The Spring Forward event brought us things like pricing and more details on the Apple Watch, but to me the most exciting part was the brand-new Retina MacBook. Not because of what that computer is — and it is an interesting piece of hardware — but for what it means for the future of the MacBook. In particular, the future of the MacBook Pro.
Let's be perfectly clear: the new MacBook is a specialized forward-looking machine. While I'm certainly lusting after it and keep going back and forth on whether or not I'm going to buy one, it's not the machine for me. That doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be your next Mac. For my purposes — working with a large external monitor, Ethernet, several USB devices, and SD card on a regular basis (and all but the monitor while on the go as well) — it doesn't suit me. I require more physical input options than the MacBook afford me. And I need more power to do what I do in a timely manner than the Core M processor inside it can offer.
Conversely, I go to the coffee shop and I see people sitting there with their laptops and nothing at all plugged into them, or maybe just a pair of headphones. For them, the ultra-light and ultra-portable MacBook might be the perfect machine. Even with that Core M processor will be adequate — they're not processing video, rendering 3D models, or even playing games much more intensive than what you'll find on Facebook.
There's been a lot of angst about the new MacBook from the "technorati". A lot of us have MacBook Air computers that aren't quite powerful enough to do what we ask, or we have a MacBook Pro that has all of the power and a gorgeous screen, but its weight and size makes us lust after those we see pulling Airs out of their bags. I saw it myself at MWC 2015 just last week — I think my first-gen 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is a fantastic machine, though it's starting to show its age. I saw my colleagues with their lighter MacBook Airs and wished for the lesser weight on my shoulder, but then all I had to do was look at their screen and watch them try to process video to push myself back from the edge.
In the minds of those that lust for powerful and thin, the long-rumored and much-longed-for Retina MacBook Air was supposed to solve that. But the new MacBook isn't that computer. It's a machine of compromises. Getting it as thin and light and long-lasting as it is required opting for a less-powerful processor and cutting out the multitude of ports we've grown accustomed to. There's nothing wrong with that; it just means that the new MacBook is not the computer for me.
But it does set the stage for the future of the MacBook Pro (I'm not certain about the future of the Air, since this new MacBook is both thinner and lighter than the current Air and I don't know what Apple could possibly do to make an even thinner and lighter computer right now). I look at the new MacBook and I imagine the design innovations that went into it — the slimmer keyboard, the terraced battery cells, the thinner display — going into the next-generation MacBook Pro.
The MacBook isn't designed for people who need power and ports, and in retrospect it was rather insane of us to project those expectations onto even a MacBook Air with Retina display. The next MacBook Pro is the computer I want. Alongside the introduction of the new MacBook, Apple refreshed the internals of the current MacBook Pro design with a new set of fifth-generation Intel Core "Broadwell" processors and faster memory. These are better computers than the one I own, yes, but merely in that they're more powerful and get a longer battery life.
I've resigned myself to wait. The new MacBook isn't for me, and the updated MacBook Pro line isn't enough of an update over what I have today. I'm waiting for the next generation Pro, with an Intel Skylake processor and a design that follows the lead of the new MacBook, all while retaining things that I need to accomplish my job like a Thunderbolt port and an SD card slot. I hope it will have those, but maybe it won't.
I'm a pro user and I use my Pro computer as a pro ought. I push it to the brink and make use of nearly everything it has to offer. I run live video conferencing for hours on end, I do 3D modeling and video rendering, I hook up a multitude of peripherals (with just one plug thanks to a Thunderbolt dock), I pluck my SD card out of my high-powered camera and slip it into my computer.
All of these things mean that the new MacBook isn't for me. And that's okay. Just in the same way that an entry-level Moto G is not the smartphone for me or a single taco is not enough taco for me. It can be the computer for somebody else, and I'll gaze longingly at its slim profile and effortless weight while pondering for the umpteenth time if I could get away with using it as my primary machine (and eventually dismissing that thought after realizing all of the adapters I'd have to carry around).
And that's okay. I'll wait for the computer that is for me, and to my friends that take photos with their iPhone and never do any heavy lifting with their computer but with it wasn't as heavy to lift, I'll recommend the new MacBook without hesitation, but with the caveats that it comes with. It's first computer to head down Apple's new computing design and philosophy. A lot of it's ahead of its time, some of it might be rolled back.
For now I'll just sit here and dream about my lighter, slimmer, SD card slot-bearing, future MacBook Pro.
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Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.