If you tuned into the tech news cycle recently, you would have seen a lot of apprehensive and even negative reactions to Apple’s latest MacBook Pro line of computers. Their MacBook Pro event came the day after Microsoft unveiled the outstanding Surface Studio which received universally positive acclaim and fanned the flame of criticism for Apple. Tech pundits all over the world were dissatisfied by Apple’s overall package but according to Slice Intelligence, the new MacBook Pros have made more revenue in the US in 5 days than any other laptop in 2016.
Let’s talk about the products themselves first before we dive into the details of this story. Apple released three versions of the MacBook Pro – a 13 inch model, 13 inch with Touch Bar and 15 inch with Touch Bar. What is this Touch Bar? It is the line up’s main new feature. Long story short, it is a thin OLED touchscreen that has replaced the function keys on the keyboard. This touchscreen is contextual and changes based on what application you use. For example if you are in a chat app, emoji will show up on the Touch Bar. It also has an embedded fingerprint scanner.
Apple has removed every single port found on all previous laptops in favor of USB C ports. The 13 inch model without Touch Bar has two ports while the others have four. You have to use these ports in conjunction with a wide number of adapters (all sold separately) to connect anything to the new laptops. You even need an adapter to connect your iPhone or iPad as they do not have USB C ports or cables. Apple’s revolutionary MagSafe charging is dead – you can use any USB C port to charge but risk serious damage if anyone trips over your charging cable.
The laptops are 3 percent shorter, 3 percent narrower, 17 percent thinner and 13 percent lighter than the 2015 edition. They feature a 2560 x 1600 pixel display with 25 percent wider color range and 67 percent higher contrast than 2015 models. The track-pad is a Force Touch one and is larger. The keyboard now uses the shallow keys of the 2015 and 2016 MacBook. The baseline model without Touch Bar starts at $1,499 which is $200 more than what the 2015 MacBook Pro started off with.
The high level of criticism toward these new laptops came from many different angles. Key points that annoyed Apple loyalists were the removal of the SD card slot, MagSafe charging, lack of Nvidia’s new 10 series Pascal based GPUs, maximum cap of 16GB RAM and the use of the older generation Intel Skylake processors. Furthermore, critics capitalized on the convoluted state of the Apple ecosystem which was previously famous for being convenient. Now to connect almost anything from before 2015 (and even from 2016) you would have to buy a number of adapters which add additional cost and bulk to your workflow. Not only that, they are inconvenient and easily misplaced. The inability to directly connect an iPhone or iPad to the laptop just did not make any sense and the Touch Bar concept has polarized critics. Lastly, the pricing scheme was heavily criticized.
Slice Intelligence reported that 40% of 2014 MacBook buyers switched to alternatives from the Windows ecosystem – namely Dell. Still, Apple generated more revenue from the new laptops in 5 days than any other in 2016. How did that happen? Estimates indicate that the majority of purchases were made within the first 48 hours after launch. This was before the media published numerous negative reviews for the products. Furthermore, Slice Intelligence has reported revenue only, not actual number of sales. This could mean that even if Apple sold fewer units than competitors, it is making a killing off of the steep price.
Until actual sales numbers are released (which will probably never happen), we can not quantify the public’s reaction to the new computers. They have been beautifully crafted but according to most reviewers, they are undeserving of the “Pro” moniker. Even favorable reviews of the laptops have said the same – the new MacBook Pros are great if you think of them as MacBook Airs. They take away too much to appeal to the true “Professionals” that Apple’s marketing targets. This is not the first time the use of “Pro” in a product name has been criticized (recall the iPad Pro) and may not even be the last time either. Regardless of the opinions of the media, Apple is very happy and it seems their customers do not care enough about all the changes to skip the latest device.