If I were Steve Jobs

Apple logo

As I cling tightly to my early 2008-era 15″ MacBook Pro with 2.6 GHz Core 2 Duo chip and 4 GB of RAM, I look on with desire at the new line of Core i5 and Core i7 MacBook Pro’s [13″, 15″, 17″]. Even the slowest Core i5 machine outperforms the fastest Core 2 Duo machine according to Primate Labs.

Fortunately for me, Apple makes it really hard to impulse buy new releases as they inevitably make decisions that just don’t work for me. Lets go down the list:

  • They removed the ExpressCard/34 slot from the 15″ model. It’s available on the 17″, but I’m not interested in the 17″. My laptop bag fits a 15″, but not a 17″.
  • Still no eSATA on the MacBook Pro? This might have been acceptable if they’d waited and included USB 3.0 ports, but they didn’t do this, either.
  • They removed the standard DVI connector and replaced it with Mini-DisplayPort. Ugh, why? If you’re going to switch, at least switch to a widely used connector: HDMI.

So, it looks like I’ll be waiting out this round of new hardware, too. My AppleCare runs out in 2011, so I’m hoping there’ll be another refresh of MacBook Pro hardware by then that incorporates USB 3.0, perhaps eSATA, and HDMI on the 15″ model.

***

I’ve also been thinking of replacing or at least supplementing our aging Series 2 TiVo with a Mac Mini, but again, I’m sorely disappointed with Apple’s decisions around the current version. The list:

  • Mini-DVI and Mini-DisplayPort? Again: Where’s the HDMI?
  • Only an analog audio out? S/PDIF, please! Not instead of, either, but in addition to.
  • No out-of-the-box SSD configuration option? Sure, this is an easily remediable after-market upgrade, but still …

For the most part, these issues aren’t really a show-stopper for me for what I intend to do with the Mini, so I’ll probably be budgeting for it for 2010.

My one last gripe: why won’t Apple make a wireless keyboard that has a trackpad built in? Sure, their Magic Mouse is neat but for the home theater use of the Mini, having a keyboard with a trackpad built in is a lot more useful for couch surfing. This seems like such a no-brainer to me, so I’m really hoping that a future Apple wireless keyboard with built-in trackpad becomes available soon.

Comments

  1. Bradley says:

    A few thoughts and corrections:

    I’m with you on the removal of ExpressCard/34, but in all fairness, it made room for the SD card reader. Like it or not, that’s going to get way more use by the majority of people.

    eSATA is great, but its connector sucks (somewhat true of HDMI as well, but I’ll get to that in a moment). I highly doubt we’ll see this on an Apple laptop, if for no other reason than the ugly, finicky connector. Personal opinion.

    I’m completely with you on USB 3.0. Usually Apple is a leader implementing new hardware technologies before everyone else (Firewire, gigabit ethernet, digital audio, DVD burners, FB-DIMMs, to name a few), but they’re behind on this one. I’ve been waiting for Core i5/i7 and USB 3.0, but I guess my Core 2 Duo MBP will have to stick it out a bit longer since the latter is missing. USB 2.0 is slow and with few other expansion options, USB 3.0 is somewhat important if you want to be future-proof beyond a year or two.

    HDMI is great for TV and displays up to 1080p. It’s relatively limited compared to DisplayPort otherwise and doesn’t support higher resolutions. Plus, DisplayPort requires less power and less hardware to implement (Google “DisplayPort versus HDMI”). Jobs addressed this point in a Q&A once, IIRC. Apple is fully invested in DisplayPort and I wouldn’t expect to see HDMI on any future product unless it’s specifically intended for TV hookup, such as with the AppleTV. More importantly: inexpensive adapter cables abound, so where’s the fire?

    Per the Mac mini specs, “Combined optical digital audio output/headphone out (minijack)”. AFAIK, nearly every Mac over the last decade has shipped with digital audio (since the G4 “Digital Audio”). The optical transmitter is at the end of the analog jack. You’ll need a 3.5mm (1/8″) mini-jack to TOSLINK cable to connect to your receiver. Monoprice sells them pretty cheap.

    I think that’s all. Cheers, my friend.

    • Thanks for providing the “other side” of my rant.

      Sure, the SD card reader is likely to be more “useful” for 99% of buyers compared to the EC/34 slot. I’m just annoyed that Apple has rendered my investment in a few EC/34 cards moot.

      I agree about the design of the eSATA and HDMI connectors, but that’s what’s required in order to use those interfaces. DisplayPort might be “better” (royalty-free, designed for high-resolution displays, etc.) but, ugh, yet another dongle to carry around with the laptop. Just makes me sad, that’s all …

      And, finally – you’re right, I didn’t read the spec carefully on the Mac Mini – it is a combined analog/digital audio jack. Oops.

      • Bradley says:

        One other thing: I should have added ExpressCard/34 to the list of Apple’s early tech adoption. When they added it to MacBooks, the PC world cried out, “but there aren’t any devices for that interface! They should have gone with PCMCIA… bunch of idiots”. But they were forward thinking where others weren’t.

        Unlike the other tech, however, they’ve all but canned it early. It was a short run, so I can see why people would be upset. Though it’s all for reasons that mostly make sense, I’m still trying to figure out why they left it on the 17″, specifically. Schiller at one point said something about how certain groups (DJs, for instance) continue to use the interface, and they want to accommodate those people. But why the 17″? It still seems weird to go one-or-the-other, SD reader on the two smaller models and ExpressCard/34 in place of, not in addition to SD, on the larger.

        Firewire is rumored to be on its way out, but I think 800 (1394b) will be around for awhile still. USB 2.0 is slow. With ExpressCard/34 mostly gone, eSATA’s not an option. The whole situation is a little frustrating for us in-the-know types; USB 3.0 seems like it’s the ticket and would solve a lot, but no dice (yet).

        For the moment I’m stuck with Firewire 800 and can only hope it doesn’t disappear in the next couple years (replacing a stack of IcyDock enclosures at ~$75 a pop would suck). But by then we’ll all be using iPads for everything, right? 😀

        • I’m betting that once Apple introduces USB 3.0, FireWire will go away completely. Apple will simply expect us to buy USB 3.0-to-FireWire 800 or FW400 adapters.

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