Hardware Decisions are Hard
In the aftermath of Apple’s WWDC conference and an almost unprecedented number of new pieces of hardware have been released at what is theoretically a software development conference, I get to do some imaginary shopping.
For the past 18 months, Apple’s hardware lineup has been so out of date (except for iPhone, of course) that I’ve not even wanted to buy anything with imaginary money. They’ve righted the ship now, but in doing so are almost listing to the other side. Now it’s so difficult to identify the perfect device, I’m paralysed by choice.1
With regard to the Mac lineup, the 5K iMacs with P3 panels and Kaby Lake processors represent the first time I’ve been tempted by a desktop computer in about a decade. Combining this with extended iPad use as a mobile platform could actually work, come iOS 11.
But laptops are still the most flexible option. The MacBook (Adorable) is becoming competitive and is so diminutive, but it is still hamstrung by having a single port and when stacking price against performance, perhaps a MacBook Pro is the better option. The MacBook (Escape) is probably the pick here. Touchbar seems like a dead end that the market nor developers are excited by. Yet only the Touchbar models have TouchID which is a useful feature.
So, in terms of macOS, the most sensible use for my imaginary money is to keep it in my pocket and instead wander over to the iOS table, and see if this is an easier decision. My existing 2013 MacBook Pro has a few more years left in it, anyway.
This is the Apple cash cow platform, so what have they got to sell me? In terms of iPhones, I’m not even looking. Work provides me with an iPhone SE which is a form factor I quite like for basic tasks, and I’m not about to absorb another phone contract. Anyway, this is not an iPhone release event, so let’s move to iPad.
I’ve been a believer in iPad since it was released and I put in my pre-order as soon as the online store switched to pre-sale. I’ve been wanting to upgrade my iPad Air, and the first compelling reason to do that was the iPad Pro 12.9” (1st gen). But then the iPad Pro 9.7” was released and everything got out of sync with what model had what features. I knew the sensible thing to do was wait for the next revision.
My waiting has paid off, because these are the devices I’ve dreamed of. Beautiful 120Hz ProMotion displays, accelerated Pencil sampling and come iOS 11, proper support for multitasking. Yes, I want one! But which one? The 10.5” looks to be everything I could want, until I realise it doesn’t support two full screen iPad apps side-by-side. One of them has to use the iPhone view controller. That does not fit with my productivity needs.
So it looks like it falls to the iPad Pro 12.9 (2nd gen). This has all the power I want, but I will be trading off couch comfort. Where is my Goldilocks iPad?!
Missing the four quadrant product matrix
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple and started its turnaround, one of the first things he did was rationalise the product line down to a four quadrant matrix. It was simple: on one axis, professionalconsumer, on the other axis, laptopdesktop. Here was enough breathing room between each of the specs and the prices of these machines that it became quite easy to choose which was for you.
Now, as Apple’s product line expands, they have a much larger matrix. This has resulted in overlaps across price, capability and function. Is the iPad a suitable laptop replacement; or is a laptop a necessary complement to an iPhone?
With my imaginary money, I think my decision is to keep my MacBook Pro and replace my ageing iPad Air with an iPad Pro 12.9”. That should be enough to keep me going for the next year or two, at which point solving the computer problem will be a more pressing problem which I hope, by that time, has a more apparent solution.