As much as it looks like a great machine, the launch of the 16” MacBook Pro is a bit weird. Here are my observations.
Controlling the narrative
First, Apple didn’t think a keynote was the best way to launch this MacBook Pro nor a press release alone. This time, Apple did the same as they did for the recently released AirPods Pro: a private briefing session. Why? I think Apple wanted to control not only the message but the narrative that would follow. And boy did they succeed.
Second, Apple waited to have enough stock on their hands before inviting the press for a private briefing. The machine is shipping on the same week of its announcement. Is it a rare situation these days for Apple. We cannot say the same for the yet to ship Mac Pro. At least, those anxiously waiting for it are getting a more precise release date: December.
The keyboard again
Reactions of those who were briefed are vastly positive. Everyone is welcoming the redesigned keyboard. In fact, it’s not really a redesign. It is more like a return to something that is actually working pretty well: the Magic Keyboard that comes with every iMac.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the magic keyboard. It is one of the best keyboard Apple ever designed and shipped. I’m happy to see Apple undoing the butterfly keyboard, starting with the high-end MacBook Pro. To me, it is clear Apple will replace all models with this new keyboard.
Being excited about a new professional MacBook mostly because of its keyboard is just weird. Apple fucked up big time, took forever to address the faulty butterfly design to finally give up and go back to square one. And the world is clapping their hands. Apple should be thankful for those forgiving customer base. On this subject, I invite you to read this excellent article from Jason Snell, writing for Macword.com.
At some point, though, Apple’s consideration of these trade-offs got too far out of balance. The 2016 MacBook Pro redesign became a flashpoint for unhappiness among the user base of one of Apple’s most important products. The laptop was thinner and lighter—but its cooling system wasn’t up to the task of keeping up with top-of-the-line processors, its keyboard lacked travel and was unreliable, the Touch Bar replaced the Escape key with a virtual version, and its commitment to an entirely USB-C lifestyle was premature.
And the new Magic Keyboard on the 16-inch MacBook Pro was the result, according to Apple representatives, of a monthslong research project that involved testing different keyboard styles on a large sample of Apple employees, doing research into physiology, profiling how people reacted to sound and feel while typing—in other words, exactly what you’d expect a major company to undertake when it was considering a major redesign to a vital (and unswappable!) part of one of its most important products.
A new cursor key layout, a discreet escape key and a Touch ID button will make many potential users of non-Touch Bar MacBook reconsider their stance. TouchBar is really nice but not if you have to use it as often as the escape key.
As a 2017 MacBook Pro user myself, I’m curious to try this beast on my next visit to the Apple Store close to my office. The keyboard will undoubtedly be the first thing to look at and try. My prediction is that Apple will sell a truckload of these machines.
After fixing the Mac mini, the Mac Pro, the MacBook Air and now this keyboard, if only Apple could fix their software.
This blog post was entirely composed and published from my 11” iPad Pro using recycled electrons.