Feedback on the latest podcast from "Next ten words"


Oct 27, 2015
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The latest podcast discussed the Apple round table discussion with invited guests concerning the next Mac Pro. You had Nilay Patel invited.

What surprised me was the very critical angle during that podcast - combined with some glaring discrepancies. My take from this podcast is that a lot of tech journalists have submerged themselves in a big echo chamber, where they are hollering "Apple should do better!" at each other. In the meantime, Apple is completely destroying the competition, while at the same time innovating at an exponential rate (when compared to other companies through history).

First, let's look at this whole Mac Pro debacle. People are disappointed, I get it. And it seems Apple gets it as well. So senior leadership at Apple has decided to make it better. But then the discussion on the podcast becomes a bit unhinged. In summary, it boils down to (1) Apple forgot the very important "Pro" segment by making an underpowered machine and (2) Apple should be aspirational!

Well, the current Mac Pro IS aspirational! You can use 20/20 hindsight and say that they judged it wrong (two GPUs, external hardware upgrades), but that machine could have gone further, if those bets had been right. They ended up being wrong because the market moved in another direction, probably because the rest of the PC market was not willing to pay for all those GPUs and expensive upgrades needed to fuel the external hardware evolution. Buying single GPUs is cheaper, as is buying internal hardware.

But what surprises me the most with this whole line of thinking is the way you bring up the Microsoft Studio as a Pro machine. Is it really? Or is it a somewhat underpowered PC with a really good touch screen, some really nice peripherals and a good hinge? Is that for Pros - or is it for a segment of Pros who work with graphic design and drawing? Because at the same time, you complain about the Mac Pro not being fast enough for handling demanding graphics work - I assume you're talking about video rendering, 3D design etc. I don't think the Microsoft Studio is build to do stuff like that. I mean, no Xeons and relatively small hard drives. And the graphic cards are not able to handle VR. In fact, judging from the tech specs, the present iMac beats the Studio hands-down on everything except the GPU. But as you have stated, the iMac is not a Pro machine. If that's true, then neither is the Studio.

A lot of the premis in this podcast is that Apple is not doing enough for the Pro segment. I agree up to a point. But the Pro segment is not what the Pro segment was back in 2013. A lot of Pros (as defined in: People, who use Apple products to earn a living) use a growing number of Apple products every day. Best example is probably the Apple Watch, which is now the most used health tool kit in the world (as measured in how much data is collected every single day). It is probably the most important tech tool today - but all that research doesn't have an effect in your columns. It will in medical journals, though. And no tech company has done anything similar. In fact, they are not even close.

The iPad Pro is another example. Used by a lot of people, including the Pro segment in graphic design. So successful that companies like Adobe and Microsoft develop apps for it. And the iPhone, of course.

All of the above seem to be forgotten by you guys. Instead, you talk about how the Mac Pro should be so much better, about how the MacBook Pro should also be so much better and how Apple should just put touch screens on the MacBooks already! How about you tech journalists kept to what you're good at, which is discussing what's happening in the tech world, and let Apple do what what it does best: Design and sell tech stuff?

The market for laptops with a touch screen is so razor thin, it makes the market for the current Mac Pro look pretty amazing! And it's not because the products aren't there - they are. No one's buying, though. That might - just might - be because using a laptop with a touch screen is really not that pro. As a pro, you want to sit comfortably, with your body straight and arms at your side. That way, you can churn out hours of work a day - for years. Ergonomically, the Studio is the wrong choice. If you want to draw a lot, an iPad Pro is the better choice, because you can place the screen anywhere you want. And for everything else, controlling screen interactions while seated and in an upright position, with your arms as close to the centreline of your body, is the superior position.

Having a touch screen on your laptop that you need to actually touch to be able to interact (as in, no touch pad) is inferior design. Now, you could argue that having a touch screen replacing the current screen is a better choice - but it changes the whole configuration of the laptop, making it significantly heavier and bulkier. It's been done, and it has failed already.

So why do you guys keep pushing that agenda? Is it because it would be so much more exciting to report on that? Touch bar is boring and unnecessary - according to you - but a new MacBook with a touchscreen? So much more fun and aspirational! And so much more traffic for your sites.

But would it be a good experience for the user? Based on evidence from the market, the answer is no. But isn't it the same story like before the iPhone 6, when Apple had lost the edge in design - or, closer to the mark, weren't making big-screen phones? No, because those phones actually sold in volume. A top-heavy and thick MacBook? Not really.

I have to admit that this podcast left me not only unimpressed, but questioning your judgment and communication skills. It left a smell of sensationalism and even entitlement (just slap that touchscreen on the MacBook already!), instead of some real analysis into the market for Pro PCs. Like that remark about how the Mac Pro can't even support the Oculus. It should be able to (and probably would, if Apple's expectations to how Pro machines would develop had panned out), but how well is that VR market doing? Is there even a benefit in catering to that market? I ask because it seems to me that the VR market is, once more, failing on a massive scale, when compared to expectations. Mixed reality will be in much larger demand - putting a helmet on your head, isolating you from the world, will never be a fantastic idea.

So please: Drop the commenting-the-future sideline coaching and get back into reporting stuff. Like journalists. You're really good at that.
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