When it comes to watching Apple, there’s an old saying that keeps coming to the forefront of my mind (which, I think is just behind my forehead); “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
Alright, we’re talking at multiple levels with that saying, but you’ll get the idea. Apple’s product line changes are consistently incremental in nature, and disruptive changes are less consistent. The mantra of thinner, lighter, faster seems like a safe bet to describe the future, but I think there’s more on the way.
Where’s That Damned Puck?
Steve Jobs had a number of colorful sayings to describe his perspective on how to run a technology company. One of them was a twist on hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.
There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been. And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple.
Perhaps that’s the case, but Apple often lags behind competitors with certain features and functions while at the same time advancing the state of the art. Apple’s A9 CPUs in newer iPhone and iPad models screams at and stomps the competition, while the iPhone’s camera has lagged behind recent models from Samsung.
Why? Leapfrog. Apple is satisfied with current features but is busy working on tomorrow’s features, which when launched, will take the competition a few years to catch up. In other words, same old, same old.
What Of The Mac?
Last year Apple introduced the new MacBook and you would have been hard pressed to find another Windows PC as thin and light and as fast. I’ve had sandwiches which weighed more. That was then and this is now and what have you done for me lately? In barely a year, the MacBook has grown long in the tooth as Windows PC notebooks are, well, thinner, lighter, and faster.
My expectation is that 2016 will be one of those leapfrog years for the Mac’s notebook line. First, at WWDC, Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in late spring, we’ll see MacOS. Goodbye, OS X. The numbering scheme was getting whacky and out of sorts. OS X El Capitan 10.11.x is just wrong. Keep it simple. MacOS and a version number. That’s enough. Unless we’re ready for OS X Bakersfield, or OS X Hollywood. My money is on ‘macOS’ to match iOS, watchOS, tvOS.
On the hardware side it’s the MacBook Pro line which seems lined up at the engineering trough, ready for a makeover to thinner, lighter, faster, and, frankly, it’s about time. Compared to the diminutive MacBook, the Pro models are gargantuan, heavier than a politician with no competition to run against. But these changes are incremental in nature; thinner, lighter, faster is the order of the day for the present, and does not tell us where the puck will be.
So, where is the puck going? Will Apple get there first?
Two words. MacPad.
Alright, that’s one word. Two syllables, though, so close, right? The Windows world is awash with tablet notebook hybrids; full on Windows 10 devices which have a detachable keyboard and a touchscreen. That makes them a tablet of sorts, in some ways more powerful than an iPad, and in other ways more cumbersome and less likely to be used as a tablet. Which is more user friendly? iOS on an iPad? Or, Windows 10 on a touchscreen tablet?
A Bridge Too Far
Somewhere down the road Apple must be looking at a convergence point. The high end iPad Pro is just dollars less expensive than the entry-level MacBook. The former has up to 256GB of storage while the latter can go to 500GB, but also comes with 8GB of RAM. They’re similar in size and weight, too.
Here in 2016 Apple makes a strong case that iOS on a true tablet is better than Windows on a touchscreen notebook, and make no mistake, those are notebooks with detachable (or, attachable) keyboards; they’re not tablets in the iPad sense, and despite running Windows 10 with all of the Windows apps available, iPad users have great app choice; just not more powerful apps.
The question I have is this. Will Apple bridge the divide between a Mac and an iPad Pro with a less powerful, smaller Mac, or a more powerful Mac-like iPad? Add a keyboard to a high end iPad Pro and it’s priced more than the entry-level Mac that comes with a keyboard and because it’s Intel Inside and runs OS X, it’s far more capable and can run OS X, Windows, and various flavors of Linux and Unix, too. All at the same time if needed.
My money is on a bridge product. The MacPad. Maybe that’s not the name, but a Mac with a touchscreen and more iOS-like simplicity might be where the puck will be.