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  • Believing Spin From the Critics

    May 19th, 2017

    I do enjoy the back and forth of friendly debate. I realize that my opinions are strictly those of one person, so I don’t make a big deal of their relevance. But I will defend them when I feel necessary.

    Now as you know, Apple has loads of critics. So does Google and Microsoft, and all the rest. But it seems the emotions are higher with Apple, not to mention the false or misleading assumptions. That’s why I probably use an inordinate amount of space in these columns to set things right. It’s the old-time journalist in me.

    So I have had a back and forth with a reader who is unhappy with Apple’s design directions. As a result, he went ahead and bought a Windows all-in-one, specifically a 2-in-1, which has a touchscreen. Now I’m not going to argue preference, but I felt that the reasons were exaggerated.

    For those who read these columns regularly, I had a similar argument with another reader a few months back, one who voiced similar excuses. I wouldn’t assume it’s the same person, because such views aren’t uncommon.

    Consider the polarized reactions to the Late 2016 MacBook Pro. At first, it seems a mostly modest refresh, with a somewhat slimmer and lighter case, beefier and more current parts, and one fascinating new feature. Instead of having those old fashioned function keys, Apple opted to provide a one-row OLED touchscreen. What’s more, it’s powered by an ARM system on a chip derived from the one used for the Apple Watch. That means an iOS-derived mobile OS is powering the Touch Bar.

    So you have one notebook computer with two CPUs and two operating systems working together seamlessly. As I said, fascinating.

    But critics were all over Apple for this supposed needless fluff, since the move evidently contributed to adding several hundred dollars to the purchase price. This brought them in line with the original 2012 MacBook Pro with Retina display. So maybe, over time, prices will drift downward as Apple perfects the manufacturing process and finds ways to make the parts cheaper.

    So Apple was attacked for the higher prices. While Apple has never built a notebook supporting more than 16GB RAM, they were also attacked for not moving to 32GB this time, which is what some Windows notebooks offer. But not a Microsoft Surface notebook, with which Macs are being compared. Take note of that.

    Overall, however, customers evidently were willing to pay more, witness higher Mac sales for the last two quarters, after dipping sales earlier this year.

    The critics still want 2-in-1, buttressed by the launch of the Microsoft Surface Studio, which sports a 28-inch touchscreen. The Studio does seem to have appeal to a certain segment of creatives, but nonetheless Surface sales dipped 26% in the March quarter. So evidently not enough people care, or this is a product that occupies a smaller niche than a Mac Pro.

    Again, I don’t argue with someone’s decision to switch from the Mac to Windows. But don’t forget a Hackintosh, if you’re a hobbyist and don’t need a reliable work machine.

    But other than a do-it-yourself Mac clone, a Windows PC is meant to run Windows. So the next argument has it that Windows 10 is closer to the macOS, so maybe it doesn’t make so much of a difference anymore.

    Does that sound familiar to you?

    In 1995, they said that Windows 95 was close enough to the Mac OS to justify a switch.

    Indeed, they have pretty much said that with every new iteration of Windows. It’s always just behind the Mac, so why not save money and get with the program?

    Almost as good doesn’t mean parity. While some may argue that Apple should not have added iOS-style interface elements and features to macOS, most of that was done primarily to allow shared features with your iPhone or iPad. Microsoft doesn’t need to do much of that because its mobile platform is nearly kaput.

    iOS? Well, isn’t Android pretty close by now?

    Actually, Android probably has more features, and surely more options to configure your mobile device. But security remains questionable. Huge numbers of Android handsets still aren’t running the latest OS, and are using versions often as old as two or three years. Google seems to expect you to depend on Google Play for security updates, and they sure hope you won’t sideload apps, which means installing them from outside sources.

    So maybe Android has become a more solid competitor to iOS, but since Google can’t seem to make any headway in updating recent mobile handsets, does it even make a difference?

    Besides, iPhones still tend to run faster than Android gear, even when the latter has what appear to be much more powerful hardware. Evidently you need to take a sledgehammer approach to make Android seem fluid.

    In June, Apple is expected to demonstrate the next generation of iOS and macOS. If they aren’t misfires, it will advance Apple’s platforms yet again to new heights. There are features I’d like to see, particularly improved multitasking and enhanced file system access for iPads. And maybe find ways to make it seem more than just a larger iPod touch.

    There will continue to be comments from readers who aren’t happy with Apple for one reason or another and have thus given up on Macs and other gear. They will try to justify their reasons for switching, implying that Apple has dropped the ball. I’ve read the same argument for years, and someday it might come true. You could argue that the Mac deserves more attention, but most of the arguments still seem old and tired.



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