Why Apple Still Rules, Microsoft Is OK, and Everyone Needs to Chill Out

Why Apple Still Rules, Microsoft Is OK, and Everyone Needs to Chill Out

On one hand, it’s understandable to be territorial over the features in our technology and sensitive to change. But technology inherently demands change — and that change is demanded at the fastest rate possible. We can complain about it all day long, but if we stop complaining at the whims of our feelings and start thinking logically, we can and should start to feel better as we realize the true nature of our so-called upgrade-cycle and innovation-searching frustrations. In reality, the only thing lacking innovation is our expectation.

Media loves nothing more than punchy headlines. Headlines that claim Apple is on its way down and can’t innovate as Microsoft looks to beat it at its own game are nothing more than journalist-sanctioned click-bait gold, but make little sense for those actually interested in good journalism.

Sure, the Microsoft Surface Studio is flashy with its new rotating input device, but how practical is it, really, compared to other options that are or will become available? Time will tell, but as pretty and fun and swanky as it looks, there are a number of aspects to the device that make this one seem more like a gimmick than anything else. I'm not yet sold.

Sure, it could end up being amazing. But I'm not yet convinced that the Surface Studio's new Dial is that much better than other already-existing input devices. For those that want more dial-like controls, we've already had fully modular and customizable options such as Palette.

A Short and General History

Apple has a history not of being first to the market with various technologies, but of bringing features we need only when the technology to implement them is ready (though we, ourselves, are often not quite ready).

The Mac was far from the first desktop personal computer. The iPhone was far from the first smartphone. The iPad was far from the first tablet. But Apple launched each of these products with features that made perfect sense in the time and technological environment in which they were born.

The same thing happened with feature changes within these product lines. As data port technologies such as USB and Thunderbolt matured and improved, technology had to adopt these changes eventually. In some cases, Apple waited (such as with the advent of USB 3.0) for the peripheral market to catch up. In other cases (such as with the DVD drive and the iPhone’s headphone jack), Apple brazenly led the charge in ridding the world of a fading technology in favor of better, modern technologies.

No matter how you look at it, Apple's newest laptops are sleek, powerful, envy-worthy computers. The trade-offs to make for them require nothing different from anything else we've been doing. We're just going to need a few different cables than the ones we currently have.

These changes aren’t always easy to swallow, but Apple’s proven track record of doing what makes sense to give the world a little nudge forward should earn it a little slack. Many of Apple’s biggest fans chastised the company for dropping the DVD drive with the Retina MacBook Pro. And yet, looking back, Apple made this decision at the perfect time. Since Netflix and Amazon and iTunes have done such a great job of filling in the media market, no one actually needed a DVD drive anymore. Software was quickly becoming online-only (subscription-based software was yet another trend around the corner). And the DVD drive was obsolete. We just didn’t know it, yet. But Apple did. And we should trust Apple to know what it’s doing today.

Lack of Innovation

The entire “Can Apple innovate without Jobs?” question is a tired one. Unfortunately for the company, it’s hard to innovate when everyone is looking for ways to prove you’re not. But what is innovation? Some of us want to be wowed by another product category or a completely new type of electronic, as the iPhone was at the time of its introduction.

The only problem with that is that, again, the iPhone wasn’t that new. It was just the best incarnation of a device we’d been using for quite some time. It might seem rough to trivialize something that revolutionized the smartphone industry and changed our lives in such a big way. But it’s true. It didn’t invent how we spoke. And the entire idea of the device was to be the last portable electronic device we needed. So why are we still searching for something new and different that we don’t need?

The iPad is a great example of this. Everyone wants a new product, and Apple gives it to them in the form of the iPad. And yet, everyone complains that the iPad isn’t necessary. And if they like the iPad, they complain that the portable computer is no longer necessary.

In reality, this should all be OK without the need for complaints. Not everyone needs one device or another. The iPhone is designed to be and should be the only one-device-fits-all product. As for the rest, make your decision, buy what you need, and enjoy the rest of your life without freaking out if or when something new comes out.

The New MacBook Pros and System Performance

Of course, technology still needs to move forward. And it’s fair to expect regular updates as technology improves. Apple did wait quite some time to introduce new laptops this time around, but the reality is that Intel took quite some time to release new processors that would make it worth the upgrade. They even announced an entire change in the rate at which they would progress with their manufacturing processes.

How much thinner do people expect it to get?

Still, if we pause to take a look at what Apple really accomplished in these new computers, it’s hard to see how they aren’t amazing. They’re thinner than and as light as a MacBook Air, but perform at levels good enough to edit 4K video, run multiple 5K screens, and transfer data at more than three gigabytes per second — more than six times the rate of most of today’s high-end solid state drives. Battery life remains unchanged, and we get up to four, lightning-fast, state-of-the-art Thunderbolt 3 ports that can handle anything you throw at them with greater expandability and flexibility than any other port — ever. And if you want to complain about processor speed or other specs, just remember numbers aren’t everything (this iPhone versus Galaxy test shows how great hardware-software integration can make lower-featured devices outperform those that feature over-killed specifications).

Sure, there are some caveats. You need to get an adapter or two for most of your devices (for now). The SD card slot is missing. And there’s no dedicated HDMI out. But can we be real about the practicality of these features for just a moment?

None of this is anything new. Ports have been improving and changing rapidly in the last 10 years. We already need, have, and use cables between all of our peripherals. What’s the difference between using a few different cables than the ones we have? Soon enough, our peripherals will ship with the same ports, too, and all of this will be a distant memory.

The SD card isn’t necessarily going to be as ubiquitous as we think it is. The organization that manages the Compact Flash standard threw its support behind the XQD format with the newly announced CFexpress format to likely be backwards-compatible with XQD. For the professionals such as a lot of us that really need fast transfer rates, our cameras support a variety of different technologies (from CFAST to CF to SD and XQD), so many of us are using separate, dedicated readers anyway. And for a good chunk of the general public, most consumer cameras feature wireless image transfer, which will only become more and more common with time. The absence of the SD card slot is Apple's way of saying, "It just won't matter for that much longer, anyway."

And HDMI out? Really? I could have gone without this port a lot sooner, especially considering the frequency with which I actually used it. Thunderbolt 3 and the way that it paves for the future is brighter than any of these. Now, everyone has the flexibility and expandability for anything they could ever want. Your I/O ports are no longer suited to only a handful of people who happen to need those exact ports just perfectly. Everyone has the ability to get one adapter that perfectly suits them.

Apples and Oranges

Getting back to Microsoft and its supposed overshadowing of Apple’s keynote event, Microsoft’s greatest innovation is simply the fact that it made another computer and is continuing to make them in general. As great of a job as their team did with the sturdiness of the design and the implementation the true-to-life display size (12-point font on the screen of the Microsoft Surface Studio is the same size as when printed on a sheet of paper), it’s just a big touchscreen desktop with a new input device from which only professional designers will really benefit.

The Surface Studio is beautiful, but it's not any more of a game-changer than any other new-ish computer out there. Hewlett-Packard released the TouchSmart back in 2007. This is just better (as it should be, by now).

Meanwhile, the comparison between the two rivals’ events is moot, since so many seem to forget the fact that Microsoft is releasing a professional desktop for designers while Apple is releasing portable notebooks fit for anyone that wants a step up to the on-the-go power-user. The two devices are in completely different categories.

Naturally, desktop fans are still waiting for Apple to revamp the iMac — and rightly so. The iMac, too, hasn’t seen a meaningful update in far too long. And I won’t get you all started on the lack of refreshes for the Mac Pro. But with new processor releases from Intel around the corner, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more to follow soon.

Not at all to take away from Microsoft, but to sit around and say Apple is slacking and Microsoft is blowing away the competition is absurd. Look at the performance really being offered and the subsequently improved portability. It’s impressive — period.

In a few months, the media will likely sing the same song — at least until Apple can please its investors with record profits once again, as is largely expected next quarter. Yet the general public will be more or less silently loving their new MacBook Pros because they really are the best computers around.

Meanwhile, for PC lovers, Microsoft is doing a great job of producing some competition-worthy computers for its professional users. Why is everyone in such a hurry to get in another fight over all of this?

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111 Comments

Mike Leland's picture

I love the 4 USB ports. I also am in my 40s and remember the transition from parallel ports and serial ports to ps2 ports to USB-A ports. I remember when people were up in arms about manufacturers dropping serial ports from their machines in favor of universal serial (USB) USB-C is way more universal and way more awesomer.

16gb RAM is retarded, though. I would really like to see this addressed.

Lane Shurtleff's picture

Since you didn't say which system only has 16gb RAM (its RAMM btw) I'll make a wild guess you meant the Surface Studio. The top of the libe 17 version comes with 32Gb od RAMM.. But Apple being Apple and dropping the industry standard hmdi/vga/usb video outputs, has now pissed of EVERY business person who has to do presentations and meetings with no way to plug into or access any company's media projector or display. Apple falls on its face in the real world of business.

kris risner's picture

He meant the Macbook...

"RAM (its RAMM btw)" What are you taking about?

Lane Shurtleff's picture

My mistake. I confused it with SO-DIMM. RAM or SDRAM is correct.

Mike Leland's picture

So, yeah. Since I was busy all day doing photo shoots (this is a site for photographers, right?) I am just now getting back to a little free time.

Yes, I was referring to the macbook pro referenced in the post I had replied to and prefaced with "4 USB ports". How was that not obvious? (Also, thank you, kris risner)

Not, it is not "RAMM", its RAM. Seriously? Does it stand for Random Access Memory or Random Access Memory Motherfucker? Is "Lane Shurleff" actually Jules Winnfield? (thanks, g coll)

I am a business person as I run an incredibly successful photography business (this it a site for photographers, right?) and I have NO PROBLEM with buying a laptop that has THE NEW STANDARD USB PORTS so that when I go to plug in to a boardroom system in 6 months that only has USB-C inputs, I won't have to make excuses for living in the past.

Lane, I know that you admitted to your mistake 3 hours ago but I feel like I should give you a hard time since you were so quick to (incorrectly) give me a hard time over a clearly pedantic element of my comment. I felt it necessary to bring this up as your reply clearly illustrates the fact that I poorly communicated my position to you.

So I'll lay it out to you in plain english: I'm mad that the new macbook pro only has 16gb of ram. Or rammmmm.... whatever.

I need to get ready for tomorrow's shoots. You can get ready for your board meeting or whatever it is that you do.

Leigh Smith's picture

Pat yourself on the back a few more times about your photoshoots, and being a photographer.

Anonymous's picture

ikr

Mike Leland's picture

Will do, cupcake...

You're sad that this guy makes high profile photo shoots and you don't? Jealousy? Let's all just be friend instead, ok?

Mike Leland's picture

Ehhh I wouldn't go there, buddy. I think he just misunderstood why I prefaced my statement with the fact that I'm a photographer. It was because the person I was replying to was talking about non photography related uses of the laptop and I was trying to make a point that the context of my original post mattered only to photography related uses and that this is a photography site, not a "business" site.

But thank you, anyway. Yes, I would love for everyone here to be friends!

Leigh Smith's picture

But doing presentations is very photography related.
I was at a gallery talk the other day where the photographer was trying to find the right adaptor for the projector.

I love it MIKE!! 😂👍💯... Random Access Memory Motherfckr!!!!!

Mike Leland's picture

Thanks man. I'm glad that someone caught the humor in my post. Apparently it wasn't all that popular. Too many armchair quarterbacks in here, I guess...

"16gb RAM is retarded, though. I would really like to see this addressed."

It was a battery life decision. The Intel processors they chose to use only work with the 3rd gen low power ram, which only can go up to 16gb ram. I would prefer higher power components and using a thicker body to make up the battery life, but that's the decision they made. Next update to this body will get new processors and ram that can go to 32gb, I guess they're sacrificing some in this first iteration so that the 2nd and 3rd iteration of this form factor will be pretty ideally balanced.

Mike Leland's picture

That makes perfect sense. It stinks but it is what it is, I guess. I would also take a slightly thicker body for a more powerful machine. Heck, my last MBP was a 17" behemoth.

Isidro Lopez's picture

Yes, it was a battery life issue. Apple is using only power efficient components in these machines now. They have sold the idea of "all day battery life" even though we all know that would mean using one program with the backlight off.

You're much better off with an iMac at this point.

I think the distinction is that USB was a lot more mature when Apple started completely ditching all those other ports than USB-C is now. The ports had been showing up on machines for a few years alongside the legacy ports, and a lot of people already had at least some USB devices when Apple made that switch.

While I agree that USB-C is the future, it's still completely in it's infancy. It's also not really a viable replacement for either the MagSafe adapter or an SD slot. There's no reason this needs to be exclusively USB-C. Two USB-C, a USB 3.0, an SD slot, and a magsafe power cord would have made just as clean looking machine and would have been infinitely more functional for 99% of their potential customers.

Mike Leland's picture

Magsafe would be nice. USB 3.0 is easy peasy. There are $2 adapters that are less than an inch long that cleanly convert any USB-A male to a USB-C male.

SD card slot would be good for a lot of people. I don't have any use for them since I don't use cameras that have SD slots. I may be in the minority, there. I understand why they removed them, though, since we are also in a transition with card technology.

Well, Mike, I have to agree with your assessment(s), but I hate having to agree with a guy in his 40's who feels compelled to use the word "retarded." Really?

Mike Leland's picture

Why does the word "retarded" bother you? It is a technically accurate description of the computer being available with only 16GB RAM when other computers have 32GB and 64GB options. It means that the advancement of the computer has been delayed held back.

Are you serious?! It's one thing to be offensive with the use of the word, it's another to be intellectually dishonest about your use of the word.

You said, "16gb RAM is retarded, though. I would really like to see this addressed."

I think we all know what you meant. You should quit while you're behind. We'll take your feeble, backtracking explanation as an admission of guilt, and we forgive you. We would ask that you refrain from using offensive language. This forum and the world will be better for it.

Mike Leland's picture

Ahahaha! Whatever. I can say what I want. 16gb of RAM is retarded. If that offends you, go find a safe space and stay off the internet.

Yes, you can say what you want. And you did. And I pity you.

Isidro Lopez's picture

You sound like an easily offended millenial with mommy issues. Or maybe you have multiple personality disorder since you refer to yourself as "we". You don't speak for all of us in this forum mr brian corrigan.

Mr. Isidro Lopez. I happen to be a father of a 22-year-old son with intellectual disabilities who is struggling to make it in this world. And while I'm not easily offended, I am offended when one chooses to use the word "retarded" when they really mean something like stupid, ignorant, short-sided, foolish, etc. You and Mr. Leland clearly view individuals with intellectual disabilities as stupid, ignorant, short-sided and foolish. My son, and those like him, are none of those things. You two, however, are all of those things. We, yes WE, pity both of you. There is really nothing more to be said. Quit while you're behind (although I suspect you won't be able to help yourself). Carry on. It's not wise to get into a battle of wits with fools. I'm going to go take some pictures. Let's just all do that, shall we?

Isidro Lopez's picture

Wow, so having a loved one with intellectual disabilities gives you the right to bully people on the internet? You think it's ok to tell me that I view individuals with intellectual disabilities as stupid? My sister is DS but that doesn't mean I go around and take it out on other people. I don't search websites for keywords so that I can make people feel sorry for me. You have serious issues, asshole.

Given the choice to do nothing, do the right thing, or double down on ignorance, you chose to double down on ignorance. Why am I not surprised. I really feel sorry for your sister who has to put up with such ignorance from her own brother. It's too bad you chose to defend a guy who uses the word "retarded" in a manner that he admits was intended as an insult. If you can't see that, then you have an issue with reading comprehension. And quit trying to play the "bully" victim....it is unbecoming. Sheesh. There is really nothing more to be said. You and your buddy have really said it all.

Now let's go take some pictures.

Isidro Lopez's picture

Here's a baking forum for you to go bully people in. Have fun telling all of these bread bakers what awful mean, fools they are for using proper terminology that hurts your feelings.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/30767/shaping-cold-retarded-dough

Just a correction, the AiO is Surface Studio which the Apple equivalent is the iMac or more akin to HP's Z1 series, and the direct competitor to the Macbook Pro is the Surface Book. The Surface Pro is the 2-in-1 Tablet which is what the iPad Pro mimics.

Also you along with many other people have missed the message about the Surface line. Surface isn't to compete with Apple or more importantly against MS's partners and OEMs instead it's about creating new categories and challenging people's perceptions about computers can do. Look at what the Surface Pro did, tablets wasn't new but what was missing was interactivity. Now 3 years later 2-in-1s are the only PC market not cratering by lack of sales, even tablets have flat lined or crashed. The Surface Studio was created based on feedback from professionals, as was the new Surfacebook. Something Apple has never done, you get what Apple thinks what you need.

You mentioned the Surface Dial, yet neglect to mention the Touchstrip on the Macbook Pro which is more convenient? Which will be more practical? Time will tell, but the Dial has several historical precedents and is a proven technology (Nulooq, 3D Connexion etc) and Wacom uses a radial dial. Using a Dial will require you learn some new tricks to improve your workflow, and it will be compatible with all Windows devices but the onscreen support will be limited to Surface Pro 4, Surface Book and Surface Studio. As with any new peripheral such as the Wacom tablet you get what you put in. For reference I use a 3D Connexion Space Pilot to help me use Photoshop instead of hunting for keys when retouching skin between that and the Intuous it covers about 75% of the tools I need without having to go the keyboard.

As to ports being removed, most Apple users tend to ignore the inconveniences of having dozens of cables, essential peripherals (negating the reduced weight ) and so on just to use macOS. Whereas Windows computers get vilified for every little fault in the media. Plus Thunderbolt suffers the same fault of Firewire, it's just too expensive considering how ubiquitous USB is, and there's barely any USB-C devices out there at present, and you're looking at least 2-3 years before they get to be as common.

The problem with Apple and why there is so many negative headlines is that they've been hostile to professional users and not listening to them, they've been laser focused on iOS and neglecting macOS. iOS is flat lining. I'm not saying Apple is doomed far from it, they have some of the largest reserves in the industry but unless they start listening to the market that kept them going then people will leave especially if you get companies starting to copy the likes of Surface Studio.

However between Apple and MS you'd expect Apple to come up with the next big thing, historically they have. Instead what do you have at present? MS is basically forcing everyone to stand up and watch, it started with the Surface Pro, then they announced one of the biggest surprises in the industry: Hololens, then it was Surfacebook and now Surface Studio. MS isn't designing for today, they are designing for the future.

Final point, MS has the biggest R&D budget far exceeding that of Apple that's why they've been able to produce the Surface line and Hololens of which some of the technology has been in development for over 6 years.

Here's a short overview of an actual user of Surface Studio, not a photographer but an illustrator.

https://www.penny-arcade.com/news/post/2016/10/26/the-surface-studio

Oh and good luck getting a Surface Studio if you want one, you won't get one this side of Xmas as they've sold out and they are low production systems unlike iMacs which are mass produced. That really underscores the difference between the ideologies.

Edit: Amended device name.

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