I hate to say it, but I have to: Apple updated the wrong MacBook. While I love the 12-inch MacBook — and enjoy the recently updated specs — it’s not what we needed.
We need a new MacBook Pro.
In fact, we’ve been in need of a new Pro for some time. The last time Apple made meaningful updates to the Pro was 2013, when it released Retina for the 13-inch version and a spec overhaul.
Sadly, I know that off-hand because it was the last time I was excited for the Pro (not counting for recent rumors, which get me too excited). While Apple did work Force Touch into the Pro lineup when it introduced the MacBook, it was a concession; supply chain brilliance, really.
The MacBook Pro is on life support at this point; languishing in Apple’s lineup, even though many consider it the keystone. It’s been nearly two full years since anything of note has come of it, and for many professionals (you know, pros), that’s not good enough.
It’s time for a truly evolved MacBook Pro
Picking up my Macbook Pro 13-inch Retina, a few things become clear.
First, it doesn’t have the same attention to detail as the new MacBook, externally or internally. The keyboard, once a pleasure, now feels spongy and dull. Crack it open, and it’s still just a sum of parts — nowhere near the design mastery of the Macbook beneath the hood.
Second, Apple can do better. For its time, the MacBook Pro was very good hardware in a delightful design, but Apple has set a new precedent for what it’s capable of. Once content to have a powerful new laptop in an aluminum shell, we should now be demanding more.
Personally, I really like the MacBook keyboard, and would love to have it on a new Pro. Internally, I’d like Apple to pinch some of its magic from the MacBook for the Pro to thin it down.
I don’t advocate for the Macbook’s concessions; I’d still like the Pro to be as upgradeable after purchase as possible, but that’s also something Apple is slowly restricting. We should also have multiple USB-C ports, and (for this year at least) a Thunderbolt port.
To be blunt, what I want is for Apple to take the innovation of the MacBook, pair it with the brawn of a Pro, and slip it into a shell about the size of the Air.
Maybe WWDC, or September
While it’s annoying that the Pro hasn’t been touched for quite some time, we shouldn’t worry too much. Apple isn’t going to drop the Pro from its lineup.
Instead, we should expect a refresh this year. WWDC would be a fantastic time to announce a new Pro. With such a dense accumulation of developers, introducing a machine meant for their use — especially if it were a gorgeous, slim new powerhouse, as the MacBook was for consumers — would go over exceedingly well.
The Fall would also be a good time to roll out the new MacBook Pro, though I suspect that won’t happen. If timeliness is anything to lean on when it comes to Apple, a Fall event will bring us the iPhone 7. In Apple’s tick-tock release schedule, main iPhone versions (not the ’S’ branded phones) are the major releases.
To that, I can’t see Apple releasing a new MacBook Pro in the Fall. It would distract from the star of the show, the iPhone 7, and the Apple Watch is also behind the annual refresh schedule we all assume Apple adheres to.
We’re now a full year with the Apple Watch, and Apple hasn’t bothered with a hardware update in any way (unless you count new watch bands, and I don’t). Seeing an Apple Watch refresh alongside the iPhone 7 makes more sense as it would ‘theme’ the event as a mobile one.
We’ll wait, but for how long?
Let’s not kid each other: if you’re using a Pro, you’re probably tied into Apple’s ecosystem in a big way. You’ll wait almost as long as you need to.
I say ‘almost’ because for some pros, the alternatives to their favorite tools are like wolves circling camp. While at Microsoft’s Build event, I was surprised at how robust and nice Visual Studio has become. It’s reasonable to think some developers would turn to it if they found a Windows laptop they liked while tiring of the wait for a new MacBook Pro.
Adobe’s suite of products also doesn’t play favorites, and XD is as capable a wireframing and prototyping app as Sketch is.
But that’s considering Apple doesn’t refresh the MacBook Pro this year, and I can’t see that happening.
It doesn’t eliminate the sting, though. Apple has now introduced and updated the MacBook without so much as winking at the Pro beyond adding a Force Touch trackpad.
We need better. We need a new MacBook Pro. Here’s to hoping we get it in June at WWDC.