MacBook and why the most mundane of updates still matter

There's not really much to say about the new MacBook that my colleague, Rene, hasn't said already. In a fairly unusual move for me, I didn't even ask for a review unit from Apple. After all, for the most part, there are only three improvements.

We have a little better battery life, a slightly faster processor, and it comes in pink er, Rose Gold. Nice little tweaks for for the most part. Nice, but not earth shaking either. Three features. None of them are a reason to buy a new computer. In fact, if Apple hadn't added any of them, I suspect they'd have not sold one less MacBook. I also doubt they'll sell any more either.

It's been called one of the most boring product introductions ever.

Which gets me to my point. They bother with them? Why tell the world about such minor improvements? I thought about it for a bit, then it hit me. Details matter. At Apple details matter a lot. (Anecdote: on my first day at Apple I sent an email to a colleague. At the end of her response she highlighted and corrected an error, and then added, "spelling counts here". The error was the word "the" which I had typed "hte")

We see vendors copy Apple's form factors and designs down to the cases, keyboards, features and other design elements. We often hear of the "Apple tax" users pay for the Apple logo, perhaps akin to the thousands of dollars camera enthusiasts pay for a certain red dot.

There's a lot more behind the philosophy of today's Apple logo. What other vendors often miss is the attention to the small details that by themselves don't matter all that much but add both value and delight as the user discover them. Are these small improvements? Sure, but they add things that make the MacBook that much more appealing. A rose gold choice may not in an old itself drive a new sale but it sure might bring an extra smile to the face of a new buyer.

When Apple focuses not only on the big picture, but also on the small details, they differentiate themselves from the market. By worrying about things no one else is worried about, Apple finds new ways to delight, surprise, and add value for their customers.

Along the way, Apple changes users from customers to fans. Apple generates trust, and loyalty. Those are things that create mindshare, and mindshare is ultimately what drives market share.

So no review from me. Not even a "hands on" or even a tweet. Just an important takeaway from what appears to be a just a minor product refresh but perhaps is something more.

I’ve covered the personal technology beat for more than two decades at places like Gartner, Jupiter Research and Altimeter Group. I’ve also had the fun of contributing my $.02 on the topic at Computerworld, Engadget, Macworld, SlashGear and now iMore. Most recently I spent a few years at Apple as Sr. Director of Worldwide Product Marketing. On Twitter I’m an unverified @gartenberg. I still own some Apple stock.

14 Comments
  • The MacBook has a sharp design and is extremely light, but imo the accolades end there. For what it is the price is extremely high. Apple is not innovating at the pace to merit those prices. Attention to detail is absent as well. It makes no sense that you would go out and spend $1200-1600 on a new laptop and immediately need adapters to use it. I mean come on the only port is charges and transfers data. Who thought that was acceptable? I get it tradition usb wouldn't fit. They could have done at least another usb-c port. Same thing with the Pencil. Why doesn't it have a rechargeable battery that would last much longer like the Microsoft Surface Pen? Or an eraser? Apple really needs to think through they design process before releasing half baked goods that require a multitude of adapters just to function.
  • The person who thought it acceptable was the person who intended for it to not be a portable workstation. It's not a portable workstation. That this fact isn't obvious seems absurd to me. This is a book that isn't for everyone, and the people it's not for are really clear: People who need a lot of peripherals. If you really have to have external storage, a breakout box for audio, video capture, and an external display... Don't buy this! Don't freaking buy it! Get an Air if you want utility+thin, or a Pro if you want a bigger screen. To buy a Macbook when you use a lot of periphs and need USB ports, T-bolt, et cetera, would be like buying a Porsche 911 when you need a Ford F150.
  • I get that. Obviously they don't agree or they wouldn't have created adapters. Even with minimal use having the charging port and data transfer both using the same port is moronic at best. Apple makes great products, but this is a design failure. Sorry I'm not hungover on the Apple juice just a realist who appreciates good products no matter what brand they are.
  • "Obviously they don't agree or they wouldn't have created adapters." They also have similar adapters for the iPad, but I hardly think they intend every iPad owner to buy the adapters. The adapters, like the battery case for iPhone 6/6S, is for edge cases. "Even with minimal use having the charging port and data transfer both using the same port is moronic at best." Not really, if you really do mean "minimal use". I've got an adapter and it's seen minimal use, by which I mean I've used it twice in the year since I got it, and both times I was literally on the go (walking around the building) and couldn't possibly be plugged into power without dragging an incredibly long extension cord behind me.
  • Hey, Gartenberg, spelling and proofing matters here, too. "A rose gold choice may not in an old itself drive a new sale but it sure might bring an extra smile to the face of a new buyer." "Which gets me to my point. They bother with them?"
  • I don't think he cares. This article is pointless. I think what ever they are paying him is too much. For all the resume he has, we continually get fluff like this instead of deep or even surface analysis. It's clear that he's just a hype guy with no substantive writing skills. Sent from the iMore App
  • Absolutely agree.
  • Apple needs to make a device like the Surface Pro 3/4. Hands down one of the most versatile devices ever created.
  • You'd have a point if the Surface actually outsold the iPad. Unfortunately... The problem is that you are arguing from a personal view. Look around. How many people have your requirements for a personal computing device? Very few I suspect. Surface uptake, like the "spectacular" Windows 10 uptake is mostly marketing. Microsoft forced all their users to upgrade to Windows 10 so the numbers look impressive, but that's basically cheating. If you can only buy Surface devices instead of laptops then you have little to no choice. The Surface is the 2016 version of the Netbook - a product the analysts said Apple had to make or was doomed. Apple responded with the iPad. Remind me again how that worked out?
  • There are more than 3 updates - I'm typing this on a 2015 MacBook and was actually considering doing the ol' Gazelle trade-in and upgrade (caveat: I'm a compulsive upgrader) but I'm going to wait to see what the next 13" MacBook Pro looks like even if my trade-in value declines before then. In addition to the processor being 15-20% faster, graphics performance is about 25% faster, judging from a few reviews, and memory is upgraded to 1866 from 1600mhz if I remember correctly. The SSD has 80-90% faster write speeds and the read speeds are slightly faster. (can't get any specifics on that unfortunately) So, more than 3 things - there are 6 things! That's 100% more than 3 things! ;) I agree that incremental upgrades are important, though - a few years of incremental upgrades equal the next computer being a huge improvement for the average user who doesn't upgrade as frequently as I do.
  • I find it amazing how people don't regard the MacBook as innovative or that they lack attention to detail. When you seriously look at it, not just the exterior, but the interior as well; how unbelievably tight they packed the components on the logic board, how efficiently they packed the battery in. And the exterior is just beautiful. Do you see any other manufacturer making a laptop with this level of fit and finish? Others may have better specs and more ports, but they miss other things that make all they difference, like the trackpad and keyboard and even stuff like the screen hinge. It all adds up. I, for one, think Apple have made a pretty darn good machine, as usual. Sent from the iMore App
  • I love Apple products and I hate windows. For me once I learned is OS X really learned it I never again looked at Windows. I tried Windows 10 briefly and instantly yuck. Never again Sent from the iMore App
  • Hi everybody.I am new at this. I am not as skilled as you are, but just want to leave my opinion. I have been using computers since DOS (yeah, old!). i am in project management and my tasks turn around MS office, Autocad, mail (25GB of stored mail), web surfing and ERP Software.
    I am a Mac user since 2000 (Windows millenium was a real drag) and it has been working fine for me ever since, despite of the bigger amount of software for windows.
    However, i have been pleased to see that, both software and hardware manufacturers have improved a lot because of Apple (the target to beat). Even to a point that some of them are as good or better. And this is very good for us, consumers. I have tried Windows 10 and i believe that is marvelous. Today i use a macbook 2015 1.2 and it works perfectly for me, specially that i never switch it off, it is my "iPad" computer, being able to multitask what a tablet can't and be fan-less, which a tablet is. Obviously that you, as more advanced and better experts than me,will say that it is weak for string and heavy tasks! Sure thing, but i would never would be rowing on a boat with a tea spoon, i would use a row. Same thing here, i would not bought this machine if i was a gamer or a heavy illustrator.
    But one thing i truly believe: Apple is looking also at the other brands as target to beat and this is a good sign for the market and we are gong to benefit of it.
    I apologize for my english, as i am not a born english speaker. good day to all
  • I look forward to the day I leave Windows behind when I finally switch over to Mac. Sent from the iMore App