So What Else Might Apple Give Up?

November 23rd, 2016

Apple’s recent decisions raise the question about what they might give up on next? So there are no more Thunderbolt displays — or any displays with the Apple brand — and Apple has worked with LG to produce 4K and 5K displays with the proper features to support the new MacBook Pros and other gear. In recent days, the future of automation, AppleScript, has arisen what with the dismissal of long-time manager Sal Soghoian, although Apple claims that they haven’t given up on the technology.

On Monday came reports that Apple’s Wi-Fi router division, the one that built AirPort gear, has been disbanded. Of course, this hasn’t been confirmed, and AirPort gear is still being sold. But none of the products have been upgraded since 2013, and Wi-Fi technology has continued to advance.

Certainly the future of the Mac was questioned before last month’s media event. But the presentation focused solely on the MacBook Pro. The MacBook Air lineup was reduced to the 13-inch version, with the 11-inch consigned to educational use. Nothing was said about desktops.

So the argument goes: What about the Mac Pro? Although it’s clearly not a huge seller, there is a segment of Mac users who require a professional workstation for such processor-intensive work as 3D rendering, math and science. These are people who helped keep the Mac platform afloat for years even during the dark days 20 years ago when it appeared Apple would die. Does it make sense to just leave these users to fend for themselves, which most likely means Windows? Remember that high-end users of this sort also influence other purchases too, for home, other divisions in a company and so forth.

At the same time, IBM has over 90,000 Macs in use around the company, and they are saving loads of money compared to PCs. That would surely indicate Apple cares about getting Macs in the enterprise — at long last. So why would they abandon the entire platform?

Besides, it’s not as if Apple isn’t investing in the Mac. Clearly the Touch Bar and the entire MacBook Pro redesign involved a substantial investment in time and money. It probably involves a higher investment than most any PC maker would generally commit to new models. So does Apple understand the needs of its customers?

In most every way, the new MacBook Pro is better than its predecessor, although processor performance is not much better. But that’s the limit of Intel’s processors. So the SSD and graphics deliver much higher benchmarks. The 15-inch model drives two 5K displays, each with single cables. Clearly the larger audience for Retina-style displays represents the professional/business. So why do it if Apple isn’t interested in the pro market?

The complete switch to USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 is at most a short-term inconvenience, that will lessen as more accessories that support these ports are released.

What about the Touch Bar? A silly toy, or a valid productivity tool that answers the concerns about notebooks with touchscreens? Apple made a point of demonstrating how it improves productivity for Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Photoshop workflows. Microsoft is adding support for Mac Office? Why do that for a feature that is only available in a single model line unless Apple plans a wider rollout in the future?

Indeed, I would not be surprised to see a Magic Keyboard 2 with Touch Bar, and perhaps support in a future MacBook. That would justify developer support.

Yes, there are valid concerns. The loss of the MagSafe adapter, which has prevented Mac notebooks from dropping to the ground when a cable is randomly tugged, for example. But I do suppose that such support could be grafted onto a power adapter with USB-C capability. There’s also the 16GB RAM imitation, and Apple marketing VP Philip Schiller is extremely sensitive to those concerns, pointing out on several occasions that both performance and battery life would suffer if Apple moved to a technology that allowed you to install a maximum of 32GB.

At the end of the day, the best answer is customer demand. It may seem high now because Apple hasn’t fully ramped up production, although that’s not something that outsiders would know, unless there are rumors from the supply chain. But if demand continues through the first quarter of 2017, perhaps Apple is on to something.

Some suggest Apple ought to spin off the Mac into a separate division, but that is just paper pushing. It may not actually help when it comes to development efficiencies, because of the tight integration between macOS and iOS.

There’s also a published report speculating that Apple’s chief designer,  Sir Jonathan Ive, is no longer directly involved in actually designing new Apple gear. According to such tech journalists as Jason Snell, a former editor at Macworld, he’s spending most of his time dealing with Apple’s new spaceship campus. But even if he isn’t sitting alongside his team working on new gear, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have final approval, which means they would have his stamp on them even if he’s not doing much in the way of grunt work anymore.

Should Ive leave. though, there’d be a huge media freakout, even if his team is perfectly capable of doing the job without him to lead them on.

What’s Apple going to give up on next? Not the Mac, though gear more suited to pro users might not get much love going forward.

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