The Mac is seeing momentum by being true to itself instead of trying to be something that it’s not. With a transition to Apple Silicon, the product category is now benefiting from lessons Apple learned from more popular devices aimed at the mass market.
The MacBook Air’s design was industry leading. Jony Ive and Apple’s industrial design group had utilized a new unibody architecture that was eventually brought to the entire Mac portable line. Twelve years later, the MacBook Air still feels refreshing.
While the MacBook Air’s thinness was the top feature in 2008, a MacBook Air powered by Apple Silicon is all about performance, longer battery life, and quietness. (The 12-inch MacBook that Apple unveiled in 2015 and discontinued four years later was ahead of its time.)
…the Apple Silicon transition was always a question of when, not if. The transition would not only give Apple the kind of control over the Mac that it yearned for, but more importantly, Apple Silicon would open new doors to push the Mac forward in ways that simply weren’t possible with Intel.
With Apple Silicon, Apple took lessons learned from personal devices such as Apple Watches, iPhones, and iPads to help push less personal devices, like the Mac, forward.
There are 7x more people using iPhones than Macs. There are 2x more people using iPads than Macs. Some think that Apple Silicon will dramatically change these ratios by increasing the Mac’s addressable market. Caution is needed in running too far with such thinking.
The value found with Apple Silicon isn’t that it will turn the Mac into a fundamentally different product. We should not assume Macs will become touch-first devices. Apple already sells touch-first or touch-based computers; they are called iPhones and iPads.
For Apple, the goal isn’t to take fundamentally different product categories and form factors and converge them for no other reason than that they can. A far more challenging endeavor is to resist such calls from users, often the most loyal ones, and instead stay true to a form factor’s design.
When thinking about workflows, Apple’s iOS / iPadOS / macOS product lines are designed in such a way that some products do a better job of handling personal workflows than more demanding workflows.
Since a MacBook Air and iPad Pro can handle some of the same workflows, some people think both devices will eventually merge into one another. The iPad Pro’s Magic Keyboard is positioned as a sign of this upcoming merge while touch-based Macs are said to be inevitable.
There are a few holes found in the logic of such thinking.
Even though Mac portables and iPads may handle many similar workflows, that doesn’t mean that both devices should lose their core identity. The iPad doesn’t move away from being a touch-based computer simply because a keyboard can be attached to it or an Apple Pencil can be used to take notes and sketch a drawing. A MacBook Pro doesn’t embrace a touch-first interface just because Big Sur has similar elements to iOS and iPadOS.
Apple management has spent the past few years trying to convince Mac users that the Mac’s future has never been brighter. Some pro users may end up disappointed with where Apple will, and won’t, take the Mac. However, it is a positive sign that Apple remains focused on pushing forward with new platforms aimed at lowering the barrier between technology and people while allowing the Mac to be true to itself.