After four years of complaints and problems, Apple may finally be preparing to move on from its problematic Butterfly Keyboard design. According to well-known Apple supply chain leaker Ming-Chi Kuo, the company will be moving to a newly designed version of the common scissor key mechanism on a coming version of the MacBook Pro.
Apple has made a couple of recent revisions to the Butterfly mechanism in an attempt to shore up its weaknesses. It is quite susceptible to breakdown because of the infiltration of dirt and grit, so Apple has added a silicone seal and made changes to the design and materials of the mechanism over the last year to prevent breakdowns. Apple has also had to make blanket service plans available for all MacBooks, MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs affected by these problems so that affected laptops can be repaired.
One interesting tidbit from Kuo that is telling is that the Butterfly Keyboards were evidently more expensive to manufacture due to low yields. In the end, THIS may be a bigger reason for Apple to move on than customer dissatisfaction. If nothing else, it may be the final straw in their decision to completely re-design their laptop keyboards from the ground up after only four years.
According to Kuo’s report, this new scissor key mechanism will be unique, rather than a rollback to the previous Apple laptop design. He specifically mentioned glass fiber being used to strengthen and reinforce the keys. Considering Apple’s strength in the area of material science, this doesn’t come as a surprise to me. He also says that the new mechanism will still be more expensive than typical laptop scissor mechanisms, but that it will be cheaper than the Butterfly was.
In my opinion, that last bit is an important detail. The bottom line for Apple is this- they have evidently been spending more money to produce a laptop keyboard with inferior results. That can’t be ignored, especially by a company with an operations guy as its CEO. If this report is true, then it’s surprising to me that Apple’s design and executive teams have let this play out as long as it has. There are a lot of thin and light Windows laptops on the market with keyboards that not only operate better and are more durable, but are also much cheaper to produce. That’s no way to do business, so it’s past time for Apple to move on.