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By Stephen Hackett

In praise of Mac trucks

At the All Things D Conference in 2010, Steve Jobs said something that has rattled around in my brain ever since:

When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that’s what you needed on the farm. But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, cars got more popular. Innovations like automatic transmission and power steering and things that you didn’t care about in a truck as much started to become paramount in cars. PCs are going to be like trucks. They’re still going to be around, they’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people. I think that we’re embarked on that. Is the next step the iPad? Who knows? Will it happen next year or five years from now or seven years from now? Who knows? But I think we’re headed in that direction.

In the six years since, the iPad has become more powerful. While it doesn’t have some things Mac users take for granted like an exposed file system, it’s easier and easier to pick up an iPad Pro and work all day.

In the same time frame, more mobile features have come to the Mac. Something like Launchpad brings an iOS-like experience to the Mac. You can still navigate to the Applications folder, or use Spotlight — and now Siri — to launch apps, or you can hit F4 on your keyboard and look for the icon you need.

Launchpad is out on the surface. Things like full-screen apps, Siri and sandboxing have made the Mac more car-like than ever before. Likewise, the MacBook has a lot more in common with the iPad than Macs before it.

I believe Apple when they say that macOS and iOS aren’t on a collision course. I don’t think Apple is going to merge them into some weird, all-in-one OS like Microsoft has tried to do with Windows.

I’ve been a Mac user since 2001. I’ve used every version of Mac OS X over the years. I’ve made my living on a string of PowerBooks and MacBook Pros for as long as I can remember. As good as my iPad Pro is, the Mac is home.

However, I think a lot of the what has been added to the Mac experience isn’t for me anymore. The last several macOS releases have been full of features that I’m not interested in using. I don’t want iCloud syncing and optimizing my files automatically. Siri on the Mac isn’t changing my workflows. I didn’t need my computer to hide my user library folder or to try to force me into only running signed apps. I was perfectly clear on how the old Save-As system worked. I need a laptop with more than a single port.

In a world of features that Mac power users aren’t interested in, Apple has been doing some good stuff. Stuff like better power management, Metal and a new filesystem give me hope that somewhere, someone cares about the guts of macOS still.

I don’t begrudge Apple wanting to make the Mac more approachable for the iPhone-owning masses. The more popular the Mac is, the better it is for everyone. I just worry that the truck I love is becoming a little more car-like every passing year.

[Stephen Hackett is the author of 512 Pixels and co-founder of Relay FM.]

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