Apple is User Hostile… Or is it?

November 28, 2016

It’s no secret that I love following the tech news. I love reading Walt Mossberg, Jon Gruber, Dieter Bohn, Jason Snell, and Marco Arment to name a few. They offer excellent journalism and well-researched pieces about the technology and devices that not only shape our lives, but form our future. Apple has been pretty positively promoted by these guys for years, but something started to change in the last year.

The tide has changed

It may have started with Marco’s excellent piece talking about the future of mac apps and their lack of evolution. This summer we saw a piece from The Verge Editor-in-Chief Nilay Patel called “Taking the headphone jack off phones is user-hostile and stupid”.

Headphone jack or no jack will be debated for ages, and while Nilay offers some valid points, I think Apple’s problem may be that when you’re at the top of the ladder, the only way is down. They’ve released amazing products that have shaped our lives in ways we couldn’t imagine for years and I am confident that they will continue to for many more to come. The thing is though, they aren’t psychics. They don’t know what the future holds anymore than you or I. Their calculated guesses are just guesses after all.

One of their guesses is that in a near future, we won’t use wired headphones anymore. And to have confidence in that guess, they’ll have to take the risk and remove the headphone jack. Because that’s the thing with guesses and predictions – are we willing to gamble on them? Or are they just hunches?

Maybe we’ve got this wrong

When they released the new Macbook Pro this past October, the tech community responded with unanimous negativity.

Chuq von Rospach:

…This event’s criticism has been louder and more widespread and angrier than I remember seeing for a long time. I finally had to basically unplug for a while because I found myself getting into the “someone is wrong on the internet” mentality.

Writing my piece over the weekend was about as difficult as anything I’ve ever written because there are a lot of legitimate gripe points with Apple right now, but so much of what’s being thrown around is trivial and petty and often outright wrong, or just plain silly.

A Touch Bar? Ridiculous! It might end up being another blah feature like Force Touch, but none of us know – especially since most of us who haven’t even experienced it yet. It could also turn out to be a feature similar to TouchID that speed up our workflows enormously. Only time will tell. Changes are quick, results take time.

MacRumors forum member, in the first comment after the announcement of new MacBook Pros:

Well, I’m sure I’ll be attacked for this, but I’m gonna say it anyway:

Tiny harddrive, barely enough RAM (and not upgradable to the “enough” level), no dedicated graphics, only dual-core processors. It certainly isn’t bad, but Apple just took the “pro” out of the 13-inch line. And come on – it’s freaking expensive. […]

The 13” is NOT a pro device in my opinion. It’s more like a beefed-up and slightly heavier MacBook Air. For that, it just costs way too much.

This isn’t a new comment. This was posted 4 years ago, in response to the last major MacBook Pro redesign. Déjà vu.

A lot of criticism about the Macbook Pro updated have been about the removal of the SD-card, the removal of the MagSafe adapter and the removal of USB-A ports. The claim is that “professional” users need all of these things. As users, we have to understand that not all user needs are the same. I consider myself a professional user, yet I have never once used the SD-card on my Macbook Pro. I’m writing this sitting in my couch under a blanket (suffering from severe man-flu) and I’m irritated by the fact that the MagSafe keeps getting ripped out every time I slightly adjust how I’m sitting. In fact, I’m totally irritated that it always seems to be placed on the wrong side of the computer in relation to my power outlet. Yes, I do have to get dongles for my coming Macbook Pro but not anymore dongles than what I currently use; I give a lot of presentations in rooms where they only have VGA projectors. Would I have preferred them to include a VGA port? No. That’s not where the future is and the same goes for USB-A. So I’ll choose to live with a couple of dongles and lightning headphones until the rest of the world catches up. The fact is that if companies like Apple didn’t actively push things forward, nothing would change. The change might be uncomfortable, but sometimes it’s better to just rip the bandaid off. No product will be right for everyone’s specific needs. We have to live with that.

Chuq von Rospach:

A lot of it boils down to this concept:

We demand Apple innovate, but we insist they don’t change anything.

The same applies to your brand. Your users want you to innovate, but they’ll also want to keep everything just as it is. That’s their comfort zone. The transition between the two stages can be tough, but unless you’re willing to make that transition your product will not survive the next years.

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