Do You Really Need a New Macbook Pro?

31 October 2016
31 Oct 2016
3 min read

Apple recently released a new Mac computer, and reactions seem mixed. On one hand, the computers don’t seem to appeal to a pro market. The price is higher than before, and the touch bar seems underwhelming. The usual complaints of maximizing thinness at the expense of battery life and processing power have been seenĀ as well.

However, the computers are beautiful. And demand initially seems high! The internals have finally been upgraded, and I am personally excited that they come in the official Space Gray, releasing us from our silver shackles.

So what’s going on? Has Apple ceded the pro market to Microsoft? If this computer doesn’t appeal to professional consumers, who is it actually for? My theory is that Apple realizes that iOS is the future and is charging a legacy tax for everyone who wants to stick with a Mac. This legacy tax will turn consumers sunk costs into increased margins for Apple, while also promoting adoption of their future computing platform.

The Future of Computing is here

I think these two tweets by Benedict Evans are right on the money. Apple realizes that iOS is the future of computing. Computing only ever gets more abstract 1 and iOS is too good at abstracting the many difficult parts of computers away. Steve Jobs said it best when he compared PCs to trucks and tablets to cars. PCs will still be around for specialized tasks, but tablets (and even phones) will be good enough for most people.

Preferences are actually Sunk Costs

And the truth is that tablets are already there. iPads are good enough for 90% of my daily work. Yet people still prefer to have a computer to do “real work” on. People get stuck on what’s been working for them, without exploring what’s new or what’s changed. I’ve used Macs to email and surf the web for the past X years, so I’m looking for a Mac to email and surf the web, without ever looking at the capabilities of anything else. These biases are present and they are all sunk costs. Apple is exploiting these costs by forcing those who prefer actual computer to now pay for that privilege.

Making the pro market pro again

This assumption rests on the fact that these consumers want the newest hardware. If not, there are plenty of other Macs that Apple offers. However, those who want the newest hardware yet are unsatisfied with these new offerings are in a tough position. Either they need to fork over the cash to upgrade or switch over to the iPad Pro as a daily computing device. Now Apple can speed adoption of it’s future platform as some users inevitably realize that an iPad Pro is good enough and switch while also increasing revenue2 for those that depend on a Mac laptop.

  1. Abstract, and also easier to use. For an example, take programming languages. Assembly got abstracted into C, which got abstracted into a bunch of different languages (Python, Ruby, etc). ↩︎

  2. It’s actually an interesting question of elasticity. For those people who care about the cost of the Mac more than the experience of using a Mac (aka using a laptop is elastic), they’ll either bite the bullet or switch to something else, most likely an iPad Pro. For those who have inelastic computing preferences (which I may have made up) aka those that will buy the computer regardless of any price increase, revenue will increase. Win-win. ↩︎

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