By Jason Snell
March 17, 2015 11:13 AM PT
The MacBook doesn’t need you to love it, but someone will
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
The uproar about the MacBook’s lack of ports and features is not surprising. It happened when the original MacBook Air debuted and it was predictable the moment the rumors about the product first broke.
A long time ago I learned an important lesson about being a product reviewer: Always consider the audience for a product. They’re who you’re writing for. I have a recent-model MacBook Air, so am unlikely to be interested in buying a new MacBook—but the facts of my personal relationship with technology should not really matter when I’m thinking about the bigger picture.
I think about that a lot at times like this, because I suspect a lot of the reaction to the MacBook among people who follow technology and Apple on the Internet comes from a similar place. People are often offended when a product exists that they wouldn’t buy, one that isn’t even targeted at them.
We are so used to Apple making shiny new stuff that we want to buy, that when a device appears whose design decisions are completely at odds with what we value, it’s off-putting. And that’s one reason why the MacBook (and the Apple Watch Edition, for that matter) drive some people batty.
I feel the nervousness of having a single port for data and power. As a laptop user I hate to be away from power, because I’m deathly afraid that the very moment my battery reaches 10 percent and I reach for the charger, I will be called away to an off-site meeting and my laptop won’t be able to make it.
But I don’t leave my iPhone plugged in all day. Or my iPad. And if Apple can pack enough battery life into the MacBook, we shouldn’t need to leave it plugged in all day, either. This obviously won’t work for every use case, but it’s clear that Apple built this MacBook to be treated more like an iPhone or iPad.
I get how some people are still holding on to old habits of using USB sticks to transfer data. Sneakernet’s still a thing, apparently? Not only has Apple tried to make the wireless transfer of files easier via AirDrop (when it works), but these days it’s easier than ever to share files via Dropbox and Google Drive and the like. Most people don’t need to use USB flash drives regularly. Apple shouldn’t build new tech to support people who are reluctant to give up old habits.
The lack of multiple ports on the MacBook kind of stinks, it’s true. I’d hope that future models would have two ports, if only for the ability to plug in stuff on either side of the device. But there will be many USB-C adapters from many manufacturers, probably up to and including a desktop dock in the style of the Belkin Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock.
As for the lack of power in the Intel Core M processor, well… there’s got to be something “pro” about the MacBook Pro, doesn’t there? This thing is thin and tiny and fanless, and it’s got the processor it needs to make that happen. As a regular user of Logic Pro and a few CPU-mad audio plug-ins, I probably need more power than an Intel Core M can generate. But it’s been years since I felt that regular, everyday Mac operations (typing stuff, looking at Web pages, watching videos) were not just fine on every Mac Apple makes. The Core M is a big warning label that people who care about processor power need not apply, but most people won’t care. It’ll be fine.
And who knows? In a year or two you may find yourself wanting one. That might be because the product has changed… or it might be because you’ve changed. Maybe both. It will be interesting to see what happens next, won’t it?
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