With the announcement of the new Apple Macbook Pro we have an exciting and life-changing new Touch Bar. Simon has written all about that here. Apple seem so determined not to allow fingerprints on the Macbook screen that they have to go and invent something less useful. Then, in an effort to be all future-driven, they remove all the ports everyone uses. Have Apple finally lost their cool?
I guarantee that software developers will fall over themselves to develop natty little buttons and displays for the new touchbar. But can you get them interested in producing touch friendly desktop software? Why would I want a transport bar sitting above my keyboard? My keyboard is already doing those things in shortcuts. With a touchscreen you don’t have to redevelop everything. The transport controls are already there, with the faders, knobs, buttons and tools that you can use directly and naturally with your fingers. It’s already on the screen – just touch it. Apple are masters of the touch interface on the iPad i really don’t understand why they don’t embrace it on MacOS. FFS, Apple, put a touchscreen on it! Maybe it’s time for audio software developers to examine their love affair with Apple and start moving into a more touch-friendly and innovative space.
I have a composer friend who uses an iPad Pro as a second screen to his iMac, via a screen sharing app, so that he can use the digital pencil and touch screen elements, with the iMac. But that’s a lot of setting up to achieve something that’s already built into the Surface range of Microsoft products and many other hybrid PCs. They already have the technology – what’s stopping them? Is it pride or not wanting to be seen as following Microsoft? Is the fact that they released a stylus when they said they never would, or have followed the Surface Pro 4 keyboard styling really messed them about? There’s no knowing the mind of the crazy/genius Apple developers.
What we do know is that Apple have shaved off all the USB ports and made a gazillion peripherals obsolete. The sleek, perfectly formed lines of the Macbook Pro will be festooned with adapters and hubs so people can plug in their MIDI controllers, SD cards or audio interfaces. Of course USB 3.1 ports are no bad thing and Thunderbolt 3 is a cutting-edge port (both of these sorely missing of the new Microsoft Surface Studio revealed the day before). But that these are the only ports is quite a lot for users to swallow. Particularly us music makers. We have a lot of regular USB gear and it’s a right royal pain-in-the-arse to have to get new cables, new adapters or even new gear to connect our music making tools to our chosen music making device.
Is that hundred-year-old so-dated-we-dropped-it-off-the-iPhone 3.5mm headphone socket a concession to us old farts? That would be a good thing if Apple hadn’t just spent the last month or two convincing us that it’s rubbish and we’re better off without it.
The refresh of the MacBook Pro only brought it mildly up to date with Skylake processors, released a few years ago, and a maximum of 16GB of RAM. What’s really concerning, though, is the lack of update to any of the more serious tools that professional creators use throughout the audio, film and media industries. It’s been three years since the Mac Pro was last updated – that’s a lifetime in technology cycles. There was also no update for the iMac which is probably the most common project studio all-in-one computer. Even the beloved MacOS has hit troubles in the last few updates. Traditionally people slag off Windows for instability but updates to MacOS have the ability to break whole workflows and developers always seem to be playing catchup to make their products compatible. What have Apple given us recently? A new phone, ear buds and a watch. Oh, come on!
Comparisons to Microsoft’s event the day before are inevitable. With their Surface range they have embraced touch and built an iMac-killing machine that looks and feels innovative and exciting. They introduced an unexpected and remarkably creative peripheral in the Surface Dial and the upcoming “Creators Update” for Windows 10 looks to be bringing together all sorts of technologies and possibilities. Microsoft still doesn’t have the musical focus that Apple has used to create a very loyal user base, but it’s bringing the cooler stuff to the party.
For more information head over the Apple’s website and take a moment to remember when it was all much more awesome.