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  • Are We Waiting for the End of the Mac?

    June 24th, 2016

    Some time before the acquisition sayf NeXT returned Steve Jobs to Apple in 1996, he was asked to comment on the state of the company. He mentioned something about milking the Mac for all its worth until it was time to move on the next great thing. I can’t cite the article so many years later, but it’s buried in a search request somewhere.

    Well, if Jobs hadn’t returned to Apple, it is quite likely the Mac — and the entire company — would have gone kaput. But through thick and thin, the Mac has remained a constant. During the latter part of the 1990s, the platform hung on with tape and string, because the core of the Mac OS had become older and buggier. Although the final versions, starting with Mac OS 9, were pretty decent and snappy overall, it wasn’t what you’d call a modern operating system.

    When Apple went to Unix-based OS, built upon the guts of NeXTStep, it arrived several years late and was only slightly useful at first. It was slow, somewhat buggy, despite being based on an industrial-strength core, and was very underdeveloped. The printing system was barely functional until Apple adopted CUPS in 2002.

    Now Mac OS X, which became OS X and is poised to become macOS this fall, proved to be far more difficult to perfect that many expected. I suspect many Mac users assumed they’d see it a year or two after the NeXT acquisition. The first attempt, code-named Rhapsody, was largely a somewhat Mac-like NeXT alternative, with no easy way for Mac developers to port their apps. Thus came Aqua, the eye-candy Mac theme, and Carbon, to simplify the porting process. It took nearly four years to arrive at the original Public Beta.

    But the OS overhaul didn’t come into its own until 10.4 Tiger arrived in 2005. When Apple dumped the PowerPC and moved to Intel in 2006, a version of Tiger for the new CPU was ready to roll.

    With macOS Sierra waiting in the wings — and developers are already playing with the very first beta — one might wonder where the Mac will go. Hardware updates are not showing up as frequently. A lot of that is due to the fact that Moore’s Law, the theory that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every two years, is hitting a wall. Intel and other processor makers are finding it more and more difficult to make them smaller, more power efficient, and more powerful. So there may come a time where simple processor refreshes will be few and far between.

    Without major processor advancements to count on, other ways for Apple to make the Mac better would be to create a fancier case, maybe slimmer and lighter, and to add extra hardware features to make the computers more useful. So perhaps there will be a fingerprint sensor — which Apple could probably do now since it owns the technology. A move to OLED displays might provide richer colors, wider viewing angles, and the ability to actually use one in bright sunlight if you’re so inclined. SSDs are growing larger and cheaper, meaning that you will be able to buy a Mac with more storage for the same price, or less.

    I realize that the Optimized Storage feature of Sierra will help do some spring cleaning of your Mac, freeing wasted space, thus letting you continue to use the smaller SSD. But it will arrive at the expense of having to buy extra iCloud Drive storage unless Apple becomes extremely generous.

    Some suggest that Apple plans to move the Mac to ARM, a more powerful variation of existing A-series mobile chips. The iPad Pro is capable of real desktop performance, based on published benchmarks, although the fastest Macs still do far better. Parity may indeed be possible, but an Intel-based Mac can also run Windows with great performance via Boot Camp or a virtual machine. And what about tens of thousands of Intel-savvy apps out there? If Apple builds a hardware emulator for ARM — perhaps using Metal to make it more efficient — would that provide acceptable performance till developers port their apps? And how would it mange Intel virtual machines? Don’t forget how badly the PowerPC fared.

    More to the point, is there any real advantage — beyond chip cost — to investing in another processor switch? Will there come a time where a future iPad, or a successor product, replaces all or most of the functions of the Mac in a new form factor?

    I do not for a moment believe the Mac is forever, although at my age it might be for me. The personal computer of today is, more or less, quite similar to its 1986 counterpart — or 1984 if you want to go back to the first Mac — in the way you interact with it. You are still using a mouse and keyboard to run apps; a trackpad is simply an extension of the mouse concept. The basic user interface may be refined with more features, but at its core the lessons learned on the first Mac can be applied quite successfully to its 2016 counterpart.

    Does the PC of the future abstract the user interface and deliver results via voice command? As Scotty said in a certain Star Trek movie, upon being confronted with the 1986 Mac with its mouse and keyboard, “how quaint!” Perhaps it won’t be long until we all feel the same.

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    24 Responses to “Are We Waiting for the End of the Mac?”

    1. Hash says:

      What a strange logic, OS X became macOS and suddenly Macs are over?
      by this logic, because of WatchOS Apple will stop making watches?
      because of tvOS, Apple will stop making appleTVs?

      • I suppose you didn’t read the article, since I said no such thing.


        • Hash says:

          Yes, you didn’t make that point. In fact, I can’t see any valid points.

          • gene says:

            Just a simple fact: Apple switched to Intel processors in 2006; the move was announced the previous year. This is something I personally witnessed and experienced as I acquired new Macs.

            Since you cannot accept that and other basic facts as accurate, I assume that you are just a troll — or an idiot — and I suggest you go elsewhere next time you want to post nonsense.


            • hash says:

              how switch to another CPU implies end of Mac? It already happened so many times, yet Mac is OK. I still fail to see the point

              • gene says:

                It’s happened twice with success.

                And you still haven’t a clue about what the article was about.

                Please roll up your tent elsewhere.


    2. DaveD says:

      Always a nice stroll down Apple memory lane. I do recall Steve Jobs’ words on “milking the Mac” before coming back and eventually saved Apple with new Macs. With Mac OS X making progress to become Mac OS 9 replacement, the cathode-ray-tube iMac and the PowerBook came out all dressed up with stylish new outfits showing colors and/or curves.

      Apple leads in design that differentiate Macs from other personal computers. PC makers have incorporated some of Apple’s works. Today, the iPhone and iPad have become a personal computer for many and yet, there are still needs for a “truck” in a world moving to a post-PC one.

      If Apple’s goal is to have a Mac with no moving parts that would mean cooler processor and perhaps, no mechanical keyboard (saw in a reported patent filing, a MacBook without one). Have to ask Siri about this.

    3. Pool Man says:

      I’m a lifelong Mac user since 1986. Last year my wife forced me to get her a PC for business reasons. I sent the Windows 8.1 PC back as garbage. Not the PC but the OS. I waited for 10. Presumed it was another scam.

      It wasn’t.

      It’s quite good. Windows 10 is better than Linux and iOS. It’s in its young days but perfectly usable. All the Mac trolls of the net promised virus and malware. Nothing for almost a year now. Defender and free Malwarebytes work fine. I was so impressed I bought me an Asus Zenbook. Even better than wife’s laptop.

      Both laptops (a 15 inch and a 13 inch) cost less than one 15 inch MacBook Pro. By a factor of $600. Again, Windows 10 isn’t BETTER than OS X… but… as a secondary computer it doesn’t matter. I have my Gmail, Firefox, iTunes, and iCloud. Just like a Mac. Contacts are little messed up and I can’t have Messages.

      But my iPhone has messages and contacts. And iCloud had contacts too.

      So I walked into an Apple Store. One I had worked in for three years. Told them if Win10 flipped ME they ought to pay attention. The manager shrugged his shoulders and said the iPad is the future of Apple.

      Earth to Apple — no it isn’t.

      • gene says:

        Actually, you need to compare specs for specs when you do this price contrast. The Windows notebook is not that much cheaper when you do this properly.


        • The Pool Man says:

          Asus Zenbook UX305. Intel Core M, 8GBs of RAM, and 256SSD similar to $1299 MacBook. Screen, metal case, USB and SD card ports, and overall design exterior similar to MacBook Air for $999.

          Zenbook is typically $699 but reliably goes on sale for $599.

          Compared. Oh, and before you go all ‘Macs last longer’ Google ‘Sguare Trade laptop failure rates’.

          • You’re being fast and loose with your facts.

            The $699 Zenbook has a 1080p display, making it closer to the $899 MacBook Air, which has a Core i5 processor. And before you still jump up and say, “you see,” don’t forget the Zenbook’s battery life, according to one of the reviews I read, is closer to five hours, which is half the manufacturer’s 10 hour claim, and the trackpad rates so-so. Apple sweats the details for $200 more and gives you OS X and decent quality bundled apps in the bargain.

            I’ll let the reader decide if Windows 10 is comparable to OS X, or if the Windows junkware approaches iWork.


            • Pool Man says:

              No no no. You don’t get to play that game. I thought you were being fair but I guess I have to breakdown your distortions point by point.

              1. As I’ve already said — the $699 Zenbook is routinely $599 on sale. Macs don’t really go on sale.

              2. For some reason you have a 13 inch MacBook Air priced at $899. It’s $999. Yes —

              3. — with an i5 but with half the SSD storage. (Gee… why’d you leave THAT out?) To get the Zenbook storage you have to pay $1199. (I think I know why.)

              4. You dance around the reason why some buyers like a Core M chip. It’s low power. Meaning you don’t have to deal with a fan. A silent laptop. Asus charges you $599 for the privilege, Mac $1299.

              So what you’re missing here is that this specific Zenbook is an amalgam of MacBook Air and MacBook. It’s better than MacBook Air in spec but not as hardware stunning as the new MacBook.

              And I don’t really need to be ‘schooled’ by someone who has only used one of the two computers. I’ve owned a MacBook Air. Guess what? The trackpad wasn’t perfect. It frankly worked the same as the Asus. And the battery life wasn’t what was promised either.

              My experience with the Zenbook battery is fine as long as you don’t have Bluetooth on. Fine means I never ever ‘check’ to see if I have enough juice left. It usually has %30 of a charge left AFTER 5 hours. Battery life matters for people who are literally out and about always — but my experience is that most people are not. They can have a base to plug back into after 6 or so hours. With phones it’s critical but laptops not so much.

              By the way — I never said Zenbook was identical to any Mac. My inference is that the Mac is dying because Windows has improved, OEMs are catching up, and that Macs are now overpriced.

              Not in every scenario. Just too many. You know Apple built a million dollar glass staircase recently. Want to know how?

              Overpriced products purchased by myopic apologist fans.

              • gene says:

                Schooled? As regular readers have known for years, I’ve been using Macs since the 1980s.

                Here’s how PC makers make their gear cheaper than Macs:

                1. They cheapen the content, with lower power chips, lower-resolution displays, and cheaper versions of other parts. So the computer that seems superficially similar to a Mac may, when deconstructed, not match up in terms of the components and, important, bundled software.

                2. Take lower profits.

                This rush to the bottom, and use of Intel’s UltraBook platform, may result in slim and light notebooks that appear to be comparable to a MacBook Air, MacBook and MacBook Pro. When you get the same parts, the price difference is less, and often nonexistent.

                Yes, it is true that Apple plays in the mid-to-higher-tier in the PC market. There’s where the profits are being made. To suggest that Macs are overpriced, however, is not quite true. In some cases, Macs cost more, in other cases, they cost the same, and in some respects, such as workstations with Xeon processors, the Mac is noticeably cheaper.

                Listen I’ve been doing this “Mac is overpriced” myth-busting since the 1990s. My point is demonstrated each and every time.


              • The Pool Man says:

                1. I’ve been using Macs since the 1986.

                2. I proudly worked in the original Apple Store (West Coast) for 3.5 years after the first year. I was even given a ‘Best Of Brand’ award — which is an annual award given to only one person who best represents the brand.

                Back then I agreed with PC users that there was an Apple ‘tax’. Why? Because OS X was SOOOO much better than Vista or whatever garbage Windows was pushing. The boxes were ugly, the OS dot matrix, and the cheap prices typically led to embarrassing spec.

                THINGS HAVE CHANGED. This is the part that ages your commentary as myopic.

                a. Windows 10 made me abandon my VBox visits to Linux. It’s simply way more stable. Don’t believe the Mint morons and the Ubuntu fools. Linux is all about ‘the next distro’ since the current ones are lacking. I was deep into Linux because I planned on buying a PC and installing Ubuntu Mate on it. Windows 8 was worse than most Linux distros. Windows 10 beats them all.

                b. “They cheapen the content, with lower power chips, lower-resolution displays, and cheaper versions of other parts.”

                A delightfully broad brushstroke. And not true. For instance the two laptops we’re discussing. The $999 MacBook Air doesn’t have a 1080p screen. The $699 (often $599) Zenbook does.

                (At this point you’ve misquoted the Air’s price and misquoted it’s spec. Do you just work from fantasy or do you actually check what you’re saying?)

                Is it impossible for you to admit that —> sometimes <— Apple skimps on spec and raises prices? What I like to call the 'double dip'?

                I dare you to.

                • gene says:

                  Be careful what you wish for. In recent years, with product updates, Apple has tended to improve the specs at the same price and sometimes reduce the price.

                  No, I didn’t misquote the specs for the MacBook Air. The base model is $899 US, and less in the educational market.

                  The rest of what you write more or less confirms what I said. You’re arguing in favor of a cheaper notebook with nearly half the battery life, and a poorer quality trackpad. And these are significant matters to consider. It’s the result of just adopting someone else’s platform (Intel), which imitates Apple, and making a few changes, rather than designing something from scratch for yourself.

                  Time to end this discussion. You’re not going to convince me with Windows 10. I’ve used it and I’m surprised an alleged long-time Mac user believes it’s better. But to each his/her own.


        • The Pool Man says:

          By the by, that was only the Zenbook comparison.

          I also purchased (as I said) a 15 inch Asus ‘Gamer’ (?) laptop. The K501UX. Now the spec differences here are dramatic — but so is the price.

          You see Apple would have us believe that a 15 inch laptop is impossible under $1999. You have to be swimming in a Kool Aid pool to believe that. That is why there’s now a ‘rumor’ of a less expensive MacBook coming at 15 inches. Ahh… so innovative. Can’t wait for that $1599 offering… which will still be WILDLY overpriced.

          So since Apple offers only one 15 inch Pro at the moment, let’s look at spec — shall we?

          2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
          Turbo Boost up to 3.4GHz
          16GB 1600MHz memory
          256GB PCIe-based flash storage
          Intel Iris Pro Graphics

          That’s an awesome machine, no doubt. The problem is most people don’t need 16GBs of RAM. That’s overkill to justify the pricey price. Here’s the Asus 15 inch —

          Skylake Intel Core i7-6500U 2.5GHz (Turbo up to 3.1GHz). Skylake
          NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M gaming graphic card;
          8GB RAM
          256GB SSD Storage

          I’m not a gamer so I don’t care if it’s Skylake or if it’s a little bit faster. Or that the Nvidia (I believe) is considered better than the Intel Iris. I’ll just say that these specs — so far — are ‘comparable’ to the MBPro. I know plenty of PC fanboy types who’d claim I’m being really generous there.

          Where the specs differ (again dramatically) are the monitor for instance. Apple sports super high res Retina tastiness WHEREAS the Asus goes matte, weak viewing angles, a dimmer display, and only 1080p.

          Now before you flip your shinola and suggest that Asus screen is simply unacceptable… remember… the current iMac 21.5 inch iMac sports 1080p screen. So if Apple thinks 1080p is fine at 21.5 inches… you have to agree it’s even finer at 6 inches less. As an iMac user I’m good with this resolution. And, yes, I know my iMac has better viewing angles, but I never EVER look at the iMac from anything but dead on anyways.

          What I hope you seeing me doing is changing the conversation from ‘the best is the bestest’ to ‘is the Asus enough for most peoples’ needs’?

          I’ll be the first to tell you the MBPro screen blows this Asus out of the water. I’ll also cop the MBPro chassis is sexier. But the Asus is only a little thicker and… get this… is somehow lighter. Metal can be good… and bad. My wife has to lug this thing around all day. If it were way thicker and heavier, I’d feel like I cheaped out. Again — it’s only a little thicker and instead a little lighter. Not a bad trade off.

          So… to be fair to Asus and Apple… I’d say the Asus is 2/3rds as good as the Mac. And so the price of the Asus should be about a third less than $2000. Or $1399 say. Okay? Brace yourself —

          — it’s $799. Not on sale. It sometimes goes down $30 but at this price WHO CARES. The MBPro is so embarrassingly overpriced Amazon is unloading them now for $1799. But is that MBPro really worth $1000 more?

          I don’t sniff airplane glue. How about you?

          • gene says:

            We can do this all day without result. The 21.5-inch iMac is also available in a 4K configuration.

            To be fair, the discussion is over. You can continue to cite almost-as-good-but-cheaper all day long without understanding the core issue. And it’s not just the hardware.

            Since you must add insults, you have worn out your welcome here.

            Have a nice life.


          • S. Mulji says:

            “The problem is most people don’t need 16GBs of RAM”

            I will agree with you there but then again there is a reason why the 15″ is called a Retina Macbook Pro (with emphasis on Pro).

            • gene says:

              When Pol-whatever began to rant about how much RAM you really need, and glue sniffing, it was crystal clear we were dealing with a troll. That and the fact that the goal posts kept changing as long as the discussion continued, until we had to deal with the dumb argument of whether Windows 10 is better than Linux. Yes, that would surely be a reason to choose a PC over a Mac — not!


    4. ulukila says:

      Gene, what is your obsession with “buying and paying more for iCloud storage”?

      Paying a couple of dollars for extra storage per month won’t break the bank.

      • gene says:

        I’m obsessed with facts, and this is an issue that’s not being raised.

        So the monthly fee is $2.99 for 200GB. $9.99 for 1TB. If other family members have separate Desktop and Documents folders, you may have to buy a $9.99 package for each as there may not be sufficient space to share.

        And don’t forget the possibility of exceeding your ISP’s bandwidth cap. Some mainstream packages come with a mere 250GB.

        In the scheme of things, the storage is cheap, unless you are on a tight budget where even a little means a lot. I can’t tell you about the bandwidth, since exceeding it may result in a high overage fee, slower (throttled) performance, or just shutting it off till the next month.


    5. Gloria K says:

      “More to the point, is there any real advantage — beyond chip cost — to investing in another processor switch? Will there come a time where a future iPad, or a successor product, replaces all or most of the functions of the Mac in a new form factor?”

      I’m a macOS person first and always — which means a transition to iOS is a dealbreaker for me. Using iOS is like wearing handcuffs. I got so sick of waiting for iPad to have mouse support I bought a PC.

      Reading comments here I see somebody felt the same way. I hope I don’t get labeled a troll too, Gene. I needed a portable computer and the iPad just wasn’t cutting it.

      Oh, and the Pool Man is right: a 13 inch MacBook Air is $999. I checked. He was comparing it to a 13 inch PC, which is what you told him to do.

      • gene says:

        You’ve got a few things mixed up there.

        First the processor switch: If Macs go to ARM processors, they’d still run macOS. Remember that macOS and iOS have many core similarities. It’s a portable OS that works well on different processors.

        If a future iPad assumed many of the functions of a Mac, the OS would have to be more Mac-like as well, no doubt. I didn’t address this at all, but I agree with you that iOS, at its present state, doesn’t cut it. I’ve said as much a number of times in these columns and on my radio show.

        As to Pool Man: I didn’t create the comparisons, nor did I request that he do so with a 13-inch notebook or any other notebook configuration. But once he got involved, the goal posts got muddied. Remember, that Intel’s UltraBook platform was meant as an answer to the slim form factors of the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. The PC hardware is a mixture of capabilities, but the companies who build them actually don’t do much in the way of innovation. Cheaper models use cheaper parts, some mix decent components with poorly-designed ones, such as the Asus trackpad, and don’t focus on power efficiencies. That’s why the battery life of the Asus, or at least the model cited, is not much more than half that of a MacBook Air.

        If you want cheap, there are plenty of alternatives. Some are close enough to a Mac, at a few hundred dollars less, that you might be willing to accept the tradeoffs. But the tradeoff in going to Windows 10 instead of macOS may be a more serious factor, since it involves usability, efficiency, and productivity.


    6. dfs says:

      “Will there come a time where a future iPad, or a successor product, replaces all or most of the functions of the Mac in a new form factor?” Absolutely not. I’ve said it before, but I guess I need to say it again. Roughly speaking and with a bunch of necessary qualifications duly being made, computer users can be divided into two groups (admittedly of very unequal size): active content producers and passive content consumers. Maybe the latter group can get by with “a future iPad or a successor product,” but the former group sure can’t. They’re the ones who require heavy-duty processing and tons of screen space to edit audio and video, create Web content, and so forth. And, although they may not be very great in numbers, they provide the content that creates the demand for the gear the consumers buy. In short, they drive the entire industry. It would be more than foolish, it would be downright suicidal for Apple or any other mainline computer company to neglect the needs of the content creators.

      Was it Steve or Tim who used the cars and trucks metaphor? This is exactly what he was talking about. There are a lot more cars than trucks on the road, but trucks are nevertheless necessary to maintain a healthy economy. Whoever said this sure got the point.

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