Tim Cook’s Awkward Challenge To Define The MacBook Pro – Forbes
What does it mean to be a Pro machine in 2017?
There was a time in the smartphone market when your handset was regarded as extra-special because it was one of the few handsets to come with a GPS chip. Now that every handset carries the positioning hardware, the power of GPS to sell a high-end machine has disappeared, it is little more than table stakes to start playing in the smartphone world.
Previously, unique or expensive elements such as GPS helped create differing layers of features in consumer hardware. You had high-end devices that packed in the features, you had mid-rage handsets that perhaps focused on one area (music, navigation, imaging), and you had the functional low-tier handsets that may not have the bells and whistles, but could make calls and get on with your life.
Today’s market has pretty much settled on what technology belongs inside consumer electronics – there’s nothing easily implemented that is new and not yet present. Thanks to a mix of Moore’s Law and commoditization of the production chain, even the lowest-priced smartphones are sporting the same technology as those found at the very top end. Perhaps the numbers are slightly smaller, but they are present with sufficient capability to be regarded as ‘good enough’ for the average user.
This has impacted countless product lines from every manufacturer, but I want to look through this lens at Apple’s laptop range. In previous years it was relatively easy to see where the spilt was. The MacBook was good enough, and the MacBook Pro had all the extra technology that would allow you to make best use of the computer for those in demanding roles. Then features started creeping downwards. First the MacBook Airs and then the new MacBooks of the world were able to match the offerings of the MacBook Pro at a ‘good enough’ level for the vast majority of consumers. The MacBook’s ‘Pro’ moniker is struggling to define itself in the market beyond a gauge notion of ‘faster chips and more storage’.
When Tim Cook stood up at the recent shareholders meeting to say “you will see us do more in the pro area” I want to know what he thinks the Pro area actually is. It should be more than maximizing the speed, memory, and storage of a device. It should be more than gimmicks like the Touch Bar. It should be more than ‘this machine costs more because it’s the Pro machine.’
Tim Cook’s answer fails to answer what Apple considers the Pro area to represented. He comforted the audience with this: “The pro area is very important to us. The creative area is very important to us in particular. Don’t think that [because] something we’ve done or something we’re doing that isn’t visible yet is a signal that our priorities are elsewhere. It’s very, very important to us.”
I want Apple to genuinely answer the question of what a “pro’ machine stands for in 2017 and then deliver on that vision. I’m not satisfied with Cook’s Emperor’s New Clothes approach of stating that the area is important without actually saying what the area is.
I’ve no doubt that Apple’s MacBook machines of every flavor will continue to sell in higher and higher quantities this year and beyond. The appetite from consumers is voracious, and there are a lot of people to reach who want a machine that is ‘good enough’ that comes with Apple’s reputation for build quality and after-sales support.
Yet this is little more than box shifting. Expensive boxes, but box shifting nonetheless. For me a Pro machine should represent the apex of a company’s vision. It should be bold, it should be distinctive, and it should be clearly communicated. Those of us looking to live on Apple’s bleeding edge can see higher specifications and a cute Touch Bar, but no desire or fire to define a new era of pro machines.
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