Katie and I recorded one of our rare news-related shows today with MPU 347 concerning the Apple "Hello Again" event and our thoughts about the new MacBooks. Katie ordered one and I'm sitting this one out while I bask in my iPad Pro bliss. There's a lot of good discussion in this show including an extended debate over which MacBook you should buy given the existing lines. We went ahead and released this one early so there won't be a show on Sunday night.
It is interesting to compare and contrast Microsoft and Apple with their announcements this week. Specifically, I'd argue that the Apple Touch Bar and the Microsoft Surface Studio are both appropriate manifestations of the companies' differing touch computing philosophies.
When Apple started with the iPhone, the idea from the beginning was that there would be a seperate operating system for touch computing. Earlier attempts at touch computing (like Microsoft's earlier tablet attempts) relied upon a stylus and small touch targets. Instead of building the computer operating system for touch, they just replaced the mouse with a pencil. This approach didn't recognize that users were in a new paradigm and was tedious and slow. Not surprisingly, it fizzled. Part of the reason for the iPhone revolution was the simple idea that a touch operating system should be touch friendly. As Apple grew the line to the iPad, they followed the same philosophy. The iPad and iPhone still remain very finger-friendly. The Mac however, has always been very finger-unfriendly.
A few years ago when Microsoft decided to get serious about touch computing, they didn't take the separate operating systems approach Apple did but instead tried to incorporate both touch and traditional mouse-and-keyboard computing all into Windows. With Windows 8, it was a mess. With Windows 10, it got better. This week with Microsoft announcing the Surface Studio computer, which is essentially an iMac that tilts to a 20 degree drafting table touch computer, it seems their aim is getting even more accurate.
Now Apple is also talking about bringing elements of touch computing to their macOS operating system. True to form, however, they aren't looking to push fingers onto screens but instead adding a second screen to your keyboard. It's the way they make macOS more touch friendly without actually adding any of the touchy parts to macOS. It makes perfect sense for Apple's approach.
It is fascinating to me that these hardware announcements are both a natural extension of the underlying touch-computing vision. Only Microsoft would make a tilting desktop computer that you write on. Only Apple would put a touch bar on a keyboard. I don't think anyone is sure where this is all going but these differing approaches and evolutions are changing the ways we all use computers.
After finishing and posting this article I laid down in bed to catch up with a busy day of Apple news. Of course one of the first articles I read was this one by my friend, and podcasting partner, Jason Snell, where he makes nearly identical points, just more articulately.
In the coming days there’s going to be a lot of talk about Apple's “Hello Again” event today and the new MacBook Pros. Here’s a few random thoughts and observations I had watching the event:
- Who is it sending their vacation photos to Tim Cook for inclusion in presentations? I think she is a much more talented photographer than me (and has much prettier friends).
- The TV app feels to me like the leftovers from the hypothetical subscription TV project that never shipped. The trouble is that if they don’t have participation from everyone on the platform (Netflix and YouTube are not playing along), it’s much less useful.
- The day you catch me watching tweets from random people about something I’m watching on TV is the day you’ll know my body has been taken over by aliens.
- I like that Apple is embracing its past a little bit. I remember when I would’ve given my left one for a Power Book.
- The “thinner and lighter” thing plays a big role going forward. It’s clear the MacBook air is getting squeezed out. The only thing keeping it alive now is that it’s the only Mac you can buy for under $1000. In a year or two, prices will come down enough to solve that problem and that will be the end of the MacBook Air.
- They didn’t spend much time on the bigger trackpad but I suspect MacBook Pro users are going to really like it. I’ve already become accustomed to a larger trackpad with my Magic Trackpad on my iMac. It makes using gestures much easier and after using it a little, you won’t want to go back.
- They didn’t spend much time talking about the new keyboard either. I know a lot of people that won’t buy the MacBook because of the keyboard. Apple is saying this is a second generation but if they don’t deliver the goods with the keyboard, I think it will hurt sales and the product overall. The surprise news item in the next few days may be that the keyboard is a dud. That would be bad.
- 2 TB of SSD storage in a laptop is impressive. However, it will end up costing you an additional $1,200. Ouch.
- Farewell MagSafe. We loved you.
- I don’t think the USB-C transition is going to prove that difficult. Thanks to the existing MacBook that already has the USB-C port, along with other computers from other manufacturers, a healthy USB-C peripheral market already exists. If you’re making the switch you’ll need to buy a few cables and a dongle or two but you’ll be fine.
- The idea that you can charge your MacBook from either side is kind of nice. How many times have you been in some weird spot where getting the charger cable to the correct side to charge your MacBook was harder than it should be?
- They kept the headphone jack. Hooray.
- How weird is it that Apple is selling an LG display during its keynote? Katie Floyd makes the argument in this week’s Mac Power Users episode that this is evidence Apple is getting out of the display business. She may be right. Either way, it is really strange seeing Apple sell somebody else’s hardware in this way.
- At this point, the MacBook line has three alternatives: low cost, pro user, and ultralight. I’ve written about this before. Ideally, we will get to a point where the low cost and ultralight Macs merge into one computer. That was the case for a little while with the MacBook Air and explains why so many people love that computer so much. If they can get the existing MacBook’s price down to $999, we’ll get back to two lines again but that’s not going to happen this year.
- Apple did a good job of getting more women presenters than usual. I thought everybody did a pretty good job on stage.
I’ve got more thoughts on what the touch bar really means but I have more to say there than a bulleted list. More on that to come.
Today Apple announces new Macs at its Hello Again event at 10am PST. You can livestream the event at Apple's website. It will also be streaming on Apple TV. To add a little fun I'd recommend following the Six Colors Event twitter account. I'll be on Twitter as well during the event. It'll be interesting to see what Apple brings to the table today.
I've been wondering the past several days about whether or not we'll see a headphone jack in tomorrow's new MacBook Pros. There's been lots of talk about the leaked Magic Toolbar and folks are assuming that it will have a bundle of USB-C ports but I haven't heard anything about headphone jacks.
Apple must feel pretty good about removing the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. For months, when it was just a rumor, many people on the Internet lost their minds. Now the phone has shipped the expected outrage has largely fizzled. (I think the inclusion of an adapter in the box did a lot pull this off.) So now that they have the headphone jack out of the iPhone, what about the Macs to be announced tomorrow?
My expectation is that of course the new MacBooks (and future iPads for that matter) will have headphone jacks. The biggest reason that Apple explained removing the headphone jack from the iPhone was space. The air inside your iPhone is so precious that the headphone jack needed to go. I don't see how you could make that case for a MacBook. There is a lot more space in both of those platforms for a tiny headphone jack. Moreover, a lot of people use Macs and IPads for music production and other sound-related tasks and they want a good set of wired cans connected to their Macs.
So maybe Apple will remove the headphone jacks tomorrow but I'd argue such a move is a mistake. As I post this, we're just 14 hours away from finding out.
Today an Apple representative told Tech Crunch that the AirPods aren't done cooking.
Goofy as it sounds, AirPods are one of the things I was looking forward to most about tomorrow's Apple event. I can't help but feel that when they launch, the AirPods are going to be a rare commodity, like Apple Pencil was for the first several months after it launched. I hope I'm wrong.
ProPublica published an article (that I found via Daring Fireball) about recent changes in Google's terms of service. Traditionally, Google has kept web-browsing information segregated from your personally identifiable information. Not anymore. As ProPublica explains, "... Google could now, if it wished to, build a complete portrait of a user by name, based on everything they write in email, every website they visit and the searches they conduct."
As I continue to tilt at the privacy windmill, I'll continue to get the critical emails and tweets telling me to just get over it. I'm not trying to sound like the tin-foil-hat brigade here but what happens if Google gets new management next year that decides to use that data for evil or some foreign (or our own government) hacks that data to use for some nefarious purpose? It seems to me that is conversation we should be having right now.
This week MacSparky is sponsored by SaneBox. Email is hard and if you’re going to have any chance against it, you need some powerful tools at your back. That’s where SaneBox comes in.
The SaneBox robots are like having my own email personal assistant. SaneBox sorts my mail as it comes in so when I look at my inbox I just see the seven most important emails instead of three hundred emails with those seven important ones buried in there … somewhere.
That’s just the beginning though. SaneBox also has a great anti-spam service called SaneBlackHole. They also have a reminder service that can send you automatic reminders when people don’t respond to your email.
Best of all, it’s server-based so it can work with any mail client. I’ve been a paying subscriber to SaneBox for years and am a very satisfied customer. If you need help with email, check out the below video and give SaneBox a try with this link to get a discount.
Casey Liss is a podcaster and app developer. He's also a class act. This week he joins us on Mac Power Users to discuss his best tools and workflows to get things done. Casey, as a fairly recent dad, also explains the current state of baby technology. This one was a lot of fun to record.
- The Omni Group They're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
- Fujitsu ScanSnap ScanSnap Helps You Live a More Productive, Efficient, Paperless Life.
- Sanebox Stop drowning in email!
- MindNode MindNode makes mind maping easy.
Five years ago Brian Lam left Gizmodo to start up The Wirecutter where they research the crap out of tech products and make recommendations. I've had such good success with their recommendations that it's now become the default place I go when I'm getting ready to buy some bit of gear I don't have much experience with. The site has grown and added some of my favorite writers like Jacqui Cheng and Dan Frakes. They make money from the affiliate links.
The thing about The Wirecutter is that it was a good idea brilliantly executed. It was already an Internet success story but today it became even more so when the New York Times purchased The Wirecutter for $30M. Let's just hope the Grey Lady doesn't screw things up.
In case you missed it, downloading the Relay FM app now puts a set of Relay FM stickers on your iPhone and iPad. In addition to all the other Relay shows and memes, there are stickers for both Mac Power Users and Free Agents. If you figure out a way to use them in conversations with your non-geek friends, you get not one, but TWO gold stars.
A few weeks ago indie developer Christian Tietze released a new app called Table Flip that simplifies the process of making tables in Markdown. A few days ago I was working on a project where I had an excuse to use the app and it's great. Table Flip replaces a poorly written script I was using to make Markdown tables that felt like it was held together by rubber bands and scotch tape. Now I use Table Flip. My only gripe is the text size, which is too small. I understand that's getting fixed soon.
The below MKBHD video compares Siri and Google Assistant. It’s interesting to see how Apple and Google are approaching several common-type questions to their digital assistants. My overall impression is that they are pretty close except Google is better at follow-up questions. Apple needs to work on that. I think Google pushing the envelope with their own digital assistant is going to be great for Siri users. Apple’s at its best when there’s healthy competition.
This is one of those emerging areas of technology that will be fascinating to watch.
One of my guilty pleasures is watching a new episode of Star Wars Rebels every week. I know this show is hypothetically made for kids but I love it. This week my friends on the Rebel Force Radio podcast invited me on to talk about the latest episode. If you're a Star Wars fan, here's an opportunity to geek out for an hour.
Imagine spending a year designing a product only to have it ripped off (including your product name) in one week. That's what happened to one iPhone case/selfie-stick designer. While it's pretty remarkable that in today's world anyone can make a global product, it's also pretty disheartening how easy it is for someone to steal your ideas. Ugh.
Since posting this morning Apple made it official announcing its "Hello Again" event. As Stephen Hackett explains, the "Hello Again" moniker has been used before to announce new Macs. I expect the reason we're getting it here is the much rumored newly designed MacBook Pro. I know a lot of people that have been waiting to upgrade their MacBook Pros. I suspect they'll be happy next week.
Except for the MacBook, the entire Mac line is overdue for an update. We've been hearing rumors about new MacBook Pros and other goodies now for close to a year but suddenly things seem to be happening. Recode reports that Apple's going to have an event on October 27 where, among other things, new MacBook Pros get released. I'd not be surprised if the iMac, MacBook Air, and even Mac Pro get updates as well. Either way, if you were thinking about buying a Mac this week, put your wallet back in your pocket and wait until the 27th. If that event happens, I'd guess the Air Pods will go on sale that day too. I really like those Air Pods.