As 2019 draws to a close I find myself looking forward to not just the new technology that we are all expecting in the New Year, but also towards the refinement of current technology through software updates and design changes.
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 03: Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig … [+]
First up, Apple needs to keep addressing the various issues in MacOS Catalina. Announced at WWDC 2019 and released to the public in early October (as well as being installed on every new Mac and MacBook machine going forward), it was not a smooth roll-out.
Putting aside the loss of 32-bit support (which has left behind many long-term users who may not be able to update the OS), Catalina brought forward numerous problems; including popping speakers, unexpected shutdowns, installation hang-ups, Apple ID issues, and more. Some are being addressed now, but these all need to be addressed in 2020.
I’d go so far to say that what I would love to see is no major update to MacOS announced at WWDC 2020. Why push ahead with any major improvements or shiny features when the basic features still have bugs and fixes outstanding? Just focus on a rock-solid stable build of MacOS Catalina with no issues and rebuild user trust in the platform.
SAN ANSELMO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 27: In this photo illustration, the MacBook Pro logo is displayed on … [+]
The loss of user trust, on the most part, can be laid at the foot of the design decisions made for Apple’s laptops over the last few years. The king of these problems has been the scissor-switch keyboard. The intention was to reduce the depth of the keyboard, allowing for a thinner and lighter laptop design. Unfortunately the scissor switch proved unreliable over multiple generations and was eventually replaced on the recently released 16-inch MacBook Pro.
That MacOS laptop also addressed a number of other issues, such as the machine’s thermal efficiency, improved speakers and microphones. Apple has not promoted this to a huge extend – after all there are rather a lot of 13-inch MacBook Pros to sell in the run up to Christmas that do not have these advantages. But once we get into 2020, Apple needs to bring these changes to the smaller MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops.
SHANGHAI, CHINA – 2019/07/22: Apple Macbook Air logo seen on a laptop product in an Apple store in … [+]
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There’s also two obvious gaps in the MacBook portfolio. The first is to find a machine that sits between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. Now that the Air is the lowest machine in the range (with the cancellation of the 12-inch MacBook) it has to accommodate those starting out on their MacOS adventures. As Forbes contributor Brooke Crothers notes, that leaves a big performance gap between the Air and the Pro:
“On a three-week road trip, the MBA Retina was the only laptop I was using every day, all day. Too often it struggled with what I was throwing at it (which, again, was pretty modest). In short, I would not take the current iteration of the MBA Retina on another long road trip.
“Apple’s problem (as I see it): the current MacBook Air (mid-2019) is spec’d like a 2019 version of the 12-inch MacBook would be (if Apple had not discontinued it). But the MacBook Air is decidedly bigger — wider and longer — than the 12-inch MacBook and deserves a faster processor.”
I’m also of the opinion that Apple needs to address the $799 to $899 space. Something that sits below the current MacBook Air, and provides a MacOS laptop experience as a better on-ramp into Apple’s ecosystem for those who don’t want to go down the iPad and keyboard route:
“The MacBook family addresses and solves different problems than the iPad family. Not all of these problems are $1099 problems, but they are problems that countless consumers need addressed. By keeping the entry point to MacOS at such a high level, Apple is ignoring a significant market.
“[…Apple] doesn’t need to fight in the $199 Chromebook market, but Tim Cook and his team should consider the need for a competent laptop in the $799 to $999 range.”
12 November 2019, US, New York: The new MacBook Pro, recorded at an Apple presentation in New York, … [+]
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If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that the MacBook range is no longer one of Apple’s ‘A-List’ product lines, but it remains an important part of the ecosystem. They are used by developers, by creatives, by professionals, and offer a far more flexible toolset than the iPhone, the iPad, or even the iPad Pro equipped with a smart keyboard cover.
In recent years, it feels to me that Apple has forgotten the true nature of the MacBook line up. The 16-inch MacBook Pro teases the possibility that Tim Cook and his team have come to the realisation that the laptop and desktop computers need some more love and attention.
For all the possibilities open to the MacOS range in 2020, receiving copious and visible love and attention from Apple is what I hope for the most.