Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I Guess I'm Not Apple's Target Market Anymore

Day after day
When love turns gray
Like the skin on a dying man
And night after night
We pretend it's alright
But I have grown older 
And you have grown colder 
And nothing is very much fun 
- Pink Floyd, One of my Turns

Perhaps you glanced at my previous post, Is Apple "Designing" Themselves Out of Customers?  Hopefully you followed the linked article and saw the compilation of complaints regarding Apple's seeming abandonment of the creative class. While I would have loved to compile my list of complaints, that grand roll-up not only reminded me of the issues with the new MacBook Pros, it also reminded me that I am not alone. You are not alone. There are quite a few of us who feel abandoned by Apple. And what's worse, most of us have been loyal Apple customers and dedicated users for many, many years.

And that's what pissed me off about this post I came across on The title of the post is, The backlash against Apple’s new MacBook Pro from its core user base is unprecedented. From the title, it sounds like it's going to be another roll-up of complaints and a story about the story. Instead, it turns into a piece that tries to ballpark the size of Apple's market segment that's complaining the most, "two particular sets of people: Those who use heavy-duty creative applications such as Photoshop, and those who develop for Apple platforms." Here's the basic numbers.
At the absolute outside, though, it gives, at most, around 25 million total users in the two buckets that have been most vocal about the MacBook Pro changes, out of a total base of around 90 million, or around 28 percent. Realistically, that number is probably quite a bit smaller, perhaps around 15 percent to 20 percent of the total. Of these, not all will share the concerns of those who have been so outspoken in the past week. To look at it another way, Apple sold 18.5 million Macs in the past year, which might end up being roughly the same as the combined number of creative professionals and developers in the base.
It then goes on to suggest that Apple seems to be doing well enough with the new designs because, sales. Yet, what really gets overlooked here though, is the role of the creative professional and developer segment as recommenders, evangelists and promoters (to use the net promoter terminology).

As a creative professional who's been using Apple products for over 25 years, I've been through the years of doubt and skepticism about the Apple platform. I've seen the IT departments that are forced to accept Apple devices into their ecosystems. Sure, there is a broader audience using the Mac these days, but a percentage of them don't know why. These are users that can comfortably switch back and forth between Windows systems and Mac systems because they don't really depend upon key features that creatives and developers do. For these users, a non-pro MacBook or a basic iMac are probably more than adequate.

Which brings me to this article that I came across. Apple is now officially a dongle company that happens to make smartphones and computers (Updated). The emphasis in this piece, as you might imagine, is how Apple has embraced the dongle with their latest devices. The dongle, the article says, is Apple's fastest growing product category.
The absurdity of the situation is neatly captured by the following fact: None of Apple’s newest laptops can connect to its own flagship smartphones without using a dongle or purchasing a separate cable that doesn’t otherwise ship with any of Apple’s hardware.
The article contrasts the history of Apple products with the more recent trend to use dongles. The author takes the position that this is Tim Cook's Apple and that Steve Jobs wouldn't have followed that path. You can read the article for yourself, but I do agree that dongles are antithetical to what has been, historically, the Apple way.

What's more, I think the necessity for a dongle is in most cases, a statement that the design of the core product sucks. It's like watching those cooking shows where somebody must pair odd ingredients with a main dish and they just throw something on the side. The bottom line is that you chose a path for the requirements that isn't integrated. If it isn't integrated but it's function is integral, that's a poor design.

I Would Not Recommend The Existing Suite of Apple Products
As noted, with a long history of Apple product usage and evangelism, the other user segments often ask me for guidance on Apple products. At this point, I can't see myself recommending any product with a USB-C port on it unless that port is an addition to the existing set of ports. Consider, recently I was on a site looking at promotional USB drives -- they don't offer a single USB-C drive. Not one.

Frankly while they have labeled the new products as MacBook Pros, I think they are less Pro and more Meh. But maybe you're somebody who needs the touchbar so that you can quickly message your friends with emojis. But, to quote the dongle article,
So far, no consumer product Apple has launched in 2016 has been anything like an equivalent trendsetter. If the future of PCs is a tiny machine and a lap full of accessories, I’ll stick with the status quo. Yes, in the very long run, we may see a world in which USB-C is used for almost everything -- but HDMI, USB Type A, DisplayPort, Lightning, and SD cards aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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