Over the past year, I’ve had frequent doctor appointments. However, one thing that has made them more bearable has been the discussions I’ve had in the waiting room about new tech – often Apple in particular. Many of the talks revolve around Macs and how they have become more like the iPad as far as repairs and upgrades are concerned (see the upgrades available for your Mac here). Some of us complain about this, but haven’t been able to do anything constructive about it.
Of the regulars that I’ve spoken to, I’ve noticed three types of people/opinions:
- Is satisfied with Apple’s products in general for their needs/usage.
- Often replaces products within 2-3 years.
- Isn’t necessarily interested in user upgrades.
- Longtime Mac user, but has almost given up hope.
- Realizes Apple is now primarily a services/mobile device company.
- Feels Apple no longer targets them or their opinions don’t matter.
- Simply gave up and moved on from Apple products.
Whichever category the person falls under (I tend to fall somewhere between the B and C types), the subject of Apple’s “closed” Macs comes up often. It brings about the question – is there any amount of user feedback to Apple that would change their course on any of their models? (The image of tiny rowboats trying to change the Titanic’s course comes to mind.)
Related article: Commentary: Apple Should Renew Focus on Mac Users, Pros
Users like me could have reached out after the 2013 Mac Pro was released, for example, but we have no idea whether Apple would listen. However, what do we have to lose by taking the time to send our feedback to Apple?
Another sticking point that comes up often is the cost of these “closed” Macs. Once you compare the performance you can get from a DIY machine – especially to the aging current Mac Pro design – it’s hard to imagine going back. If Apple were to design for an open “workhorse” vs. a closed “work of art”, they should at least be able to offer something more competitive that’s not limited to essentially the same performance forever.
I’m not saying all Macs need to be open. But Apple should consider offering one that isn’t a closed design. I know there’s a market for models such as the iMac, but is the percentage of us who want something upgradeable so small that it’s hopeless?
Apple could (finally) announce an amazing 2017 Mac Pro tomorrow that changes everything, but I’m not holding my breath about a change in design philosophy. I suspect the next Mac Pro basic design has been finalized, unless the 2013 cylindrical design is here for the long haul.
Thin Is In
When I watched the keynote for the new MacBook Pro, my first thought was that “thin” is the primary design goal. Was there ever any consideration to keeping the same size with more performance, better GPU, a larger battery, etc.? My gut feeling is the non-negotiable primary goal was make it as thin and light as possible – the things that elicit applause in keynotes.
For their “Pro” Macs at least, are there any design engineers there now that would even suggest a design focused on what users value long term, and function over form and “cool” factor? Have they ever asked how satisfied 2013 Mac Pro users are years after the initial “wow” factor has worn off?
One way Apple could incorporate feedback, if it chose to do so, would be to get input from Pro users and produce two Mac designs – one a closed “work of art” and the other an open, standard components (PCIe, M.2 slots, etc.) form factor design. The latter might even cost less and perform better at the sacrifice of aesthetics, especially in the long term. Using standard form-factor components (motherboard, graphics card, power supply, etc.) provides an easier upgrade (and repair) path in the future. Custom designs such as Apple’s 2013 Mac Pro have internal space limits and used non-standard graphics cards that were trailing edge shortly after they were sold (as of early 2017, there’s still no upgrade option for them).
Avoiding proprietary designs allows an easier/faster way to incorporate future changes vs. custom designs with higher costs/lower production. And an open design doesn’t have to be “ugly”, as many case manufacturers have proven in the past. (But personally I’d take an internally upgradeable “Plain Jane” under my desk vs. a small pretty “vase” on top with cables to external devices for expansion.)
Related article: Did You Know You Can Make Your Mac Pro Better Than New?
And here’s an idea – if they do continue using non-standard form factors, how about a commitment to offer at minimum a graphics card upgrade the following year for buyers of Mac Pros? (Graphics cards are one of the fastest changing components and can have a big effect on performance.) I don’t own a 2013 Mac Pro, but couldn’t they have offered at least a graphics card upgrade for its most powerful line by now? What lesson is that to 2013 Mac Pro owners, or anyone considering a Mac Pro in the future?
What would you want in a new Mac?
All of this begs the question: If Apple considered an open design, what would you want in your Mac? What about standard components, user-replaceable storage, CPU or graphics cards? And a system bootrom that supports basic boot video without Mac EFI in the graphics card?
None of these suggestions on their own are “world changing”, but they might be the change direction that users want – for at least one Mac model.
I would expect – and understand – that most replies and reactions to the above changes are “it’s too late”, “they don’t care what I want” or refer to the famous Steve Jobs quote “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Admittedly, Apple has been very successful with its current path and has little reason to change that for what has been a shrinking PC market for years. And I have no idea what (if any) level of feedback to Apple would matter. But one thing is for sure – doing nothing will not change anything.