Last week’s refresh of Apple’s MacBook Pro line-up was pretty underwhelming – especially for those hoping any refresh of the notebook range would see features such as USB and SD card ports reintroduced.
As I said when the 12” MacBook model was launched, it made perfect sense for Apple to offer a simple, port-less model for those who want – in effect – an iPad with a permanent keyboard.
But for some reason Apple last year decided that power users also wanted the same pared-back experience just to gain a few more millimetres of thinness, and striped all the essential ports from its Pro model too.
Many Mac fans had assumed the firm would pull its usual stunt of removing something only to re-introduce it to whoops and cheers at a future launch event, but last week’s developers conference dashed those expectations.
While the MacBook Pro got a faster processor, Apple still expects you to either ditch all your existing kit for USB-C replacements or mess around with fussy adapters, as well as expecting professional photographers to faff around with an extra dongle just to be able to import photos from an SD card – the most basic capability that market needs from a laptop.
If you’re selling a machine with the ‘Pro’ moniker, buyers are entitled to expect pro features for their money. Even if you’re Apple.
Bizarrely, if you want ‘standard’ USB ports and an SD card slot your only choice in the Apple range is the ageing, non-retina display MacBook Air.
Clearly Apple believes loyalty to its brand is now so strong that it can ignore market needs and that those who declined to upgrade their laptops last year will now surrender and buy the port-less 2017 model.
But there’s a risk that this pretty arrogant ‘we know what you really want’ mindset will eventually backfire.
Anecdote isn’t data but I know many people, including professional photographers and journalists, who for the first time in years are looking beyond Apple’s lineup for their next purchase.
Most of these had held back on their purchase because they expected a u-turn and for these features to re-appear but with the latest update dashing those hopes they’re seeing what other makers are offering.
Apple’s reliance on Mac buyers for its revenue is a thing of the past so the odd defection to Windows or Chrome isn’t going to harm its finances in the short term, and it’s probable that the tightly woven eco-system which offers deep integration with the iPhone and iPad will dissuade some would-be switchers at the very last moment.
But by assuming professionals want to take their ‘thinnest, lightest ever’ MacBook and then bulk it up with some tatty dongles, the firm is opening the exit door for previously loyal users, many of whom will walk.