Overdue batch of Apple-related thoughts
I procrastinated on my usual post-WWDC thoughts post, and now there’s been a couple more keynotes (iPhone/Apple Watch, and MacBook), so I figured this might be as good a time as any.
To start with, I really like Apple’s current “do good” streak. The long segment about privacy and the environment opening the March 2016 keynote. The short movie about diversity among developers during the WWDC keynote, thoroughly shattering the stereotype of the developper is a joy to watch. And the part about accessibility at the beginning of yesterday’s one (October 2016) echoed with Apple’s ideals of transforming lives. Yeah, it’s not just a marketing ploy, they really are dead serious about this.
From WWDC, two things I wanted to mention. First, how they reworked and reoriented watchOS to put the emphasis on the health and fitness, and giving up on the fashion and “deeply personal” side of it. The 2nd button used to be dedicated to this latter functionality, and in the past year I’ve worn my Apple Watch daily, I don’t recall ever actually using it. As, I believe, most Apple Watch owners. So Apple recognized their mistake, and used it to invoke a much more useful app dock instead. Good move. Second, a strong highlight of Swift on the server. Having anticipated that ever since Swift was first introduced, I’m happy about it.
About getting rid of the audio jack on the iPhone, they really could have done without the whole “courage” speech. I figure they thought of it as a defense against inevitable criticism, but it was a bit ridiculous, and is now used to make fun of them. Even more now that the new MacBooks still have an audio jack, but no lightning port. This breaks the nice ecosystem cohesion that would let you plug your iPhone’s earphones in your MacBook and have the remote work just as on your iPhone.
So, those new MacBooks… Yes, the Touch Bar is really nice (I wonder if it will be available in a refresh of the Magic Keyboard), but that’s about the only positive thing I find about them. I’m part of the crowd for which expandability (RAM and HD) and capacity is more important than thinness or lightness (and the same applies to desktop Macs). Regarding processing power, the overall opinion about them is they could be much better if they were using Intel’s most current generation. Given that it seems obvious now that Macs will eventually move to ARM CPUs, I keep hoping that all this feet-dragging is because Intel is weighing them down compared to what they’d want to do. But for now, between these MacBooks and the ongoing lack of desktop upgrades, I’ll add my voice to the overall disappointed reaction to yesterday’s keynote. Right now, no Mac really suit my needs, which were fulfilled by the 2008 MacPro. I'd also be very disappointed if they would abandon the current (well, so to speak) 2013 MacPro, it's a beautiful machine, which deserves more attention. Of course we can reasonably expect iMacs refreshes in the coming months, but if it's more of the same meh-specs & low upgradability, it will be another let down.
EDIT Nov 28, 2016 : Since then there's been a whole lot of articles explaining the reasons behind the various limitations (RAM, CPU...) of the new Macbooks : Daring Fireball, MacDaddy, and an interview by Phil Schiller himself (which means Apple took the criticisms seriously). Another interesting take is that USB-C ports open a lot of interesting possibilities. As in some previous cases (floppy drive, USB, CD ROM), Apple is just a bit ahead of the market here (and therefore helping to move it forward) and when the accessories are all updated, these all-USB-C set of ports will be seen as obvious. I've also tried the Touch Bar, which confirmed my initial impression that it's a really clever addition to a keyboard.