Well here we go. A colossal botch or just bad timing means that the macOS 10.12.1 release contained graphics showing the new keyboard of a new MacBookSomething, with what appears to be a variable AMOLED strip of “magic keys” and a TouchID sensor. It also sounds as if the new MacBookSomething will have four USB-C ports…and nothing else. No Ethernet, no video-out, no Thunderbolt and certainly no headphone jack.
It’s entirely possible that Jony Ive has disappeared up his own asshole. More to the point, it’s starting to feel disturbingly like 1998, when Apple released the iMac and put paid to every previous input standard of its past. ADB, 8-pin serial and SCSI were all kicked to the curb in favor of USB…and basically nothing else. It was the meteor, the shift from dinosaurs to mammals in the Applesphere. And it was possible because Apple was a drop in the ocean, the company that was 90 days from bankruptcy when its iCEO first arrived, not a meaningful player.
That’s not the case now. Apple makes most of the profit to be made in the personal computing and mobility computing space right now. Depending on what day it is and the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude, they’re the first or second most valuable company on the entire damned planet. They are not so small and insignificant a player that they can engage in that level of self-disruption without consequence.
Or maybe this is Ive’s Keith Hernandez moment. Maybe he thinks they’re SO big, and Mac users have been starved for new hardware for SO long (it’s been over a year since there was so much as a CPU refresh of anything but the MacBook, and the designs themselves are three years old and counting, and the Mac Pro literally hasn’t budged since it was reintroduced in 2013) that the wave of people running out to get SOME new Mac portable that’s not out of warranty will be enough momentum to carry them over the hump. I know I’m in the market, after four years on a cramped and dented MacBook Air at work and another four-ish on a home Mac mini crippled with a 5400rpm spinning drive.
But the fact that it’s been so long – when the MacBook Retina first dropped, the iPhone 5 was au courant – and the change is so radical suggests something else. It is entirely possible that this is another big step toward the Great Convergence when the MacBookSomething is missing an ESC key…just like the keyboard cover on the iPad Pro. It suggests that Apple sees the desktop and laptop computer business as a sideline, a legacy product, something they can afford to play around with because the company doesn’t really depend on it anymore. Take a wild chance on the laptops, no bigs, the money comes from the iOS devices anyway.
And that’s unsettling. Because I’ve made a career for 19 years and counting on enterprise-level IT support for Macs. And I started worrying about getting out of the game three or four years ago because I could see the writing on the wall that said it might not be long before Mac support isn’t a thing any longer. After all, what are the steps in iOS support? Turn it off and back on, delete and reinstall the app, refresh the settings through your corporate MDM client – and that’s almost all there is. You don’t need support staff for an iPad, by and large.
My two decades of Mac support experience aren’t a lot of use in a world with no Macs to support. And if Jony Ive needs to know one thing, it’s not to mess with a Vanderbilt man’s money.