I got a 17" Macbook Pro in 2009 (when they were still riding the wave of the iPhone) because it was a solid piece of hardware and gave me a sweet spot of down-the-road-choice (I exchanged the cd bay with another hdd, added Ram, installed Linux). I was looking forward to buying further Macbooks in the future.
All that was shattered with their new Macbook lineup (which are pretty much just beefier MB Airs). They flat out killed the 17" (which I still consider the perfect on-the-go workstation).
I considered Apple very relevant around the iPhone release. The current direction is not the iPhone direction. It is the iPad direction. That's when they started to go somewhat batshit on driving away professional users. They could have maintained both camps pretty handily in my opinion. Both camps were quite happy and got along great. Why they decided to kill off one is beyond me. Sure, there is more money in everyday clients, but I doubt they were actually hurting their business with power users.
Consider this: When I - a staunch defender of FOSS, user of Kubuntu, Free Software programmer, ardent antagonist of everything Microsoft - got my Macbook, I actually started recommending Macs as a choice to others. It actually did seem to me a better choice than going with Microsoft Windows. These days, I recommend Windows 7.
I also got a 17" MacBook Pro around the time you did. I really wish I hadn't though, it's way too heavy to really be useful for anything but using around my apartment. I've tried to travel with it a few times and really regretted it.
While I don't relish the idea of a non-upgradable system, I do appreciate Apple trying to shave off every last possible gram from their laptops. My next laptop will probably be a 13" Air for that reason.
Wow, I'm in almost exactly the same boat. I'm on my third and apparently final 17" MBP. I have started resigning myself to switching back to Ubuntu but I'm not enjoying being forced off a beautiful platform after having made friends and family switch. I had been an ardent Linux user for a long time before I went Mac and it looks like I'll be returning sometime in the next few years.
You can still get 13" and 15" "traditional" (non Retina display) machines which are part of the "new" lineup. My early 2011 15" with matte display, SSD, and 16GB RAM seems to be a good compromise of still being under my control, yet gaining most of the performance benefits of the 15" rMBP.
>While we're keeping history in context, let's also not forget this is also the company that was borderline irrelevant prior to their current direction.
You're retconning. Apple hasn't been 'borderline irrelevant' since before they launched the iPod in 2001. There's a six year gap there in between the iPod and the iPhone, and imho they didn't really change their direction until 2010 or 2011, with the release of OSX Lion, neglect of the Mac Pro, and the killing off of the 17" MBP.
I won't dispute that they're far more relevant today, but I disagree that they were borderline irrelevant circa 2005. They were quite successful selling Macs and had a credible alternative to the Windows monopoly.
The iOS stuff certainly moved them to a whole new plane of success, but I don't have to like it.
As a power user I don't 'like' it either. But I don't 'hate' it. I just use third party services when Apple's offerings don't fit.
The only bit I took issue with, is holding up Apple as having 'failed' simply because their focus is on other types of users. Particularly when they're serving those users at least as well as any alternative. And when those users are far, far more numerous than users like myself and their needs far, far easier to meet in an engineering and support sense.