Apple Has Become Hubris


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Thursday, Apple did a lot of things people expected. They announced a universal TV guide that’s accessible not only from the Apple TV, but also on iOS. And then they spent a considerable amount of time at the “Hello Again” event unveiling three new MacBook Pro models. Two of them are outfitted with an OLED Touch Bar, which allows for contextual input options based on the app being used, and completely replaces the standard Function row of keys.

Apple made some jokes about the Function row of keys, and then it did what it normally does: Made a new feature seem really cool. At face value I think the Touch Bar is pretty great, even if it is just a gimmick. There are some elements that I just don’t think are worth the change, but it is what it is.

That other model? That’s a 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar, or support for Touch ID. It shares the other major features, though, like a new, lightweight design and a gorgeous display.

It costs $1,499. That’s the entry-level MacBook Pro.

For a lot of people, realistically speaking, that’s the entry level to get a laptop from Apple now. Yes, there’s the $1,299 MacBook, but that’s not good enough, hardware wise, for a lot of people. I’ve used the thing, and while I think it’s ridiculously nice to look at, it didn’t even cut it for me. Plus, I didn’t like the keyboard — but that’s another story for another day.

Apple has honestly left me kind of baffled here. Not just because the new MacBook Pro lineup is expensive — I knew that was going to happen. But it’s a lot of connected things on top of the new laptops being really expensive. The base 13-inch MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar and Touch ID is $1,799. That’s the one Apple wants you to buy. So, in Apple’s eyes, the entry-level MacBook is $1,799. That’s the price of admission at this point.

(There needs to be an honorable mention here for the 2015 MacBook Air, too, because Apple is still selling this thing, no changes to its specifications at all, for $999. This is absurd.)

It’s not just the price. It’s the fact that Apple has fully acknowledged its own hubris, accepted it, and is now using it as a platform to drive itself forward. Apple has always had this way about it, of doing its own thing, staying in its lane no matter what, and seemingly ignoring the rest of the world, and the market it enters, until it decides it wants to do what everyone else is doing, too.

Which has been fine, to a point, because Apple has led the categories in which it enters. Apple didn’t have a Windows 8 moment, for instance. And even things like “Antennagate” or “Bendgate” are eventually looked over, as Apple fixes the problem in the next iteration.

But when Apple launches a MacBook Pro that can’t physically connect to its latest flagship smartphone, there’s a problem. Just saying that out loud: “I can’t connect my iPhone to my MacBook Pro” is so fundamentally frustrating, and insipid, that I can’t believe Apple would let it happen.

But it’s not just the iPhone. For any current MacBook owner that wants to upgrade to Apple’s newest models, and has accessories to bring over because Apple switched all of the ports to USB Type-C, they’re going to have to buy an adapter — or buy entirely new accessories.

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For me, that would mean transferring everything I have on an external hard drive over to a new one, after finding one that supports USB Type-C, and that’s ludicrous. For many people, that means a lot of accessories just aren’t an option anymore.

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Well, unless you buy an adapter. Which Apple is more than willing to sell you! For $50.

This isn’t okay. At all. Apple consciously decides to change all of the ports to what isn’t supported in the vast majority of accessories, those of which Apple knows are being used by current MacBook owners, and as a result decides to make an adapter that they know customers will not just want, but some will need, and charge $50 for it.

Apple wants you to spend at least $1,799 to have the privilege of losing standard support for your current accessories, and then fork over another $50 so you can get it back. Just because they can.

And then, to top it all off, early on Friday an interview with Phil Schiller revealed why the MacBook Pro lineup is so expensive. It isn’t the specifications, but it’s the experience. Schiller says affordability is something Apple cares about, but I honestly have absolutely no idea why he’d even say that out loud, especially now. But then to go from there and say that they’re basically putting a dollar amount on the experience they think you’ll have with a laptop, rather than the specifications it’s built with?

We’ve reached a point where Apple has not only enabled its Reality Distortion Field, but has actually become that field, and risen to a next stage of evolution where its own delusions of grandeur have overlapped everything else about the company.

The new MacBook Pros look like they are stunning machines, and I’m sure they’ll run like a dream. I’m sure the experience will be fantastic. But you know what? The experience on other devices is fantastic, too, nowadays, Apple. And those can be had for upwards of $600 less than what you’re charging to get into your walled garden.

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Something that caught me at the very start of Apple’s event was Tim Cook, the company’s CEO, standing there and telling the crowd, over and over again, that Apple is the “best” in this, and the “best” in that. He just kept repeating it. And the thing is, the more it kept happening, the more I felt like he wasn’t really trying to sell the products to a crowd of folks that, more than likely, already owned Apple stuff. But it felt more like Cook was trying to convince himself.

In light of positive reviews for other ultra portables running the competition’s desktop platform, and another competitor’s smartphone getting a higher camera rating (along with glowing reviews for every other part of it), among so many other compelling options, it feels like Apple assumes it has to double down on itself. It has to convince itself it’s the greatest, still, despite lagging behind in things like augmented and virtual reality, and even in artificial intelligence.

I don’t think any of this takes courage, Apple.

The mentality that seems to settle around these new MacBook Pro models, and especially with the $50 adapter and Apple’s view on how it prices things, doesn’t jive with me at all anymore. Whatever lane Apple wants to be in right now, and for the foreseeable future, is not one I’m staying in, it seems. I don’t know what that means moving forward, right now, but I can say that I am still in the market for a new laptop with a better display than this MacBook Air (and better specs overall), and I’m definitely not picking up the MacBook Pro.

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