There has been a lot of controversies during last week about Apple’s new 2016 MacBook Pro and Apple in general as a company. Although some of them are valid complains, I found most of them absurd.
Also some people are comparing Apple’s event with the Microsoft’s Surface Studio announcement on the day earlier, and saying that Microsoft is taking Apple’s place as a innovation leader. I personally don’t think it would happen anytime soon.
Here are some questions I’d like to correct the complaining people’s answers to them.
Is Touch Bar just a gimmick?
Well, I think it’s a great alternative to function keys.
Is Touch Bar a necessary tool for pro users? It might not be. We wouldn’t know until we actually use it for a while. I admit, showing emojis and DJ’ing for the demo was not a great idea. I think Apple tried to show the possibilities, not saying that pro DJs will actually use Touch Bar to mix music.
However, think about it. Who really uses function keys? I only use them for stuff like volume and brightness control. Maybe some windows users are using them as a part of keyboard shortcuts, but most of the Mac users don’t. Is having a dynamic touch screen better than printing icons on the function keys? Of course, it makes much more sense.
Would looking down to tap Touch Bar bothering?
Touch Bar is located less than an inch away from the bottom of the screen. Comparing to the old models, Apple shifted up the keyboard closer to the screen in the new MacBook Pros. Touch Bar is like a blended area between the screen and the keyboard. I haven’t tried Touch Bar yet either, but I think it would be pretty natural.
Will Apple eventually make the whole keyboard touch screen?
Although Touch Bar is designed to look and tap, Keyboard area should remain as tactile keys so that people can type without looking down, just with the muscle memory. That basic principal makes people to be able to use laptops hours without hurting their neck or arm. And that’s what makes laptop a professional device, different from iPad.
Will Apple eventually make a touch screen Mac like Surface Studio?
Apple’s Phil Schiller did a great interview about the new MacBook Pro with Independent. Take his word for this:
…The new MacBook Pro is a product that celebrates that it is a notebook, this shape that has been with us for the last 25 years is probably going to be with us for another 25 years because there’s something eternal about the basic notebook form factor.
You have a surface that you type down on with your hands, with a screen facing you vertically. That basic orientation, that L shape makes perfect sense and won’t go away. The team came up with this idea that you can create a multi-touch surface that’s coplanar with the keyboard and the trackpad but brings a whole new experience into it, one that’s more interactive, with multi-touch.
We’re steadfast in our belief that there are fundamentally two different products to make for customers and they’re both important. There’s iPhone and iPad which are single pieces of glass, they’re direct-manipulation, multi-touch and tend towards full-screen applications. And that’s that experience. And we want to make those the best in that direction anyone can imagine. We have a long road ahead of us on that.
Then there’s the Mac experience, dominated by our notebooks and that’s about indirect manipulation and cursors and menus. We want to make this the best experience we can dream of in this direction.
Should Apple have just kept the tactile ESC key?
ESC key does many things. Exiting fullscreen, cancelling an action and so forth. It would make much more sense to make the key dynamic.
Is going USB-C only a bad idea?
I don’t think so. Having to carry the dongles around might be bothering for now, but if they didn’t go USB-C ports this year, When would it be? They would have the same conflicts and controversies even if it were next year. It’s the same thing as removing the headphone jack from iPhone. It’s obvious that USB-C is thinner, faster and better. All of the peripherals would go USB-C eventually. If you have to do it sooner or later, Why not sooner? It’s about saying no, taking risks, and maybe, courage.
Should Apple have kept MagSafe?
MagSafe is one of the things got removed from the new MacBook Pro that most of people are missing, including John Gruber.
But I think sunsetting MagSafe must have been Apple’s intensional decision. Apple’s ultimate goal for MacBook must be making it a true mobile device. Apple will keep making MacBook lighter and thinner, maybe until when it would be light and thin as actual notebook. What is the ultimate mobile device that exists today? iPhone! Do you need MagSafe when you charge an iPhone? No. You just charge iPhone while you sleep or work, and you don’t plug it in when you use it. Apple’s goal for MacBooks must be the same. Apple doesn’t design out of needs. Their design speaks the direction that the product is going.
Is Microsoft Surface Studio a revolutionary product?
I think Surface Studio is actually a gimmicky product.
Microsoft has been very good at showing future concept products in a very cool way. But they have not been very successful delivering great product that people can actually use daily bases. Zune, Kin, HoloLens, Windows Phone, Microsoft Band, Those were all nice concept but not useful on arrival. They did a great job on Surface Studio intro video as well to make the product look attractive.
Last weekend, I stopped by Microsoft Store in San Francisco to try the Surface Studio. It was a beautiful product, and the hinge was really smooth and great. I’m an amateur illustrator too, so I tried to draw something on the screen. I tried Microsoft’s Paint app first, and it was awful. There was a quite noticeable latency and the drawn line was very bumpy. So I tried to open Photoshop instead. Drawing was much smoother and better on Photoshop, but one problem was that Paint and Photoshop’s windows resolutions were totally different. That made me so hard to select menu with the stylus because the targets were so tiny. I asked about it to one of the agents, but he couldn’t answer it and kept asking if I have tried the new 3D drawing feature. By the way, Surface Studio is running Windows, which is a desktop OS, so you can actually see a mouse cursor below the stylus if you hover it close enough to the screen. It was an awful experience.
I tried the Surface Dial too. It didn’t feel as good as I expected. It rattled when I shook it side ways, and when I put it on the screen it kept sliding down although I laid the screen all the way down. And I think Surface Dial itself is very gimmicky product. It looks very cool in the intro video, but I don’t understand why anyone would buy a $100 accessory when you can just control everything on the touch screen.
A quote from Mashable’s ‘Artists get real about Microsoft’s Surface Studio’ piece:
I think it’s totally fine, except for the round knob…that looks dumb. It’s like they thought, ‘Hey, we need another peripheral. Let’s make a knob that you slap on the screen, because when people draw they want to hold more than just a pen.’ (We don’t.)” — Artist who doesn’t want your dumb dial.
I felt the same way.
I went to Apple Union Square right after the Microsoft store, and tried Apple Pencil on 12.9-inch iPad Pro. It felt so much better. No mouse cursor, and just felt like drawing on a paper.
Will Apple be in trouble now?
Nope. No need to worry about it. Although Apple seemed pretty shocked by all of the backlashes, They had more orders for the new MacBook Pro than any other pro notebook before. And they are doing pretty good overall. Will Microsoft Surface Studio be a huge hit? We should wait and see, but I would bet against it.