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Not just the Mac Pro

April 4, 2017

By Jeff Johnson, Developer of Underpass

I'm sure you've read this morning's news about the Mac Pro. Apple finally admitted what everyone else knew all along: attempting to cram the highest performance professional machine into a diminutive cylinder was a mistake. The real problem, however, is that the Mac Pro is not the real problem. The real problem is the Mac, and the Mac Pro is just one (too) small illustration of the problem. For a larger illustration of the problem, look at the MacRumors Buyer's Guide for the Mac:

MacRumors Buyer's Guide

Apple can say that the Mac Pro case design was a mistake, but how do they explain the rest of the product lineup? These products are as stale as they have ever been in the entire history of the Mac. Even the MacBook Pro, which was updated 5 months ago, had previously gone 17 months before that update, an unprecedented period of staleness for the product. Apple's head of marketing claims, "the Mac Mini is an important product in our lineup". How can that be true when the Mac Mini hasn't been updated since 2014?

Let's change the subject from hardware to software. The Mac operating system has been receiving regular updates. In fact, it has been receiving major updates every year. Prima facie you might take this as a sign of Apple's commitment to the Mac. It has become very clear, however, that Mac OS X (now named macOS in emulation of iOS) no longer ships in accordance with its own schedule and the needs of the Mac. The Mac OS has become subservient to the iPhone OS and ships according to iPhone's schedule. The iPhone is updated every year at around the same time, and thus macOS is updated every year at around the same time. For the sake of convenience — for the sake of the iPhone's convenience, that is — macOS and iOS now share more code than ever, and their development seems to occur in parallel. Whatever new features or fixes that macOS gets are mostly the ones that serve the purposes of iPhone. One doesn't get any sense at all that macOS is evolving with its own sense of direction.

There's a crucial difference between hardware and software updates. Hardware updates should not disrupt your workflow. Ideally, a new Mac runs your existing software faster and with better graphics. Maybe the new hardware makes it possible to develop new software, but it doesn't break the old software. Major OS updates absolutely do disrupt your workflow. They introduce new bugs, they remove old features, they change existing features, and they break third-party software. It would be nice if beta testing were more productive, and major OS updates came out nearly perfect, but unfortunately that's not the reality. This is why many knowledgeable users crave frequent hardware updates but dread frequent software updates. And this is why the current state of the Mac, with too frequent software updates and rare hardware updates, is so appalling to many longtime Mac users.

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