Good Reads for November, 2016

Every month, just when you had thought I had forgotten about publishing a new instalment of Good Reads, we’ll be bringing you a selection of highly heralded, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes these will be interviews with prominent Apple execs on contemporary topics, or commentary on how the Apple blogosphere is increasingly cynical of the biggest company in the world. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • November saw the release of Apple’s latest and greatest. The new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar divided Apple enthusiasts into one of two camps, the majority of whom thought that Apple’s vision of the future was a little too expensive, and a little too reliant on dongles for those of us still living in the here and now. The other camp pointed out that this was the first major redesign of Apple’s laptop lineup since the Retina-class machines were introduced in 2012, all at a time when we had all but thought Apple had forgotten about the Mac. Over at Medium, Steven Levy discusses the importance of bringing touch input to the Mac, with words from Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller about some of the decisions that went into making the Touch Bar a thing.

We care about the feedback but we know that the fundamental difference on where their opinions are coming is between those who had a chance to use it and those who haven’t. There are people who want us to innovate faster and when we do there’s people who say, ‘Whoa, whoa, you’re going too fast.’ That’s just a balance in the world.

  • In describing the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and the state of the Mac, John Gruber says that they’re subjectively nicer machines than the ones they replace. Having four universal ports which are capable of charging as well as connecting peripherals is nicer, Touch ID is nicer, and even the reduction in size and weight is nicer. Perhaps more importantly, what they represent is the kind of hard work and effort that we’d want to be seeing from Apple, not the simplistic “speed bumps” that people have been crying out for.

These are very nice machines, designed and made with great care. And the Touch Bar is clearly no afterthought. A lot of teams from across the company worked for a long time on this.

  • While we were expecting something about the Mac from Apple in November, November also saw the release of something none of us were expecting. Designed by Apple in California is a picture book that celebrates 20 years of Apple design, and Wallpaper’s interview with Apple’s Chief Design Officer tells us why it was created in the first place.

We were intrigued how we could objectively describe, define and catalogue the objects and try to give people a sense of how they were made. Not how they were designed, but how they came to be. How they were manufactured and how you can transform these often-anonymous materials into something that is valuable and useful.

  • Dazed had a similar interview with Ive, sharing further thoughts on why the book was created, and why now. For those of you that haven’t yet purchased or looked at the book, it’s a strange thing — maybe not iPod socks strange, but 450 pages of pictures strange.

We witness the evolution of product design, the acceleration of engineering, the inevitable natural selection of materials, the rise of dominant hierarchies of form and technologies as the book unfolds as both a deconstruction and reconstruction of Ive’s own creation mythology; the bringing a sense of order to that which was once chaotic and complex.

  • Joe Cieplinski writes about The Premise, or in other words, the confirmation bias that much of the Apple blogosphere seems to be perpetuating. His example of this is the outrage over the removal of the beloved MagSafe from the new MacBook Pro, where people appear to ignoring the distinct advantages of USB-C charging in favour of the premise that Apple has lost its way, or that they don’t care about pro users, or whatever commentary you care to adopt.

There are legitimate gripes, but most of the things for which people lambast Apple are actually just the natural consequence of tough design decisions. They compromise where they have to, just like they always have. Some of the tradeoffs are worse than others. But they are tradeoffs, not vendettas against pros, or signals that Tim Cook doesn’t know what he’s doing.

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