Apple’s much-needed MacBook Pro reverse ferret

Apple finally reverses the mistakes of half a decade of poor laptop design. And about bloody time.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

I’ve been playing close attention to what Apple is doing for over a quarter of a century now. And, in all that time, I can’t remember such a dramatic reversal of direction as we saw today.

The direction that the MacBook Pro line took in 2016 has been all but erased from the line-up. The rightly maligned butterfly keyboard was already gone, but today’s Apple Event essentially did away with everything characteristic about the MacBook between then and now:

  • The TouchBar: gone
  • The Webcam: back to 1080p
  • The Ports: HDMI and SD card slots back
  • Charging: MagSafe is back

Today’s new announcements are not follow-ups to the last five years of laptops. They’re a return to, and modernisation of, the 2015 era-laptops. And that’s great news because the intermediate laptops were (with one exception) a fucking disaster.

Crappy keyboards. No useful ports for getting photos into your device — or getting presentations out of them to a screen. A TouchBar that added to the cost of the device, but which even Apple itself didn’t seem to know what to do with. This was the laptop line that did what everyone accuses Apple of, but which it rarely actually does: putting form over function.

The MacBook Pro’s lost years

I kept my 2013 MacBook Pro as my main computer until late last year because I really didn’t want one of those laptops. I only gave in and bought one of the last of the old design — the M1-powered MacBook Pro — when it became clear that I really needed the extra power. The old workhorse was struggling to handle large Zoom training courses, which is how I make most of my money at the moment.

And, to be honest, while I’m jealous of the new laptops, I wouldn’t have wanted to endure the last year with my older laptop. So, I made the right decision. But I know that on Wednesday, when I have to use a dongle to connect my MacBook to City’s lecturing pods, it’ll smart that little bit more.

This matters: laptops are not design objects. They’re working devices that need to perform. When Jony Ive resigned from Apple, many of us wondered if this marked the beginning of a decline in Apple’s design. It’s beginning to look like it was the beginning of a renaissance, instead.

The post-Ive era looks good

This is pure speculation, but I think Ive needed Steve Jobs. He needed editing, and Jobs was the kind of brutal editor he thrived under. With Jobs gone, there was nobody left at Apple who could do that. And so, Ive’s worst instincts ran riot. With him gone, a talented but — crucially — less powerful design team are actually making products people like again.

And so, even if there was nothing announced today that will make me get my credit card out, I’m delighted. I’m a writer, trainer, and consultant. Apple devices are the tools of my job. And, today, they proved that they’re committed to providing me with the tools I need, after half a decade going the wrong way.

We’ll never get an apology from Apple — but in the end, it’s the kit that matters. And the kit is finally good again.



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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.