Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

It’s About Trust

A guess: Apple’s greatest asset is the trust users and customers have in them to be doing the right thing for them, whether in the near term or over a longer run. You could say that about nearly any technology company, but here’s another guess: few others require a user’s trust to the extent that Apple does.

Forgive me for pointing out the obvious here, but Apple, unlike its peers, is the only company that makes hardware that can officially run MacOS and iOS. Google and Microsoft may now have their own integrated hardware and software products — in the form of the Pixel and Surface, respectively — but other companies make hardware that runs Android and Windows.

This puts Apple in a position of incredible power and responsibility. Their platforms are exceptional. Even as I complain at length about the myriad bugs and quality issues in MacOS, I’ve also used Windows recently and I can assure you that there’s a gigantic gap. Yet this responsibility, I feel, is something that they haven’t always treated with the respect it deserves.

Chuq Von Rospach, in a rightfully-popular essay on the state of Apple’s 2016:

A big percentage of complaints over the new MacBook Pro devices is that they ignore the needs of the “power” user. I think a better way to define this is that these units define “power user” different than many people who see themselves as power users do, and they’re upset (justifiably) that there aren’t options that allow them to solve their needs.

[…]

It’s been over a thousand days since [the Mac Pro] has seen an update. As Apple’s high end flagship, this is unconscionable. It shows a lack of respect for its high end power users that have depended on it.

Professional and power users are not a large market — at least, not when compared to millions of more average consumers — but they remain integral to all of Apple’s platforms. Developers rely upon the Mac to build great apps for all of Apple’s platforms, and that ecosystem is a key selling point.

And, on the subject of money, pro and power users are more likely to make a far greater investment in Apple’s platforms. A really powerful Mac runs upwards of $4,000, and pro users are far more likely to buy external displays, make large software commitments, and even buy additional computers. The market may be small, but ask a Mac-based professional video editor or composer how much they’ve sunk into their workstation, especially if they’ve been a longtime customer. They could typically have a couple of nice cars for that money.

That kind of investment feels like it has been squandered. No company should be selling the exact same computer for a thousand days at exactly the same price points, but Apple certainly shouldn’t, especially not when it’s a professional Mac. It’s this kind of thing — and continuing to sell outdated WiFi hardware, and not updating the Mac Mini or even the iMac, and reducing the future-proofing of professional Macs — that makes longtime users seriously consider fleeing the platform.

Above all, it feels like an abuse of trust. Many of us have sunk tens of thousands of dollars into Apple’s ecosystem in hardware, software, accessories, and services. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that Mac is dead, or that Apple is doomed. But, as Apple encourages ever greater investment in their entire ecosystem through various inter-device features and cloud services, they’ll need ever-greater amounts of trust. And right now, as a “power” Mac user, I’m more uneasy than I can remember.