Something is changing and it has me worried. On October 26th, 2016, Microsoft held an event launching their newest line of computers. It was cleverly scheduled a day prior to Apple’s announcement of the highly anticipated new line of MacBook Pros.
As it turns out, Microsoft put on a pretty good show. They announced their new surface notebooks and tablets, but they surprised everyone by also launching a slick desktop computer that they claim is aimed at artistic professionals. The Surface Pro is an all-in-one desktop computer with a tilt-able, touch-sensitive surface. It can also be used with a stylus and a clever control puck that sits right on the screen. Frankly, the whole setup looked pretty cool, and more than anything, photographer-friendly.
Before going much further, as many of you know, I am an Apple guy, which is pretty common in the photography world. I have always loved Apple and all that they stand for, particularly how at one time, they built their reputation on being the computer for those that “think different.” That covers just about everyone in the art world. Their machines are powerful, well-built, and they always seem to work. Even when a device has started to act up, the Apple service folks have always been great at fixing them.
I also own a lot of stock in Apple, most of it was purchased several years ago. It has done very well for me, contrary to my father’s advice and concerns. Over the years, I have continued to invest in Apple, making another large purchase prior to the iPhone announcement. Yipee! I obviously love Apple for many reasons besides their dependable hardware.
What I really love is Apple’s innovation. The “think different” attitude. The revolutionary design and attention to detail. Plus, their products just work.
I currently own a few notebooks, laptops, and iMac desktop computers. Not to mention my iPads and Apple TV systems. All of them work great and can handle my professional and personal needs. Unlike a few of my “PC” friends who seem to continually suffer issues with Windows, my system just keeps working. All of the machines talk to each other, share data, and are intuitive and easy to use. The new OS allows all of my computers and mobile devices to see my desktop, making it easy and enjoyable to do my work.
I know very few people who don’t enjoy Apple’s product announcements. Whether it be their iPhones, iPads, operating systems, or their laptops and desktop computers, Apple announcements always reveal a magical twist, forever changing our everyday lives.
At the most recent event, however, things weren’t quite the same. While Apple had slimmed down the new MacBook Pros and added a bit more power, they took a bold step and changed all of the ports on the machine to USB-C. They also removed the SD card reader, which had been a crucial part of the machine for years. This was a very bold move and it made many people angry, myself included.
Over the years, Apple has been a trendsetter, unafraid of changing their ports and connections. They removed Firewire several years ago. At the time, everyone was upset, but who even mentions the word “Firewire” these days? They also removed the CD/DVD drive from the Powerbook a while back. Be honest, do you even miss it? Apple usually does the right thing, and within due time, the rest of the industry follows suit.
The issue with the new Powerbook, at least until all of your external devices can catch up, is that you now need dongles (adapters) to use these devices. This certainly seems unnecessarily inconvenient. However, over time, as we have seen before, these will be put aside as new external drives and monitors will adapt to the USB-C port. I already have a 2TB USB-C drive for traveling.
To offset some of the negativity and to prove that Apple is still innovative, they also added a new feature called the “TouchBar.” It is a pretty cool replacement for the row of function keys at the top of the keyboard. Instead of these keys, you now have a screen that adapts to the programs you use most often and allows specialized tasks to be accomplished.
For all its faults, I ended up purchasing a new MacBook Pro. I needed to. My five-year-old machine only had a 750g SSD drive and I had a lot of dead pixels on my screen. It was definitely time for an upgrade. I placed an order for the laptop and around $400 worth of dongles. I also ordered two 5K displays to work side by side, since the laptop could drive them. My old laptop will be taken to my gallery. It still works, so I might as well find a use for it there.
I had to wait several weeks for the computer and all of the accessories to arrive. I am not the most patient person, so I decided to visit the Apple Store to see if any of these new computers were on display. I live about 10 minutes from an Apple store, and about 10 stores down, there is an even bigger Microsoft store.
I like visiting Apple stores for the same reason I enjoy visiting hardware stores. I always figured it was a guy thing, but my wife enjoys these simple pleasures too. Maybe that’s why she is my wife?
After visiting the Apple store, I took a walk through the mall and passed the Microsoft store. You could tell it was Microsoft. There were no customers in the store, and the employees were playing Xbox. Somewhat surprisingly, something caught my eye. It was that impressive 27-inch Surface Studio Pro. I turned around and went to the edge of the store. The kids playing their game looked my way, but no one welcomed me or invited me in.
I gathered up my courage and took a step inside the store. I felt like I had just committed treason. I walked over to the Studio Deck Pro and started messing around with it. Still, no one seemed to pay attention to me. Such a stark difference from an Apple store! I pushed and pulled this thing and found myself appreciating the way it was designed.
This computer looked like something Apple should have designed. It boasts a 27-inch screen that tilts from straight up to lying almost flat. It’s got a brilliant color touch screen. The big deal for me was, as an artistic professional, I could draw on it. Imagine a 27-inch iPad on an easel.
I continued playing with it and finally, a young person, probably in their mid-twenties, shuffled over to me. He asked what I thought about the device, and I told him that I thought it looked pretty impressive. I asked him to tell me more about the computer, so he proceeded to give me a demo. If I were going to make a decision based on the demo alone, I would never buy this device. He showed me everything I already knew. I asked him to show me how the control puck worked. Within three minutes of showing me some of the puck’s features, the machine locked up and he had to reboot the system.
A short time later, it crashed. How could I forget that I was dealing with Windows? Eventually, I asked if I could try the stylus and puck out on Photoshop. That turned out to be a disaster as well. Photoshop wanted us to log in. No problem, right? Not one person in the store knew the log-in credentials for their Adobe account.
I had seen enough. There was definitely a “cool” factor, and for a minute, I thought I could be swayed to the Windows world, but I was soon reminded how hard it is to use these machines and the reasons that I abandoned Windows all those years ago.
Lately, I feel Apple has let me down. They take too long between upgrades and when they finally do release a new product or OS, it’s just an incremental step up in processors or speed. The new MacBook Pro has some cool features, and now that I have had mine for awhile, I do like the TouchBar. However, at times it slows me down as I have to switch gears and move my fingers (and my mind) to the TouchBar. The form factor and screen are gorgeous, per usual. The four-port (USB-C) was a surprise, but I am learning to live with it, dongles and all. I did invest in two 5K monitors, and I love them, but they are not Apple. They are made by LG. They should have been made by Apple.
The iPhone 7 Plus is brilliant. The camera is fantastic. I have an iPad Pro and I use it all day long. It has all of the apps I use on my desktop and everything syncs together. For the most part, I am happy with Apple, but they do seem to be losing their mojo. Microsoft should never have been the first company to release a cool desktop computer. Yes, it is cool. But no, it’s not for me. I don’t want Windows. I don’t like things that crash. Once I started to read the specs, it looked like it was underpowered and overpriced. That said, Microsoft is a smart company. With some tweaking, they could put out a good machine.
The bottom line is, it’s Apple’s fault that I even walked into a Microsoft store in the first place. Apple is about to move into one of the coolest and largest buildings in the entire world, they need to get out of their past and innovate like crazy again. They need to remember that they changed the world with the iPod and the iPhone. They have to come out with something that will change the world again or customers like me are going to have wandering eyes.
Apple, please don’t make me walk into a Microsoft store ever again. The next time I might give them a try, they might have things working and convince me that they are the better option. I would truly be heartbroken if that day ever comes.