't have preferred one using higher-travel key switches or that I have any particular use for the Touch Bar. But that new MBP is also a pretty clear signal that Apple isn't just ignoring the Mac: there is a whole lot of new engineering work here. That it's new engineering work a lot of people apparently hate doesn't make it not new engineering work.)

I think your last point hits on another reason why we might be seeing less of those regular tech spec bumps. The amount of engineering that goes into something like the current MacBook or the trashcan MacPro seems to be growing with every redesign. The complexity of those designs makes upgrades more difficult than the old days in which they might simply swap one off the shelf component for the newer and faster version.

Apple kind of said this about the trash can Mac Pro. They designed themselves into the wrong limitations which prevented them from releasing spec upgrades (physical and thermal limitations). The annoying thing is that they have seemed to have done this on multiple fronts and the compromises were never for the things people were clamoring for.

One of the disappointing things personally, and why I complain instead of switching to PC hardware, is that on the PC side the laptops just aren't as good, either.

Creatives have always been a large target audience for mac hardware. Trust me, video editors and mograph people will always need more RAM. As long as people keep buying higher definition TVs and monitors. Hell, I've maxed out 128 gigs of RAM on a Xeon machine even when I wasn't working in 4k or 8k.

Mac's new laptop offerings cap at 16 gigs. There's a rumor about a 32 gig version, but even that is inadequate. Everyone on the design side of the office is still drinking the kool-aid and using their overpriced hardware because that is workable for their job, but on the video and animation side it's just not tenable. At all. All of us started on macs and switched to upgradeable hardware running windows or linux when it was revealed that apple just wasn't taking care of that demographic. There's a hard division down the middle of the room; macs on that side for photoshop and illustrator, PCs on this side for video editing, tracking, 3d effects, and rendering.

There's one exception: a mac pro "wastebasket" gathering dust in the corner of that office. That was a fucking slap in the face of a computer. All form and no function. Instantly obsolete. Not even remotely upgradeable. No resale value. And my god was it expensive. Jesus christ, you just can't rationalize that expense in good faith and of sound mind.

And I swear I'm not a mac hater. I grew up on them, have some great memories. But the math just doesn't add up anymore. They've become computer sculpture, not usable workstations.

I really don't think hardware will plateau. People have claimed since the eighties that new, vastly powerful computers are as much as the average user will ever need. Well, new uses are suddenly made possible which inevitably put that new potential to work, and gradually those applications become mainstream. If a new computer has fulfilled everyone's needs and more, it's only a matter of time before somebody finds a way to use that extra power for the average person.

It's happened before and it will happen again. In the coming years we're going to marvel at all the useful things we can do with terabytes of cheap RAM on a consumer PC, and we are going to wonder how people in the olden days got by with only gigabytes. Just like we do with the days of megabyte-scale RAM. It will happen.

My gf uses her mid-2012 Mac mostly for Photoshop. We have recently upgraded it to 16GB RAM, max supported, and while it made it much better, it's still way too little. She's now working on high resolution, hand-drawn game assets and 16GB RAM + SSD upgrade was a prerequisite to be able to just barely function.

You should see the ridiculous 'laptop' I've made for work. It's a bunch of desktop hardware shoved inside a 23-inch pelican case with two fold-out 4k displays integrated into the lid. With a 3d-printed casing built around the keyboard, which sits atop the mobo and a sideways GPU. It has a couple fold-out whip antennas for wifi like something from the 1980s, but it gets great gain. I got CUDA for crunching renders, 5gHz CPU, and more ram than you can swing a dead cat at. It is a VFX beast.

It's by no means a proper laptop, but people in video build very strange workstations. I think it's definitely a niche market which is ripe for exploitation. Somebody please, fill this hole!

I would love to see a picture of that if you have any. No worries if not. It sounds pretty awesome though.

Here's some shots from various stages of completion. Since then I've polished it up a bit and added a grille over the CPU fan.


Hardware requirements probably have plateaued for the 85th percentile of users. I think you've touched on something important, but I'd say it actually goes in reverse.

One of the deprecated pieces of hardware in Mohave is the 2011 27" iMac which ought to be more than capable of handling Mohave. Sure it doesn't support handoff, night shift, or some other minor features but I can accept that. It's frustrating to buy a piece of hardware and having it deprecated by the software less than a decade later when the chipset is more than capable of handling said software. Mohave will presumably run on the 2016 12" MacBook which is far, far less powerful than my iMac.

Let me choose to live without minor features but continue to be able to use contemporary software if it can run on the hardware.

My Plex server is running on a 2009 era Dell Core 2 Duo 2.66Ghz with 4 GB of RAM running Windows 10. It’s actually not slow and the 15 inch 1920x1200 display is one of the last great non 1080p non Retina displays.

Hehe, mine runs on a 900MHz (x4) Raspberry Pi 2 Model B with 1 GB of RAM...

Can it handle transcoding? When my current plex server meets its maker, I was thinking about replacing it with an Nvidia Shield since it can handle transcoding. The only thing stopping me is the ability to run Plex Connect[1] that lets me run a Plex app on my 3rd gen AppleTVs.

But a Rasberry Pi should allow me to run the Python based PlexConnect server.

[1] https://github.com/iBaa/PlexConnect

Maybe it's just laziness on my part, but I do tend to find that that Firefox running with 20-30 tabs, plus Docker plus a bunch of other apps (inc. Electron based ones...) eats up my 16GB of RAM quite easily.

I really could do with a laptop with 32GB of RAM.

It's easy for me to get Firefox to 200-300 tabs territory, and not that hard to get it to 2000-3000. I really wish my 8GB RAM wasn't soldered in :(

Thankfully, Firefox somewhat manages to work despite that. Chromium dies very quickly.

How on earth would you do that, and... why? How do you even remember what all those tabs are for?

With tabs of the left side, awesomebar and no ridiculous Chrome-style tab shrinking, it's not that hard. Why? It just happens, especially when researching and opening lots of tabs in the background. It's a workflow that works well for me.

Meanwhile, PC laptops are now available with 128GB of RAM.

Talk to me about the battery life. Life is about tradeoffs.

But then you have to use a PC.

I have a maxed-out, 2016 13-in MacBook pro. Works great as a laptop, but when I plug it into my 27-in 4K display, the computer's integrated Intel Iris Graphics 540 struggles, and there are visible stutters and hiccups in the OS UI. Is being able to power a single external 27-in monitor really such a crazy use case? IMHO, at the price I paid for this laptop, an external monitor should be Mickey Mouse shit.

If I've plugged in my drawing tablet and have AutoDesk Sketchbook open...all bets are off. The lag is 3 to 4 seconds behind the pen. Even with no monitor, any typical 3D game from the past 5 years would struggle to have a good framerate.

My 2015 MBP had a discrete graphics card and doesn't have any problems with the monitor or drawing tablet.

Who on earth is paying just under $3k for a laptop to use web browsers and "simple programs"?

Yes, I agree - I think their approach is perfectly practical.

A four-year-old laptop (2014) doesn't feel wildly different from a current one. An eight-year-old laptop (2010) is a somewhat different proposition: you're 64-bit if you're lucky, but even with a decent CPU you'll have a low-resolution screen and relatively little RAM. A twelve-year-old laptop (2006) will be painfully slow now.

The part I do find problematic is that the latest macOS is dropping support for machines that are otherwise very usable by this scale. Support back to mid-2012 sounds pretty good, except that mid-2012 Macs are still fine hardware.

Agree 100%. Mine is a mid-2009 (MBP 15" x64 Core 2 Duo), but with an SSD and 8GB, it still runs perfectly fine. It's not a Retina screen, but it's good enough that I don't notice pixelation.

It's still my daily driver for dev work, email & browsing, but El Capitan is the furthest I can take the OS, and I'm already running into some software that requires the newer OSes.

I've just been hanging onto the hope that a suitable MBP replacement with proper ports will be available by the time I need to upgrade, which will be 1st quarter 2019.

They don't seem to be arguing a lot about performance in the article. The main complaint seems to be that the hardware released in the past few years has had significant flaws that haven't been addressed and the rest of their lineup hasn't been updated at all. When a 4 year old computer breaks they're either paying full price for hardware that's years old or buying into flawed hardware.

A lot of these big changes have v1 compromises (higher failure rate in keyboards, fewer USB-C ports, etc). The expectation is that these are fixed in v2. Years later USB-C is still quite hard to find, way more expensive, and many of their laptops only have 1 port that has to be used for charging (and wireless tech hasn't reduced the need enough). The keyboards still have problems and a high failure rate. Apple seems to either be dragging out v2 for too many years or just skipping it and coming out with a new v1 (like the Mac Pro).

because increasingly more and more software demands better hardware. and... they should because otherwise someone else will take that share from them. and that could be sad for both apple and customers like me who like their macbooks (older models at least). as pointed out in the article, it's not about innovation anymore, just simple upgrades, with minimum effort.

If one company made a laptop trackpad as good as Apple's that worked perfectly in any mainstream Linux distro I'd buy their laptop in a heartbeat. I've never seen one that fits that bill though.

Recently I've found out that software makes a lot of difference when it comes to touchpads. I've tried Windows, xf86-input-synaptics and libinput on the same machine, and while on xf86-input-synaptics (my default) the experience was so close to Apple's that I long couldn't understand why people consider their touchpads so special, switching to Windows or libinput made it absolutely awful to use. There are TONS of small things that can make touchpad usage pleasant of annoying and I believe these days it's mostly about software (aside of obvious hardware things like type of surface, size and placement).

I guess Apple simply got their driver nicely fine-tuned to their own hardware, and that's it.

What user wants to have to spend time configuring and maintaining drivers? I hated having to find the right drivers for all of the gear on Windows/Linux and maintain it through every update. I don't want to have to depend on a 3rd party for my built-in hardware to just work.

Furthermore, Apple's touchpad is infinitely superior in terms of hardware and that was a huge factor for me. I can't count the number of crappy Dell touchpads that have broken and stopped because they seem to be made of cheap matte plastic. They don't feel good to use physically and no amount of software tuning will fix that. My touchpad on my 2015 MBP is solid glass and should never break from regular use because it isn't actually a button.

Even as a engineer I don't want to spend that. At work we got Dell laptops and I'm happy we can run Linux so at least I can customise it to feel more like I'm used to with my Mac (eg: sane shortcuts like cmd-c, that don't conflict with ctrl-c terminal commands). But I rather don't have to customise anything at all and have it 'just work' which for with a Mac is most often the case. I've spend so much time just getting hardware to work and having the laptop behave properly on simple stuff like unplugging a dock, closing a lid or pushing a power button.

> I don't want to have to depend on a 3rd party for my built-in hardware to just work.

You mean like you depend on Apple to maintain their drivers? What difference does it make if your OS auto-installs the latest driver via MacOS update or if the Lenovo Updater auto-installs a new driver through their own updater? Driver conflicts are a pain in the ass, I'll grant you that, but those are pretty rare these days. At least in the windows world.

Yep it's all about the drivers! This is even apparent when running Windows in Boot Camp.

So far the closest I've seen is the Dell XPS line... but those trackpads are still on the smaller side and have physical click buttons. One of my favorite aspects of force touch is you can adjust the pressure required for a click to register—and the amount of physical feedback you get!

You can do that on pretty much any Windows laptop. Not the feedback though. Is there a feedback?

At this point I think just sticking a phone screen in there instead of the poor excuses for touchpads we normally get would be better.

It's super easy to get a great phone touchscreen, maybe just grab the glass and touch matrix or whatever, but that would surely be better than the sorry state of affairs of current touchpads.

It would consume significantly more battery than a touchpad, unless it is OLED which would be significantly more expensive than a touchpad.

Why would you need the screen? Just take the glass/digitizer assembly.

It doesn’t need to be lit up to work as a trackpad.

That's what I am thinking too. My 2014 Macbook is the only laptop I have used where keyboard and trackpad work really well. I have tried Dell, Surface and others but their trackpads simply suck. The friction is wrong, they don't register taps, the palm gets in the way. The Mac is the only one I can actually use and enjoy. If I could get a Linux with the same trackpad I would be in in a heartbeat.

I wouldn't. Say what you want about Windows and MacOS, there hasn't been a single problem on either of those OS's that I couldn't fix in a couple of hours. I routinely spend days and even weeks wrestling with Linux trying to get it to do something that should "just work." Most recently? Trying to get the OpenVPN client to work.

The closest i've seen to that is the Pixelbook but that's not mainstream linux but clearly shows it's doable

Purism's Librem 13.

Everything works great out of the box on Manjaro including the trackpad.

Size isn't exactly up to Apples though, if you're using later models.

Last Macbook I used was a 2012 15 inch MBP.

From ~2001-2005, the finest linux laptop I'd ever seen was an Apple product running Debian.

I presume that people have linux running on modern macbooks -- would that fit your needs?


New macbooks are not universally supported by Linux.

The Dell XPS Developer edition kicks the shit out of any apple trackpad and any macbook in general.

> Rather than attempting to wow the world with “innovative” new designs like the failed Mac Pro, Apple could and should simply provide updates and speed bumps to the entire lineup on a much more frequent basis.

Yeah. I'd always thought this was a Steve Jobs quirk, but Tim Cook has been in charge for years now and very little has changed in regard to Mac hardware updates.

The Mac Mini is a particularly egregious case. They won't update it, but they won't discontinue it either, so they continue to sell ancient hardware as if it's new. It's baffling, and certainly not indicative that there's some coherent plan being successfully followed.

Updating the Mac Mini would require doing something. Cancelling the Mac Mini would also require doing something. Selling ancient Mac Minis as new requires doing nothing, so that's what happens.

In the absence of strategy, inertia rules.

interesting viewpoint. Are there other examples of companies exhibiting this behaviour?

FCA and its Dodge line. For example, the Challenger is essentially the same car sold since 2008, save for a few new engine options (3.6L and 6.4L in 2011, Hellcat in 2015, Demon in 2018) and a minimal lighting and interior facelift in 2015.

In case of FCA the speculation is that they will sunset the brand in the USA to focus on SUVs (Jeep) and trucks (RAM). Looks like focusing on what's generating the maximum profit. Just like Apple with consumer electronics.

I don't think Apple Hardware's core demographic will ever drill down to the quality of the integrated graphics card, CPU, or even RAM/SSD. As long as the main UX takes places inside a browser or seemingly well-optimized applications like Messages and word, users will not flinch and instead be intrigued with gimmicks like the touch bar.

It seems like internal applications (manufacturing, etc) are the only reason they keep the Mac Mini around.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Apple needs to sell off Macintosh. Their lack of focus on Mac hardware has cost them hundreds of millions of dollars, which for a normal company would be a big deal, but is rounding error for Apple.

I bet they could easily sell 1,000,000+ units of 2015 Macbook Pro laptops with 32GiG RAM and an updated processor/chipset/graphics.

I don't think it is a coincidence that 2015 was their peak unit sales for Mac [1]. 2017 was down from 2015 by 1.3 million units.

1: https://www.statista.com/statistics/276308/global-apple-mac-...

As the other person mentioned, since 2012, as they've gotten anti-consumer and anti-repair, and anti-developer, I'm in a holding pattern. I would only buy new MacBook Pro in a dire emergency.

Upgrading is now something you do to avoid disaster, not to achieve delight/happiness.

>Apple needs to sell off Macintosh

My immediate thought was that Apple values control of its ecosystem and Mac hardware figures into this. So, it seems unlikely that they would sell it off.

That got me thinking "what business has Apple actually sold off in its modern era?" I can't think of one.

I think it's pretty clear that Apple is having trouble following up on things. They're struggling with gradual improvements. Everything they do is so focussed on a big keynote, that they don't have any time left to focus on the smaller things inbetween.

It also means they only do one thing at a time.

One year they update the iOS App Store, this year they update the Mac App Store, maybe next year they finally get to update the iTunes Store on the Mac.

Once they do release something, they move on to the next thing. If you're not happy with one of the major releases, you'll have to wait five years until the next time they come back to this.

Don't like the new Mac Pro? Maybe the next one in 5 years will be for you.

Did the redesign of the Mac App Store not fulfill your hopes? Maybe the next one in 5 years will be better.

In my opinion, they are failing to scale their vertical integration as the number of products they are selling grows.

In the mean time, other companies that have embraced gradual improvements are running circles around them. The collaboration features of iWork are a joke compared to Google Docs. While Apple is struggling to add proper CSV import to Numbers, Google Sheets offers Pivot Table.

Within short time, Amazon Prime has become so much better than the iTunes Movie Store. Apple has completely lost the lead there. It's crazy that Amazon has a better UI here than Apple.

If you want to get an 8k Display, you need to get a Windows PC, since macOS doesn't support it. If you want to get a 28" Screen with a stylus, you need to get a Windows PC.

Not to mention Amazon Prime works on a smart TV right out of the box and doesn’t need an Apple TV. I have a limited investment in purchased iTunes content that I’m just going to write off when I get a new TV and switch to Amazon.

Apple is so shameless that it sells old hardware for the same prices it released them at several years ago. The profit margins on selling the Mac Pro and Mac mini must be at least 70-80%. If that’s not eye gouging, nothing else is.

At least reduce the prices and be honest instead of following this dirty and unethical practice.

What was even the point of talking about changes to the Mac App Store during WWDC with this poor state of affairs?!

This reminded me of Steve Jobs' comparison of the Mac to trucks. Not everyone has a truck but a lot of people need them to do their job. As more and more people move to mainly using mobile devices (including tablets) for the majority of their computing needs I think the truck (i.e. mac) business will continue to be slow and plodding. Developers are the only people Apple really needs to make Macs for and that's a pretty small market in the grand scheme. Creatives doing photography, 3D, video, etc. have long left for other platforms. I don't expect things to get much better.

I think Apple needs to be very careful about not loosing the developers.

Because if Android/Linux someday becomes they best developer platform (however unlikely), Apple will have real trouble. When the good developers loose interest in a platform it becomes very difficult for it to survive.

And good developers results in not just good apps. It's also recommendations to friends, support when something doesn't work or needs to be explained, and it's advertising that's much more powerful than the advertising you can buy.

All the money and ads Microsoft put into MS Phone did nothing because it didn't bring developers. Same with Blackberry and Nokia because those platforms were never developer friendly.


I think they've lost many of them already aside from those who need to stay on MacOS because that or iOS is what they're writing for. Hence the tone of so many of these articles.

How long are the rest going to wait on disappointing refreshes that move in the wrong (or no) direction? It's too hard to be enthusiastic about the platform in the way you could around the time of 17" Macbooks.

That's a huge losing strategy Apple has taken for years. Locking people into hardware with proprietary software that doesn't make even basic good-faith attempts at cross-platform compatibility.

The only reasons there's an occasional older-generation video editor working on a mac is because of a. inertia and b. proRes. That video format is finally workable on PC thanks to FFmpeg, but it uses terminal tools (or a couple very terrible GUIs written by the community) and it's going to finally nail that coffin shut.

That and the fact that proRes is technically already obsolete. There are already better options that are cross-platform, but "best practices" is often a code-word for tradition. It will change in time.

The whole purpose of a video codec is to share video across platforms. That's what a codec is. ProRes being locked into mac hardware was a real dick move, and a lot of video people back in the day didn't recognize it and got all smug about how capable their mac was. Yeah, it runs anything except proRes because other developers understand that codecs need to be widely compatible. Apple was the only one who didn't get that memo.

I think Linux has been the best developer platform for a long time.

Not if you want to target the most profitable mobile platform....

Fair point

On the condition that you're a web developer or develop exclusively for unix servers.

Very true

"Because if Android/Linux someday becomes they best developer platform (however unlikely)"

Google should release a Chromebook optimized for best Android development experience.

And best web development experience.

> Creatives doing photography, 3D, video, etc. have long left for other platforms.

Is this really a thing? I recently started dabbling in digital comic book art, using Krita and a Wacom-clone drawing tablet on a Windows PC. As I interact with others in the community on Discord and web boards and so forth, I get the "filthy casual" vibe for not using Adobe on a MacBook even as an absolute beginner.

Yeah. If you only do photography or graphic design, there’s not much reason to move. But, if you’re doing high-end video editing, you can get a more suitable PC for 1/3 the price of a suitable Mac Pro. And if you’re using games engines or 3D software, there’s not even a discussion to have.

I think Adobe has a deal with Apple (and possibly Microsoft) which entices them away from delivering Photoshop for Linux, but I hear it runs well in Wine!

Adobe’s purchase of Macromedia has proven to be the thorn that any concerned spectator would have expected it to be. I think I was in high school at the time (loose guess). I used Adobe products for a good 10 years professionally after college and can attest that the Adobe software has essentially not changed beyond file format support and lock-in features. EDIT: Media Encoder is nice (now) but a good decade later than it should have been. The very recent improvements to After Effects sound useful but again too little too late. They appear to only be responding when competition appears.

> I think Adobe has a deal with Apple (and possibly Microsoft) which entices them away from delivering Photoshop for Linux

Surely you're joking, right? The deal they have is that approximately 0% of people use Linux.

I’m not joking, but I was explicit in my lack of certainty so I hope that speaks for itself.

Your reasoning is convincing enough as it stands, and falls in line with their approach of only adding new features when competition appears.

It happens in stages. People doing low-spec 2d work like Illustrator are still on macs. That's fine, macs will handle that and it's still important work that has to be done. But eventually they are going to see the economy of doing it on different hardware through their relations with other members of the pipeline.

Once you have to crunch some 4k video or run a dynamics simulation, you switch to PC. The price difference between a mac pro workstation and a similar homebuilt is just completely insane, and four years later the homebuilt will be upgraded with new stuff and the mac pro will be literally worth more as metal recycling. There are practically no apple users in mograph anymore, even though just about all mograph artists started on mac.

Keep in mind that the people on discord and web boards or whatever are amateur hobbyists. I don't say that as a slur, it's a stage we all go through and I remember that stage fondly. In some ways it's the best stage. But they have not had to deal with economics yet. That will make them re-think their hardware elitism.

Maybe you're hanging around the wrong boards.

What you are saying makes sense but it also means that Macs shouldn't get thinner and prettier but more utilitarian with upgradeable parts, plenty of ports and so on. I guess Apple doesn't know anymore who Macs are really for.

A good, durable, keyboard, twice the battery life, lots of storage, memory, maintainable, and still easy to lug around? I'm gonna swoon...

Right. The ‘Thin Wars’ have been killing us from the start, and I’m not even sure anyone is fighting in them besides Apple.

I don't know. My last 2 PC laptops have been incredibly thin yet still don't have the spec-suck that you see with apple offerings. Current Dell XPS 13 Dev Edition and an HP Spectre x360 both managed to be light, while still having great processors, plenty of Ram, fast nvme drives, good battery life and 4K displays with touchscreens. Both managed to have more than 1 port. Being less thin certainly gives you more room for "stuff" but I don't think lack of it is what's causing mac to fall behind.

> Creatives doing photography, 3D, video, etc. have long left for other platforms.

Since when? Every person I know in these industries still use Macs.

What does Apple expect their own, internal developers to use? Don't they have a self-interest in their own consumption of their own product.

> Developers are the only people Apple really needs to make Macs for and that's a pretty small market in the grand scheme. Creatives doing photography, 3D, video, etc. have long left for other platforms. I don't expect things to get much better.

Apple alienated the creatives and it seems like they've started alienating the developers, too.

If the Mac platform becomes nothing more than part of a development kit for iOS apps (sort of like developer version of a video game console [1]), it will be a sad day.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_development_kit

> Creatives doing photography, 3D, video, etc. have long left for other platforms.

I agree for 3D, but for video, photography, graphic design, audio, etc, the Mac is still going strong from what I've seen.

Don't trucks transport something like 80% of all the goods in the world at some point?

The Ford F-series trucks are the best selling vehicles in the US. People want trucks.

The trucks Steve Jobs was referring to are not pickup trucks, but the big things you see hauling freight on the highway.

I really REALLY wish they'd do something with the Mac Mini.

Give it a massive spec bump and drive the price down like they do (sort of) with the iPad and it'd be a great device to pick up.

Such a small form factor with good specs - it's like a NUC but with MacOS. It'd be great.

It's doubly frustrating, because Intel does basically all the work for them (even designing some of their NUCs to match a Mac Mini size and power/thermal limits). Apple could just ride the Intel product roadmap each year, with very little effort, and people would be happy enough.

But Apple can't be bothered to do even that.


In comparison, Intel basically made a "Mac Mini Pro" called the Hades Canyon NUC. Which is roughly the same price as a high-end Mac Mini, but has 2x-6x the compute power (depending on how you'd like to measure it). https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/products/boards-kits...

I just recently bought a Hades Canyon specifically because Apple doesn't upgrade the Mac mini, won't drop the price, and made it less user-serviceable. I would have dropped the cash on a Mac mini if it had the Kaby Lake G and could at least be upgraded to 32GB of ram. But instead Intel got my $1k. It's a shame, since now I'm back on Ubuntu and probably won't look back. I can use my wife's MBA to compile and distribute my iOS apps when I need to.

It sounds like a dremel tool when the fans are spun up, which will be often.

Where Apple excels is at system design, the Mini has a good balance between cooling capacity and noise. One of the reasons I bought the Mini was it's near-silence during typical desktop loads. Even when it's doing a build, the fan noise is lower-frequency and less annoying than the whine of the tiny fans in most of these NUCs.

I've never really heard the fan at all, a light wooshing occasionally during compilation. I often have 20-30 tabs open on chrome, vs code, Android studio, gimp, an Android emulator, four or five terminals, a BEAM VM, a redis instance, postgres, and sometimes a node server. This is with Ubuntu 18.04 with Gnome.

Only thing I could think is driver support for the Vega M graphics hasn't landed yet so I only have a basic graphics driver - I guess I'll see when kernel 4.18 comes out.

The Skull Canyon NUC is exactly what I'm thinking of. A MacOS version of that would be really great and like you say, seems fairly 'easy' for Apple to do seeing as Intel is doing so much with the form factor anyway.

FWIW, the refresh of the Skull Canyon, aka "Hades Canyon" is even more impressive than its predecessor.

Thanks, that is the unit I intended to mention above (the one with the integrated AMD GPU), but I mixed up the name. Corrected it above.

Didn't realise that there was a refresh, I'll take a look.

The jaggies on the product page image hurt my eyes.

Excellent computer though, can also be VESA mounted to the back of a monitor, something that you would never be able to do with an Apple product. Also very easy to open the box to put your RAM + M2 + SSD in, again something Apple would never make easy for you.

Apart from the special Mac OS I don't see how Apple could really improve on this type of product in a functionally useful way. Making it fiddly to upgrade and slapping an Apple logo on it would please the devoted but isn't really improving it.

Draws 100 W, not comparable to any Mac Mini. More to a “Midi.” But it is ugly.

Intel NUCs comparable to the Mac Mini only draw 15W to 30W (depending on the model), similar to a Mac Mini. See https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/products/boards-kits... for examples.

The super high end NUC, the "Mac Mini Pro" comparable model mentioned above is a specialty unit with its 100W draw.

A regular Mac Mini draws 85 watts. What's 15W between friends? https://www.apple.com/mac-mini/specs/

> But it is ugly

Isn't that just the case?

Intel sell the NUC in a couple of variants, the "kit", with an 'ugly' case or the "board".

With the latter they could design a beautiful Apple-looking case around it.

A Mini would be useful here right now. No way I'm buying effectively a 5 year old machine with soldered RAM. Especially when I see what Intel are offering. Which means they're way overpriced second hand on eBay too.

There's something too ironic about Intel being the value for money option. A refresh of Mini will no doubt have soldered RAM and SSD making it even less appealing.

So for now I stick with my '15 Mac Book Pro, not giving Apple money I'd otherwise be happy to spend.

I used to think the mac mini was a better alternative when you could upgrade its memory.

Now I think is better wait for the next generation.

I'm really thinking in buying an mac for home use, and remote compiling with xamarin in the next year or so.

But it will depend of this next generation.

I still use my late-2012 mac mini for Lightroom. I upgraded it with a fast SSD and bumped the RAM to 16 GB which makes it a great 2018 machine.

I believe the latest revisions of the mac mini are not as serviceable though.

Still have my 2008 Mac Pro desktop, that has been frankenstein'd to the max. Seems to get by just fine considering it's ten years old. Still blows my mind how much they've pushed the power user away. All they had to do was keep the cheesegrater box updated, and there would be no complaints. Now we're all using or looking for alternatives. My latest being an old Dell corporate throwaway running Linux for my dev environment. If Mac's are such a minuscule part of their revenue, then just get rid of the entire hardware line completely and be done with it. Stop stringing us all along for a god damn decade, so we can move along.

I've got a 2006 MP, and a 2008 Mac Pro. All updated with SSD and maxed out RAM. Work like a champ. Even running High Sierra on the latter. I figure it will last me another 5 years, then I'll have to make a decision.

Minus hardware upgrades, mine has been running ten years continuously. Original fans even. My concern is when the day comes that it just stops, and I have no replacement options.

Yup. On my 2010, one of the RAM pair slots on the daughtercard has failed recently. I could buy a replacement off eBay, but for now it's fine. I worry about when the system board or something like that fails, but parts will probably be available for another 5 years.

It's an iPhone company that has a lucrative little side business selling computers.

And all those enthusiasts who got them there are now left out in the dark like wet dogs.

this flat touch screen business is making things just horrible. i have ten fingers, and i actually like to feel the pressure and feedback from a real physical keyboard when i type things. seems natural. are we going to write the code of the future on our smartwatches in binary or what? we need more humane devices and more humane interfaces!

Also, in recent years it seems that Apple just loves to announce things that won’t ship for many months. If they did think they could ship a new Mac within a few months, wouldn’t they eagerly announce it at WWDC and just say something vague like “ships in the fall”? To me, that means that nothing will arrive this year.

I actually don't think Apple loves to announce things that won't ship for many months; the majority of their hardware announcements even in recent years have been for products that ship within a couple weeks, or even days, of the announcement. The only exceptions that come to mind offhand are ones driven by screw-ups. The iMac Pro and 2019 Mac Pro wouldn't have been pre-announced at all (and the latter probably wouldn't even exist) if the trashcan Mac Pro hadn't become a minimalist garbage fire, and AirPods, AirPlay 2, and the possibly mythical AirPower clearly ran/are running way behind their intended schedule.

Hardware just doesn't come out every WWDC. I agree with Rogue Amoeba that Apple needs to be willing to do minor hardware updates more frequently than they have been, but I would be surprised if most or all of their laptops don't get an update in the next three months, probably along with the (non-Pro) iMac and the iPad Pro.

They announced the HomePod and failed to ship by the holiday season 2017, and the wireless charging mat announced with the iPhone X still shows no signs of shipping.

Airpods were also late. I think it is better to say nothing than to disappoint.


The charging mat is the AirPower that I referred to. I'm pretty sure that's the name, right? Yes, HomePod also shipped late; I didn't remember that they'd actually given a quasi-date for it that they missed.

(Technically, they only announced AirPower as coming in 2018, but it sure seems unlikely that "nine months and counting" was the original plan.)

I think the Apple leadership's thinking is as follows:

- The revenues and market share of Apple's Mac unit has been stable for years[1]. No big gain, declines or spikes, regardless of how frequently they update, or how close their hardware is to the bleeding edge. Therefore, it makes sense to reduce their expenditure on the Mac until they see a drop in either revenue, market share or profit share, or some other genuine sign of danger beyond the griping of some professionals.

- The personal computer market overall is declining. Spending more for a slightly bigger slice of a shrinking pie isn't worth it, because there's no real opportunity for long-term growth that will please shareholders and analysts.

- Reducing the cadence of Mac hardware updates gradually closes the gap between the performance profiles of the iOS and macOS hardware, which moves them closer to the eventual goal of unifying the mobile and desktop software market.

- More frequent and more regular updates give more power to Apple's suppliers, as they become dependent on them for the components necessary to provide the updates expected by the market. Supply change management is Cook's area of expertise, and by delaying Mac hardware updates, and doing them on an irregular schedule, Apple can reduce supplier leverage, and walk away from deals it considers to be too expensive.

The most important supplier is, of course, Intel, and I think Apple would love to break the industry out of the idea that the supplier tail wags the dog in terms of CPU adoption. E.g. Intel can't just produce a new microarchitecture on their own schedule and assume all manufacturers will rush to adopt it, but instead have to accept a somewhat more subordinate role, whereby the big vendors like Apple can say "this is what we want, this is when we want it, and this is what we'll pay for it."

[1] https://www.macrumors.com/2017/11/02/earnings-4q-2017/

Except that Apple have spent a ton in thoroughly revamping the MBP. They came up with a new slimline design, with a super slimline keyboard mechanism, a brand new programmable touchscreen function bar with thorough support in all their built in applications. The assertion they’ve lost interest in or are ignoring the platform is patently, absurdly false. All of that must have cost a fortune.

The problem is these changes are all highly problematic. The keyboards are unreliable and a lot of pro users and developers hate the touch bar. Those are fair and reasonable criticisms.

Companies aren't people. They don't ever "lose interest" or "ignore" things, and nor did I make such a nonsensical claim. They make decisions on what and where to invest based on rational analysis of the financial math, and the potential risk vs. reward.

Everything I said was related the original article's complaint that Apple have reduced the cadence and regularity of spec-bumps and component upgrades. Their occasional revamp of individual product lines with attempts at competitor-differentiating features is entirely different, and is in fact exactly what you'd expect from a company thinking along the lines I suggested: Trying to reduce supplier power, and optimise their efforts in a market that has not rewarded them in terms of share for being concerned with specs.

But really I suspect you just wanted to moan about the touch bar and keyboards and latched onto a random comment to do so. Great job.

It's surprising that Apple hasn't switched to AMD processors though.

I'm honestly blown away by how many hardware problems I've experienced with my 2017 macbook pro after barely a year :

    * the top 5% of the screen is nothing but horizontal flickering lines
    * there's a similar vertical line down the middle of the screen, but much smaller
    * when the machine heats up, the T and U keys sound like a static discharge
    * my left speaker basically doesn't work and just makes popping sounds
I was already sort of on the fence at the weird 16gb limit on a so-called "pro" machine, but now I'm definitely committed to going in a different direction next time I get new gear.

They're becoming the stale monolith that Jobs once derided in IBM.

I don’t think the iMac line is in bad shape. If I were in the market for a Mac, I could see myself spending almost $3K on an iMac 5K with 32GB of RAM and not feel any regret.

But the entire MacBook line is completely unappealing at thier current prices and with the unreliable keyboard.

I mostly agree. I bought a 27" 5K iMac recently when my personal MBP from 2011 finally kicked the bucket (GPU, of course...). If only it work in target display mode so I could hook up my work MBP to it when I'm at home, I'd be in heaven.

Do you really need to though? I routinely work with two monitors but if I had a 5K iMac. I probably wouldn't care. Between Dropbox and git, it's fairly easy to move between computers.

Some things I can do on my personal machine, but the company VPN is not transferrable so if I need connectivity to something on our network I have to use the work machine for that.

My workaround has been to use a 34-inch widescreen as my primary monitor, with the iMac's built-in screen acting as a second monitor, and then I can just toggle between whichever computer I want to use. It's an okay solution, but it means my primary display isn't 5K

The iMac 5K is the best Mac I've ever owned. Powerful, almost silent, amazing screen, beautiful.

I wish the same could be the said about the rest of the Mac lineup which is in terrible shape.

Apple's logical next step is to end their line of computers, create a locked down "developer pro ipad (jet black is extra)" that comes with a Swift development environment that can only build iOS apps, requires a $50 a month "subscription" to boot up, and can only connect to apple IP addresses. But it will have a beautiful aluminium case.

Careful you don't cut yourself on that edge.

Wife has a Macbook Air from 2013 that recently was water damaged. I took a look at the lineup and there has been almost zero change to the Airs since apparently 2010...same crap screen, monster bezel, and tiny ssds.


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