Apple’s MacBook Pro. A splendid, unimaginative apology tour


Just their imagination, running away with them?

Image: Apple

It’s hard to peer through excitement.

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It’s difficult to know whether people are getting excited because other people are getting excited or because they actually feel something that’s genuinely exciting.

So when Apple, um, unleashed its new MacBook Pro on Monday, most of what I heard was uncontrollable joy.

Perhaps they’d all read the headline on Apple’s press release: “Apple unveils game-changing MacBook Pro.” Completely reimagined, apparently.

Who’d have imagined?

This was it. This was the one that aficionados have been waiting for.

But was it really U2 announcing a new tour?

Please forgive me for mentioning it, but isn’t this the 2015 MacBook Pro being reborn, with wonderful, entirely technical enhancements, as the 2021 edition?

MagSafe is back with its power chords. Magic is back on keyboards. The removal of the Touch Bar and the return of all those ports means no one will wonder Cui bono? It’s to everyone’s Bono. (Yeah, sorry about that.)

I’m of course delighted that the new machine will be faster and more power-efficient. So much faster. How much faster? Well, you’ll only really know when you try it.

Is it now time, though, to attempt a little post-euphoria realization? So that one’s (re)imagination doesn’t go too wild, you understand.

May we start with the notch?

Some were appalled at this alleged regression toward the ugly. But every iPhone user has become so used to it that it’s almost become a branding device, one that gets copied time and time again by Android phones.

Let’s not, though, imagine the notch is there for anything other than Face ID.

I’m prepared to bet at least two of my vintage H&M t-shirts against one of your brand new pairs of Air Jordans that Apple was going to ta-da Face ID with this MacBook, and supply chain issues ruled otherwise.

So here we have a perfectly passive notch that will become perfectly normal and unnoticed. And, on subsequent Pros, perhaps even useful.

Ought one also to mention weight? No one did, but the 14-inch Pro is now 3.5lbs. That’s half a pound heavier than the current 13-inch Pro. And 0.7lbs heavier than the MacBook Air.

The 16-inch with M1 Max is now 4.8lbs.

You’ll tell me that of course, they’re going to be heavier because they’re filled with so much more stuff. And I’ll tell you that it’s sad that Apple’s quest for a lighter life has left its imagination. Its quest for a brighter life, too.

Instead, being professional is a heavier duty.

As I’d feared, there was no true visual excitement. No attempt at using the imagination to lift this laptop to greater aesthetic heights. Perhaps it’ll be different in real life, but visually there was nothing to stir even the remotest emotion.

If you’re trying to appeal to creative professionals, don’t you think they want to be clutching something uniquely inspired, reflective of the future, rather than an obviously penitent harking back to the past?

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This was an apology tour.

Silver or space gray? That’s it?

The iPhone is now a coat of many colors. So is the iMac. Even the HomePod Mini has turned blue. Orange and yellow too.

But oh, no. To be a professional laptop user, you have to be silver or space gray. Just like the hair of most of the males in Apple’s leadership team.

If this is reimagination, then that reimagination needs to be reexamined for recurring failures of its imagination system.

This is a mere admission that there were some myopic aesthetic decisions in the past. This shouldn’t mean there can’t be better, more uplifting aesthetic decisions now.

Please, this isn’t to decry that will improve your performance. For many, the reduction in machine heat will be an enormous blessing, as will the apparently blinding improvements in speed. The screen will clearly be better.

But can we lament Apple tossing its imaginative, creative spirit overboard, in order to worship at productivity’s chilly altar?

This is just a really well-produced comeback tour. The sound will be amazing. The special effects will be wonderful.

But there are no new songs at all. It’s a lot of rattle and no hum.

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