Apple Has Been Listening

Marco Arment:

It’s hard to tell when Apple is listening. They speak concisely, infrequently, and only when they’re ready, saying absolutely nothing in the meantime, even when we’re all screaming about a product line as if it’s on fire. They make great progress, but often with courageous losses that never get reversed, so an extended silence because we’re stuck with a change forever is indistinguishable from an extended silence because the fix isn’t ready yet.

But there has clearly been a major shift in direction for the better since early 2017, and they couldn’t be more clear now:

Apple is listening again, they’ve still got it, and the Mac is back.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Mac is back, because it was never gone. It was more subtle than that, I think. Apple simply took its eye off the ball on Mac, with hardware that wasn’t suited to many users’ needs (and infrequently updated) and software that was clearly a lesser priority than iOS.

Apple told us two years ago they were more committed than ever to the pro market. Last week’s new Mac Pro proves it. And on the software side, most of the great new stuff Apple unveiled at WWDC is debuting on iOS 13 and MacOS 10.15 Catalina — SwiftUI, the great new voice control accessibility features, and on and on. For a good long stretch, WWDC felt largely like an iOS developer conference. Last week felt like what WWDC should be: an Apple developer conference. Off the top of my head, it was the best WWDC for Mac users and developers since 2005, when the Intel transition was announced.

In a footnote, Arment writes:

I’m excluding the 2018 MacBook Air because it feels like a stopgap that wasn’t originally planned to exist — the no-Touch-Bar 13-inch MacBook “Escape” seemed intended to replace it — that was rushed into the 2016-era generation mid-cycle, rather than being the first of a new design. Even so, with the large exception of the butterfly keyboard, it’s quite good.

I think if any MacBook was a stopgap, it was the no-Touch-Bar 13-inch MacBook Pro, not the Air. I think Apple always planned to ship this new Air, but it was delayed for years because they couldn’t get a chip from Intel that fit the thermal profile they needed. When the no-Touch-Bar MacBook Pro was announced, Phil Schiller did indeed compare it to the old non-retina Air — very similar in footprint, weight, and price*, but with faster performance and a retina display. But I never took that as an indication that it was intended as the old Air’s successor. I think Schiller made the comparison simply because he knew the new Air was still a long way off and the no-Touch-Bar MBP really was a decent machine for people who were waiting for a retina Air.

* The no-Touch-Bar MacBook Pro’s initial starting price of $1,499 was a lot higher than the old Air’s starting price of $999, but it was roughly in the range of better-than-the-base-model Air configurations. And as we all know, when the retina Air did debut, it didn’t start at $999 either.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019