Good Reads for April, 2017

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a series of handpicked, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes they’ll be about what Apple is doing with a product purchased by a single-digit percentage of Mac users, other times, they’ll be a critical analysis of what Apple are doing with the Mac as a whole, when the news is filled with rumours of new and shiny iPhones. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • Early in April, Apple did something unprecedented and invited some select few to Cupertino to discuss the future of the Mac Pro. You can read the full transcript of the discussion over at TechCrunch, but the gist of it is that Apple knew they had made some wrong design decisions with the 2013 Mac Pro, design decisions that ultimately delayed any kind of hardware refresh to the tune of being untouched — no spec bump, much less a hardware refresh — for over 1200 days.

In the interim, we know there are a number of customers who continue to buy our current Mac Pro. To be clear, our current Mac Pro has met the needs of some of our customers, and we know clearly not all of our customers. None of this is black and white, it’s a wide variety of customers. For some, it’s the kind of system they wanted; for others, it was not.

  • Not only that, but the situation Apple found themselves in with the Mac Pro led to Apple deciding that it needed something completely new. But what? Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller says that they’re working on a new Mac Pro, a modular, “highest-end, high throughput desktop system, designed for our demanding pro customers”. Ars Technica’s speculation on what that all means investigates the various possibilities, including what might end up being the iMac Pro.

Put all of this stuff—one CPU socket that can scale from 4 to over 20 cores, four RAM slots, a top-end GPU, a fast SSD card, and plenty of Thunderbolt 3 ports for additional expansion—inside a relatively small, sleek case, and then make it pretty easy for users to open up and work on themselves, and you’ve got a Mac Pro that should serve a wider base of users than the 2013 model while still keeping people who liked that model’s size and unobtrusiveness reasonably happy.

  • Perhaps it was the Mac Pro that served as a kind of wakeup call, but people started noticing that the rest of Apple’s Mac lineup was languishing, more or less. Besides the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, many models in the Mac range haven’t been updated for a while or seen any kind of significant redesign, leading Neil Cybart to write about how the Mac was becoming Apple’s achilles heel.

While Apple has made some progress with bringing elements of mobile such as Touch ID, multi-touch displays, and ARM processors, to the Mac, years of sporadic updates have overshadowed the positives. Apple’s relationship with its pro Mac user community has deteriorated and can now be described as toxic. To make matters worse, there appears to be a growing rift among Apple executives concerning Mac strategy.

  • Typeform’s interview with Susan Bennett gives us some insight into the life of the woman who gave Siri a voice. The story of how Bennett started out as a backup singer, then stumbling into various voice actress roles, and finally into the offices of ScanSoft, who were then acquired by Nuance to become the voice of Apple’s personal assistant is pretty heartwarming. At least, until Apple dropped Susan and replaced her voice on iPhones running iOS 7 or later.

I interviewed Susan about her stumble into fame, then plotted her life against the rise of more human-like virtual assistants. It turns out that her voice appeared at two pivotal moments in the development of talking tech. It makes you wonder, was Susan destined to become the world’s most recognizable digital voice?

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