On Sunday, newly minted Oscar winner Taika Waititi took the opportunity to slam Apple for its terrible butterfly keyboards. When asked what writers in Hollywood should ask for in the next round of talks with Apple, Waititi joked: “Apple needs to fix those keyboards. They are impossible to write on. They’ve gotten worse. It makes me want to go back to PCs.”
Out of the mouth of babes — or, in this case, the director of one of my favorite movies of all time. DaringFireball took note of the exchange, writing: “I’ve been saying for years now that Apple has done severe reputational harm to the MacBook brand, which effectively is the Mac brand for most people, especially writers.”
Yeah. About that.
The most frustrating part of watching Apple damage its own reputation with creatives is knowing the Apple professional userbase had a really genuine point about feeling ignored and neglected. The only justification for a PC as radical as the 2013 Mac Pro would have been if Apple intended to put a massive push behind creating a cost-effective Thunderbolt ecosystem and aggressively pushing software developers to implement dual GPU support. There have been a lot of cases in the recent past where you could argue Apple was prioritizing some abstract aspect of the design, like thickness, over the actual experience of people using the product. Building individual components into a laptop that even the manufacturer can’t repair and must simply replace wholesale was a bad idea for all sorts of boring reasons having to do with product defect rates and manufacturing costs.
We’ve all been assuming that Apple intends to bring the MacBook Pro 16-inch keyboard out to other customers, but the company hasn’t made any statements about it yet, and every other Mac it sells continues to ship with a bad keyboard — a keyboard Apple has already committed to repairing for free, after widespread consumer complaints followed the design for three successive generations.
The most frustrating thing about these sorts of issues, to me, is that they’re why you pay $ 3000 to a company like Apple in the first place. Whenever Apple comes up, there’s an eternal tug of war between people who think the manufacturer could never justify its prices and those who think you pay a premium to a company like Apple so you don’t get a laptop covered in stickers, with poorly engineered mechanical devices, bad hinges, and brittle plastic bodies. It’s not an accident that Apple cultivated an image of building better machines than anyone else on the market, and it’s not an entirely unearned appellation. Until Intel’s ultrabook initiative and devices like Microsoft’s Surface, PCs were commonly afflicted with bad trackpads and a plethora of stickers. The hardware components were powerful, but the build quality often wasn’t all that great.
Some people think things like an aluminum body are worth paying for, and some don’t. Doesn’t bother me any either way. But watching Apple devalue the reputation it had spent years curating has gotten kind of old. I don’t expect the company to magically start supporting right to repair, but I am hoping we see better, more sensible hardware design decisions in the future.
Feature image by Wikimedia