A Terrible Week For The New MacBook Pro – Forbes

It’s the best-selling laptop of the year, perhaps of all time. It brings in a new keyboard paradigm for Qwerty-based keyboards. It continues to build on the idea of ‘it just works‘ and has tight integration with the cloud and your smartphone. So why has the world not fallen in love with the new MacBook Pro?

A number of issues with the laptop have been building up since its October launch and this week feels like a critical mass of ‘there’s something not quite right here’ has been reached. While there are no major issues with the MacBook Pro, these tiny bits of grit are showing up in a number of areas that are taking the shine off the flagship laptop.

Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller speaks during a product launch event at Apple headquarters in Cupertino (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

There are a handful of machines that are already using the Kaby Lake architecture (notably the HP Spectre x360) but the volumes required to be present in the MacBook Pro at launch would have been huge. The decision would have been made earlier in the year, and the safe choice was to stay with Skylake. 2016’s MacBook Pro is coming out as ‘last great laptop’ with the previous generation’s chipset.

Apple has already explained the reasoning behind staying with 16 GB of RAM, it’s a mix of chip requirements, how memory is handled by the hardware and keeping the battery demands as low as possible. All smart decision about the compromises required, but that was explained after the launch and through emails to individual MacBook fans who get in touch with Apple VP Phil Schiller. The disconnect between engineering and marketing has been weakened.

Then there’s the battery itself. As the long-term reviews start to build up, almost all of them are highlighting the shorter battery life of around six to seven hours. These real-world figures stand in contrast to Apple’s up to ten hours’ under specific conditions. There does appear to be a widespread issue, with Apple going so far as to exchanging review laptops reporting low battery life, only for the writers to find that a similar result was reached on the second unit.

The general consensus is that the MacBook Pro’s battery life is weaker than expected. Apple has addressed this in the latest version of macOS by… removing the ‘time remaining’ battery status. Again there are smart reasons the time remaining indicator cannot be super-accurate (under clocking the CPU on demand through software and infrequent but demanding calls to the GPU being two), but I would ask why the new versions of macOS did not have this in place for the launch of the 2016 MacBook Pros. If Apple had genuine cause for concern why had the feature remained in the major version of the OS, only being removed by a minor update when there is a backlash over battery life?

Lurking behind all of this is the Surface Book. Microsoft is very comfortable in its role as the underdog in the hardware world of laptops, it’s gathering press and critical acclaim, and to all intents it looks to be the sexier choice those unencumbered with an existing ecosystem. As Cupertino’s laptop stands still and picks up niggling issues, Redmond’s hardware is subtly pointing out that there is another choice that is even more exciting.

Apple CEO Tim Cook (R) previews a MacBook Pro during a product launch event at Apple headquarters in Cupertino (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

This year’s MacBook Pro has not had an easy ride, but then why should one of the fastest selling laptops from one of the biggest hardware manufacturers expect to be waved through on past glories? On the flip side of that argument is an expected element of tall poppy syndrome. Apple is too big in general and the MacBook Pro a key machine in particular for there not to be dissenting voices.

The negative points around the laptop may be building but the biggest feature should not be ignored.Not only does it continue to sell, but it is continuing to sell well in significant numbers. The issues brought into focus this week will not cause sales to fall off a cliff, they should be seen as early warning signs that need to be addressed in future models. The MacBook Pro is having a hard time, but its status demands that it receives more attention.

How Apple reacts to the attention, how this will impact on the updates to this year’s hardware, and how this will impact the next MacBook Pro will be vital. Will Apple learn from the small mistakes of the 2016 MacBook Pro machines or will it stick to a dogmatic view of what it means to be ‘Pro’ in today’s landscape?

That’s the true value of the noise around the MacBook Pro.

Now read the reviews of the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar…

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