My frustrations with Apple’s new Macs

So Apple released their new Macs with Apple Silicon now, and while I was really looking forward to this transition, there are things that just irk me and make me hold off from purchasing.

What was released?

Apple put out three new computers, that all feature on new System-on-a-Chip (SoC), named M1. It’s a 13″ MacBook Air, a 13″ MacBook Pro and a Mac Mini.

Unlike with their previous transition from PowerPC to Intel (2005 f.), Apple aren’t changing their branding here. The main difference between the MacBook Air and the Pro are that the Pro has a bigger battery for supposedly crazy long battery life, a fan, and the TouchBar. They all, including the Mac Mini, have two USB 4/Thunderbolt ports (the Mac Mini thankfully adds two USB-A ports, Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI 2.0).

Apple harps that these new models are sooo much faster, and early benchmarks seem to confirm that. Now, that’s great – and the massive increase in battery life (Apple says these machines are going to last up to 18 hours (MacBook Air)/ 20 hours (MacBook Pro)) is also awesome.

So what’s your problem?

Repairability and upgradability

Earlier this year Apple went big on boasting what they are doing for the environment. They also previously were big on showing off their recycling efforts. Now what’s better, than recycling? Right, reducing!

Modern Apple Hardware (including, but not limited to MacBooks) seeks to make user/self repair and repair by 3rd parties impossible. Now while there are good reasons for this (protecting the brand by ensuring a good experience), it still is likely leading to more e-waste than neccessary and thus bad.

Bad Default specs

Random Access Memory

It’s 2020. While 8GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD as defaults may be justifiable for people that are looking for a MacBook Air, it’s just a total joke that they even offer that as default for their “Pro” branded offering.1 It’s almost like no one at Apple ever uses the RAM-eating shit-fest the modern web is, or if, they only use it in their own Safari browser (that is, the parts of the web that work in Safari).2
Now, a lot of RAM use may go to Electron-based apps, that may be replaceable by more RAM-friendly iOS apps now (assuming the app developers allow runnning their iOS apps on the Mac), which might drop RAM load. Still, 16 GB as a default with 32 GB as an upgrade option would have been the right way to go, ensuring long usable lifetimes for these new computers.

SSD / File Storage

When you boast that your new hardware is great at multimedia work, please, for the love of god, supply reasonable storage options. While a 2 TB maximum is ok (not really for the ‘Pro’, admittedly), it’s just crazy expensive at 800 USD (896 EURO) upgrades. And you have to choose your size when you buy it, you can’t upgrade afterwards.3

Now, they have some reasoning for that. But why not go the Microsoft route, and allow upgrading by having an empty m.2-slot or even something proprietary, that’s user accessible for later upgrades? Why not at least allow an option for slower storage (e.g. by adding a microSDXC-card slot), for all the people who want to keep their family photos on device?

Pricing

Last but not least, pricing. I don’t want to make this about their bad european pricing4
I love the Mac5, and I would love for it to be more affordable.

Apple is able to deliver great products at affordable price points, as evidenced by their entry level iPad. I want Apple to adopt a strategy that allows them to gain market share, because I do strongly believe that they offer something great with the Mac, that enables people to do more with there Computers without these being as “dumbed down” as the mobile platforms.

Switching to their own Apple Silicon is considered to likely increase Apples profit margin by quite a bit, yet they kept pricing mostly the same. This, as I believe, is going to harm them in the future, if they want to cut on their margin to offer products for the Everyman or education (in a push for market share or against Chromebooks) and not just their usual high-income bracket – shareholders would likely have questions and not approve.

Conclusion

I won’t buy a laptop for almost 2000 EUR unless I am certain to be able to use it for at least 4 years as my main machine. I am not sure that a 16GB RAM MacBook Air or Pro can deliver that, so I will just sit tight and wait for their next announcement.

Also, I have little hope that they are going deliver a cheaper, entry level MacBook (at least for education), and clear up their “Pro” branding problem. Long term they should refocus more on customers, deliver hardware that makes their environmental claims more credible, respect the right-to-repair more and bring their mission of preserving user privacy to everyone.

Unfortunately, Apple seem to be too obsessed with their bottom line to care enough about anything else.

  1. The MacBook line generally has had serious branding issues for since the introduction of the “not really Pro” 13″ MacBook Pro. []
  2. The blame is on the web developers here that don’t do a proper job and build incompatible websites, not on Apple. []
  3. It’s been like this since 2016, I know. But it’s still terrible. []
  4. If you were to use the current exchange rate, add german sales tax of currently 16 % you would end up at 980,81 EUR for the 999 USD Macbook Air, not the 1100,50 EUR they ask for. []
  5. I am very much a Linux user, too, but I won’t get into the additional problem with only being able to VM my Linux needs here in order to keep this piece more concise. []

CES 2011: First third hand impressions

While I could spend my time with something else as well (and I mostly do over the day here in Europe), it´s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA again. Even though I haven´t been that much into tech lately (besides scrolling the daily tech news), I must admit that as always (since I follow mobile computing) I´ve been pretty exited.

It´s CES, and that´s great, just like Computex or MWC (the German trade show CeBIT hasn´t been too exiting lately, btw) and while it isn´t too tough to guess which rumors might become true (even as a bystander, like me, I would like you to consider me as an attentive bystander), you still always sense something whenever you see a first “hands on” or follow a live blogging session from a press conference. There is surprise (rare, but it happens), disappointment, sheer exitement or happiness (because something came out the way you dreamt of it) or fear (you don´t like what happens, whatever the trigger is).

I will not bore you with more detailed descriptions, I will just try to name anexample for each of the feelings I tried to describe above.

Let´s start with surprise: When I first saw the ASUS EeePad MeMO I was really surprised (positively) to see a tablet with a stylus from a company like ASUS, which is a hardware company (and adding in a Stylus within a finger touch environment like Android requires additional software to make real sense, from note taking to hand writing recognition). Still, ASUS has proven to be innovative during the last years, and I really hope that others will follow them – don´t forget: it was ASUS who invented netbooks, after all.

Next on: Disappointment. Well, there wasn´t too much disappointment yet, probably because other news have been to overwhelming. Still, there is one product which I followed in the past which will (as I see it now) not live up too its hype, which I´ve been a little part of. It´s the Notion Ink adam. Looking at all these Tegra2 tablets getting ready for the market, announced with better screen resolutions and Android Honeycomb (featuring the Android market) I expect this tablet not to be the success it could have been, if only it would have been ready earlier – if NotionInk had managed to hit the market this November with a less perfect, but still promising and relatively bug free outstanding product, NotionInk could have hit it off. Now, still not available in the stores and about to hit within a plethora of similar devices (to the eye of the average customer), considering the amount of thought the makers of adam put into it, inferior solutions featuring the software Google created and Googles Android Market, sounding alltogether less biblical (I never loved these adam, Eden … names), NotionInks´ solution will have a very hard time to perform half decent next to all these things with known brandnames on them. I just hope, that they will survive (and be it as a team, then part of another company – Toshiba seems to need some brilliant engineers, looking at their failure with the Folio 100 (and other, earlier mobile solutions like the TG01), btw ;-) ).

Sheer exitement / happiness. I like what Motorola did by creating a phone (the Atrix 4G) that will power a subnotebook. This is truely great, even though Motorola sucked at Openness (as in hackability) lately, because it is what I dreamt of years ago, when I had my first Linux powered smartphone, the Motorola A780.

Fear. Well, I could have just mentioned the NotionInk adam in this section, but I felt just too certain about its failure, so what will I put into this section? Yes, it´s Microsoft really porting Windows to ARM. It´s not Microsoft, I don´t expect them to fail, it´s that I am afraid of Microsoft killing other, in terms of user experience superior solutions with its momentum. A momentum it has because almost everybody is used to the shit (not talking about software quality here, but about user interface design) they´ve been delivering for years. I really hoped they´d stick to CE. And to be perfectly honest: It´s not just the usability that makes me worry, it´ s that I am great fan and supporter (whereever I can) of open source software, which will suffer in one or another way (open 3d graphics drivers is one frontier harder to fight at now). Microsoft really entering the ARM platform (a move which, with Intel (&Nokia) working on Meego) makes perfect sense from all standpoints I can think of (be it technics or business), but still, for the reasons mentioned above I would have loved to see Microsoft failing at doing the obvious thing.

I will write more about this CES if I feel like, promised.
Apologies: I left out links out of pure laziness, I expect my readers to be able to find the information they need themselves.