Apple Hardware and Software

The common refrain among Apple users for years was that Apple controls the hardware and software, leading to superior products. More recently, other companies have shown they consider this to be a truth – even Microsoft has introduced some of it’s own hardware under the Surface moniker.

A few weeks ago, there was a bit of a debate around the disparity between Apple hardware, like the Jet Black iPhone 7, and Apple software. (John Gruber’s commentary does a good job of laying out some of the concerns.) Seth Godin said, “Apple has lost the thread and chosen to become a hardware company again.” Now, just after the MacBook Pro update, many long-time Apple users seem to think Apple’s not much of a hardware company either – at least when it comes to the Mac.

What is going on with Apple?

Dongle all the things. Apple has had enough of wires, of multiple port types. If you’re determined to use a wire, you can use a dongle, too. Keep in mind:

  1. We’re in a transition period. Apple is working on moving the entire Mac line to USB-C.
  2. Wires should’ve died a long time ago, and Apple is working like crazy to make this happen. Think of dongles as a passive agressive way to make people hate wires even more.
  3. The major reasons for connecting iPhone to Mac – installing apps, backing up, restoring, resetting – can now be accomplished directly on iPhone or with iCloud.

No pro for you!

Apple appears to be less concerned with pros and semi-pros than ever before. This seems like a dangerous move, because even if pros are a niche, they are more platform loyal – one of the things that helped save Apple in the dark days.

Hardware

Regarding hardware, remember that Apple is at the mercy of Intel, who has been moving sluggishly, continually delaying chip development. This has caused the Mac Pro and MacBook Pro to suffer, and is why the new MacBook Pro is limited to 16GB of RAM. My guess, my hope even, is that Apple is working on custom silicon – and rewriting software – to end dependence on Intel chips.

Schiller reportedly said that they didn’t want to simply offer a speed bump to the MacBook Pro, but an appreciable advance. Unfortunately, I think most MacBook Pro users see this as a minor upgrade, especially after waiting 4.5 years. It’s so bad that some are investigating PC options. (This is ultimately a bad idea; Windows and its programs still bite.)

Even though I don’t depend on the Mac for my living, I do think Apple should be paying more attention to the needs of more professionals. They want performance and battery life and weight balanced in favor of performance. If you slap the Pro label on a modern laptop, I expect discrete graphics, not some integrated junk (yes, I settled). The Mac should continue to be the creative powerhouse, while iPhone and iPad become the everyman’s computers.

Gruber doesn’t agree that Apple doesn’t care about professionals. He specifically mentions the great screen, great SSD read/write speeds, and processor (on the 15″ model). I assume these target audio/video professionals primarily, but he apparently has “many demanding use cases” in mind.

Apple might benefit from setting clearer expectations, for everything, but especially the Mac line. Oh, and they shouldn’t have promised AirPods for late October.

Software

The faults of software stands out, especially when it runs on remarkable hardware. It’s easy to comprehend that the flaws of iOS would stand out against the near perfect single-substance nature of the iPhone 7 in Jet Black. As Dave Winer said over 20 years ago:

Software is a process, it’s never finished, it’s always evolving. That’s its nature. We know our software sucks. But it’s shipping! Next time we’ll do better, but even then it will be [terrible]. The only software that’s perfect is one you’re dreaming about. Real software crashes, loses data, is hard to learn and hard to use. But it’s a process. We’ll make it less [terrible]. Just watch!

Software is complex – far more complex than hardware. With that in mind, iOS is remarkable. But clients don’t care about what you go through, they care about results. And when it comes down to it, users just care that software looks as good and works as perfectly as the hardware it’s on.

I don’t sit in the “Apple is Doomed” camp, but I do feel like they’re floundering just a bit. I hope it’s a temporary thing, or even a mistaken perception.