The End of the Apple MacBook…For Now

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Apple’s 12″ MacBook is no more. Today, the company stopped selling what was its thinnest and lightest laptop, taking up the mantle of the original MacBook Air when it was released in 2015. In fact, the MacBook Air would fade to the background to the point that many thought Apple might kill it off in favor of an expanded MacBook line.

But that’s not how things worked out. Instead, Apple didn’t update or expand the MacBook line. They took a different approach and revamped the MacBook Air last year. In retrospect, it looks like that was the first step towards the MacBook’s quiet end today.

At one point, it looked like Apple considered the MacBook to be their baseline laptop into the future. It was easy to assume that it would be the new industry standard thin and light laptop, just as the Air had been before it.

So what happened? 

First off, the MacBook’s biggest problem was always its processor. The Intel Core M processor was efficient and ran cool enough to fit the laptop’s form factor, but it was under-powered for anything beyond basic computing tasks. While the 2017 update brought the i5 and i7 processors to the MacBook, the damage was already done. This laptop had a rep, and not a good one.

Another issue with the MacBook was its absolute reliance on USB-C. This was the first Apple laptop to make this move, with original 2015 model only having one port. Apple bumped this up to two ports soon after, but it was never really enough. Even though they carried this USB-C-only approach over to the MacBook Pro and the new Air in recent years, those larger laptops got more ports, making them more practical.

Then you have the infamous Butterfly Keyboard, which was introduced with the MacBook. Just like the reliance on USB-C, this laptop’s keyboard seemed to hold it back. The short key travel and propensity to break down earned it a bad reputation. It didn’t help that Apple decided to take this keyboard that was more necessary for the thin and light MacBook and also put it on the MacBook Pro and the new Air, as well. Call it guilt by association.

When you think about it, the MacBook ended up with a lot of strikes against it. While the push for thinner and lighter isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, Apple jumped the shark a bit with this laptop. They ended up pushing it too far and going form over function in too many areas. When you consider that the MacBooks Pro and Air aren’t exactly boat anchors, the MacBook just ended up as a less compelling device because of its shortcomings.

So what now?

Apple has a habit of recycling device names. They did it with the MacBook, which before this latest model was a thicker and less expensive model with a plastic shell. They just did it with the MacBook Air. They even brought the Air moniker back to the iPad last year, as well. As such, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the MacBook name.

In fact, I have a prediction of what the next MacBook will be. We’ve been hearing for a couple of years now that Apple will be releasing a macOS laptop with an ARM processor. Doesn’t the ultra-thin and light MacBook seem like the perfect form factor to take advantage of a mobile processor? When you consider that one of the MacBook’s biggest issues was its under-powered processors, making this move seems perfectly natural.

It may not come for another year, but I am willing to bet that Apple will use the MacBook name again. If they can make the marriage of an A-Series processor and macOS work, then a refreshed version of the MacBook’s form factor feels like the perfect place to put it. Re-releasing it with an A-Series and a revamped keyboard seems like the perfect way to perfect the hardware design.

Until then, killing off the current model seems like the smart move for the present. Rumor has it that Apple is going to start moving away from the Butterfly Keyboard mechanism soon. The MacBook as it was seemed like another dead end. It feels like Apple has decided to move on from a few design missteps recently and that, in my opinion, is a good thing.

 


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