The Jonathan Computer

According to designer Tony Guido the question at Apple was: 

“What would it take to put the Mac on as many desktops as possible, without licensing, in a way that would convince DOS users to migrate toward the Mac?”

At the same time hardware engineer John Fitch, having just completed work on the IIgs, was worried by the lack of follow-up product for the Apple II. Fitch wanted to design a computer around a new chip, the Motorola 68030, which would be powerful enough for business and high end applications, but could also be offered to home users.

Inspired by the Apple II “open” architecture mindset, Fitch proposed a modular approach.
He designed a simple hardware “backbone” carrying basic operations and I/O on which the user could add a series of “book” modules, carrying hardware for running Apple II, Mac, UNIX and DOS software, plus other modules with disk drives or networking capabilities.

Wild. 

Designed by Apple in California

This morning Apple did what to many appears tactless and unthinkable:

they announced they’re releasing a book.

I have to say I don’t think that a lot of the people writing commentary on this are the sort of viscerally self aware, creative people that (I think we can rightfully presume) run Apple’s design department. Or maybe they are, but they come from a time or place where an outward act of reflection like this is somewhat frowned upon.

And that’s what I think this is – an act of self reflection through the medium they actively use to express their ideas: a physical product. Sure, it could have been a website, it could have been a video, but – hell – as the video featuring Jony Ive showcasing the design department shows, they are all about expressing ideas through hardware. With Apple’s sort of rudderless product direction under Tim Cook over the last few years, throughly going through the things and ideas in the past that made them great, codifying it, and putting it in the past seems like an obvious move to me.

(I think the fact that it’s priced at $199 and $299 respectively reinforces this.)

So maybe the new Apple book is self involved and stupid, and maybe the criticism is a little warranted, but until I’ve (or anyone for that matter) has seen the book and been able to get a better grasp on what it is/is about  I’m not going to pass judgement. It seems probable that there’s a bigger picture here that a lot of the initial criticism is missing.

(As an aside: would it be ok to make a book like this if Apple were a small design company rather than one of the largest corporations in the world? Apple made a book before the return of Steve Jobs and no one cared, probably because no one cared about Apple…)

Chuq Von Rospach on the New MacBook Pros (and Some Thoughts Mac Desktops)

How Apple could have avoided much of the controversy – by Chuq Von Rospach

An excellent retort to all the negative hype surrounding the new (Late 2016) MacBook Pro’s announced last week. Read it.

Additionally, this passage really struck me as one of the more astute comments about the forgotten Mac Pro in awhile:

Speaking of clusters, let’s talk Mac Pro for a minute. I’ve come to the belief that the trash can Mac pro, the “Can’t Innovate my Ass” machine, is a product mistake of the “20th Century Anniversary Macintosh” caliber. It was a technological marvel, it was a stunning design, and it was a terrible piece of hardware for it’s primary audiences because of limited upgradability and component flexibility — and then Apple compounded that by not having good upgrade plans in place to refresh it since the design it created wouldn’t let its users do it for themselves.

I’m convinced we’ll see not just an updated Mac Pro, but a new design, one that I hope backs away from some of the issues this design has. What I’m hoping for is in fact a new desktop product line which merges the Mini and the Mac Pro where, like the MacBooks, you have the options of 2-3 models each with 2-3 configuration upgrades which cover the pricing and processing needs from a basic Mac Mini to today’s Mac Pro supercomputer capabilities.

First, I love the comparison with the 20th anniversary Mac.

That said, I’d slightly disagree with this. The Mac Pro only had terrible upgrade paths because it was way, way ahead of its time. Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2, while fast when released, weren’t really fast enough for external PCI-E accessories. They also seemed intrinsically limited by using the mini displayport interface. However, now that Thunderbolt-3 exists as a unified standard with USB, it seems like all of these major deficiencies shouldn’t matter. Additionally, with Thunderbolt 3 making a more prominent appearance on PCs and peripherals like the Razer Core are coming to fruition, a product like the Mac Pro (and MacBook Pro! – computers that act as “CPUs” that plug into and scale with external accessories as needed) becomes a lot more viable in my mind.

And about the Mac Mini – would TB-3 tech make it easier to scale the Mac desktop line? The Mac Mini could exist as something analagous to the Intel Skull Canyon NUC – a mini computer running a higher end mobile chipset and expandable via Thunderbolt-3. The iMac then slips in as the standard desktop in the Mac lineup, defined entirely by its display (another perplexing discussion for another time), and the Mac Pro then sits above both of them in a modified form of how it exists now: a core with a Xeon CPU, ECC ram, and a built in workstation class graphics card –  but loaded with Thunderbolt-3 ports and ready for expansion via external PCI-E accessories. A Mac line like this would seem ideal to me, and not leave us lacking for a Mac for literally any application.

Of course, the problem is getting Apple to care about executing on products like this at all.

Benjamin Button Reviews The New MacBook Pro

The new MacBook Pro shows that Apple is finally becoming serious about developers.

Gone is the gimmicky TouchBar, gone are the four USB-C ports that forced power users to carry a suitcase full of dongles. In their place we get a cornucopia of developer-friendly ports: two USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 2 ports, a redesigned power connector, and a long-awaited HDMI port.

Photographers will rejoice at the surprising and welcome addition of an SDXC card reader, a sign that Apple might be thinking seriously about photography. …

I’ve now read more than a few critiques of the new MacBook Pros, but they all seem to have the same unwarranted paranoid-cookie-cutter fears. That said, this post on the Pinboard blog very concisely encapsulates everyone’s grievances in a very funny, roundabout way.

An Ode to the iPod Classic — The Ringer

An Ode to the iPod Classic — The Ringer

NOTES ON THE (RUMORED) SINGLE PORT iPHONE

Macrumors:

Apple is planning to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack on the next-generation iPhone in favor of an all-in-one Lightning connector, according to often-reliable Japanese website Mac Otakara.

While there are obvious disadvantages to having a phone with only one port (primarily not being able to charge and use headphones at the same time), there could also be upsides, notably: thinner devices, more room internally for other components or battery, and better weather/water sealing, among others.

The real controversy here would seem to be that the iPhone would only have a Lightning port. At best this could mean that we see a new Lightning connector that supports USB 3.1. At worst, we may just be stuck (in 2016!) with the same Lightning connector we’ve had since 2012 operating with circa Y2K USB 2.0 speeds.

Reading about this rumor elsewhere online, it is interesting to see that USB 3.1 Type C is barley mentioned in the conversation, since, as a single solution, it would seem to make the most sense.

It is exceptionally fast at 10 gigabits per second; as iPhone storage capacities rise and users shoot more high resolution photos and 4K video, the ability to transfer data at high speeds off the device will become invaluable. It is also capable of delivering up to 100W of power; could this be utilized for faster charging? And concerning the problem of no headphone port: USB 3.1 Type C is capable of supporting analog audio, which could make adapters for conventional 3.5mm headphones very easy (and cheap?) to implement.

Inside the Apple design language, adopting 3.1 Type C on iPhone would be a bold step in reinforcing the design ideologies introduced with the Early 2015 Macbook, which is probably the most notorious device thus far to implement the standard. It takes full advantage of the port’s capabilities to essentially synthesize contemporary smartphone design ideology (fanless, sealed chassis, only two ports – one for charging/data, the other for headphones) with a laptop form factor. Reducing the iPhone to one port would take the next giant leap, at least in terms of aesthetics. 

It would also be an excellent gateway for more universal USB 3.1 support. Although accessories would more than likely still need to be “Made for iPhone,” the fact is USB 3.1 is an open standard, and the ensuing flood of USB 3.1 Type C would benefit both the iPhone and Android ecosystems, as well as give a solid boost to the implementation of 3.1 Type C in both PC and Mac hardware. 

Admittedly this is all somewhat twisted logic; we don’t necessarily want the iPhone to only have one port, but its understandable why it would be advantageous on both design and engineering grounds. If one port is to be selected, however, it is probably best that it not be the Lightning connector, but instead the standard that Apple has already used as a statement piece: USB 3.1 Type C.

Edit: after posting I found out that apparently the iPad Pro does have a USB 3.0 Lightning port, it just so happens that there are no USB 3.0 Lightning cables. I still stand by the idea of a universal USB 3.1 Type C port on iOS devices, however, for all the aforementioned reasons.