Apple proudly presents: they missed the boat again.

When Tim Cook went quiet after having talked more than enough about the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, I felt a nearly forgotten sensation building up in my stomach. I’m too young to have witnessed Steve Jobs’ keynotes in pixelated live streams, but I’ve watched enough replays of those legendary events to recognize this deliberate pause towards the end of the presentation. Or so I thought, because my excitement for “one more thing…” was ripped to pieces seconds later when Mr. Cook shamelessly missed the opportunity and over-emphatically invited the press representatives to get their fingers dirty on the fancy new Touch Bar.

The amount of anger I felt was unfathomable. The storm of emotion only lasted a few moments, but it was enough to make me whisper WHAT THE FUCK at the TV that I had hooked my iPhone 7 up to. I was sitting on a sofa in the common area of the Stay Inn Lisbon Hostel in the capital of Portugal, and the only thing that prevented me from absolutely losing it were the receptionist and another hostel guest who were unfortunately in the same room. I quietly cursed my good manners and, in my head, drafted a plethora of hateful Tweets to douse the flames that were flickering out of my ears by that moment. I did this while unplugging the Lightning to HDMI Adapter, HDMI cable & Lightning to USB cable plus power brick. This small conglomerate of wires had allowed me to hijack the hostel’s only TV to watch the keynote on a big screen. 

Enough storytelling. This post is called “Apple proudly presents: they missed the boat again”. I feel like this statement might need both explanation and justification, so let’s rewind the clock back to a few days before the event (and before the leaks) and put things in perspective (my perspective, anyways). Apple had sent out its press invites for the long rumored and later-than-expected Mac event. They couldn’t have chosen a bolder tag line: “Hello again”. I was pumped the second I read the words and remembered that Apple had presented the very first iMac using that same catchphrase. That was in May of 1998 and even back then, it was already a reference to an even earlier slogan that had been used to present the first Macintosh all-in-one computer in 1984. “Say hello to Macintosh”, “Hello (again)” and finally “Hello again”. A reference back 18 years and, on a second level, 14 more years into the past. Apple was deliberately using a historic slogan referencing a critical moment in the company’s history from thirty-two years ago. There was only one logical conclusion: something huge was going to be announced and Apple was confident enough to pitch it as on par with their most important breakthroughs before the iPod and the iPhone.
Fast-forward a bit. It’s keynote day. I had turned off push notifications right after the leaked Touch Bar made its rounds because I didn’t want any more spoilers. I spent the day out of town, riding an e-bike through the beautiful Portuguese countryside, visiting the most western point of continental Europe. I finished the ride just on time to catch the train back to Lisbon and was at the hotel only three minutes past showtime. I started the livestream just as Tim Cook said “Good Morning” and got a round of polite applause from the usual crowd of journalists and employees. I noticed that the applause was significantly quieter than at the iPhone event and it came to my mind that this was the last event to take place at Apples 1 Infinite Loop headquarters. The spaceship was waiting and the high tech settlers were granting a last audience at their old fortress.

Vaguely quoting Tim Cook from memory: “We love the Mac. […] It’s integral to Apple and everything we do. […] Let me start with a few updates … on MacBook Pro.” Let me start. Updates in plural. I shuddered in excitement and ate half a bag of chocolate cookies while the executives talked about and demoed the Touch Bar. I wasn’t too surprised because of the leak I’d seen floating around, but I still liked the concept and the fact that you can use the trackpad/mouse cursor and the Touch Bar at the same time. It’s truly innovative and the overall design new MacBook Pro is a step in the right direction. But at the same time, I noticed that a few things were amiss.

1. They had spent a huge amount of time on non-Mac things already.

2. Craig Federighi, usually one of the most entertaining and well-spoken of the bunch, commented along the lines of “I get my David Copperfield moment” as he was removing the black blanket from the MacBooks, though he should really have referenced Steve Jobs’ reveal of the iMac instead.

3. The amount of time spent talking about the Touch Bar was also alarming, because it meant they were trying to hide the absence of other new features besides the usual hardware spec bump.

I caught myself feeling relieved when Phil Schiller started talking about the MacBook Air. I was still okay when he said they were going to drop the 11″ while keeping the 13″ model untouched. I was reasonably shocked when he announced the “cheaper” model of MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar and I nearly spat out the cookie I was chewing on when he claimed that this new laptop lineup made sense, even though he had obviously excluded the Air from the comparison slide. There was a brief moment of awkward silence when he finished his little summary of the screen sizes and prices and I laughed out loud at the apparent ridiculousness of it all.

I could add that there is no way to connect your iPhone or any other Lightning gadget to this new MacBook Pro (no Magic Mouse 2 for you!). Or that the website claims that you can enjoy FaceTime calls on your 5K LG (!) monitor even though the camera in the MacBook Pro is still stuck on 720p. I’d rather not even touch on the ridiculous price increase from the previous models and the fact that Apple has waited so long with this upgrade that the Skylake chips they’re using are already nearly outdated by the time these laptops ship.

These details are, individually considered, not reason enough to dismiss this new portable computer as a failure. However, all things considered, even just looking at the laptop lineup that the Cupertino company currently has to offer makes apparent how much they have missed the boat on planning and consistency. Add the fact that no word has been said about even just spec bumps for the aging Mac Pro and Mini lines and the boat with the up-to-date hardware is also long gone. I hope that the reason for my anger becomes evident: it’s not the late, half-hearted upgrades to the MacBook line. There’s no personal or economical issue hidden between the lines – I am a student and just fine with my 2014 Mac Mini and 2016 self-built gaming PC. However, as a small-time Apple connoisseur and collector, I am deeply upset about how blatantly present-day Apple exploited its own history of awesomeness and set everyone up for a historic event that turned out to be quite a disappointment. It is insulting to the Macintosh that Tim Cook claims with a straight face that he deeply cares about the Mac, while at the same time neglecting the majority of the family.

Header image credit: REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach