An Open Letter To Apple From The Actual Working Pros
It’s been a week since your keynote and I’ve had a lot to think about and digest. I’ve read the countless opinions around the internet and have tried to consider the “why” behind these decisions. I’d like to first state that I am incredibly grateful to use your products to make a living, creating media and I couldn’t imagine another profession. Now, I’m not usually one to write letters, especially to companies, but thought I would reach out and say hello considering I worked for you for a few years and am an avid power user of your products.
I first want to start with the overall presentation you gave. I gotta say I’m at a loss for words at that presentation. It’s akin to getting ready to have tacos on Tuesday but instead a swift kick to my groin happened. To me, the magic of the Apple events is dying and becoming quite predictable with a thinner, faster, longer battery life device with features we didn’t truly need. Beneath all of this is a quite literal ignorance of what the pros actually want and need. So I would like to give some feedback after speaking with actual pros in my photography & motion industry, and relay our thoughts in one cohesive letter. After all, yelling at a 67% brighter screen won’t do us any good so here we are.
I’d like to begin with feedback about the displays, or lack there of. Once upon a time you made the best display on the market. The 30 inch Cinema Display was not only an awesome design and looked great on a desk, but the matte finish was incredibly useful for the creation process. It was even a stellar option for the 15 and 17 inch MacBook Pros, which you also discontinued. It was one thing to get rid of that entire display, but to take this option away from the Mac Book Pro was also foolish. No one, and I do mean NO ONE in the professional community likes to see a 20% opacity version of themselves while retouching or editing work for a client. Have you ever tried to shoot tethered to one of your computers in the bright sun? It really helps having a matte screen even with a sun tent. Just bring the matte screens back, please? We will buy them, and you have the cash to make them. Stop messing around. Do we need to make a petition? Everything can’t be about the bottom line, can it?
Next up I’d like to dive into your new fancy Touch Bar that lives just below the glossy bright screen. That is actually cool and can be used in a variety of ways, so at first glance, it seems legit. Where you all embarrassed yourselves was trying to convince your audience that this is the new best way to scrub through footage, mix music, or use any sort of professional application inside of an actual professional environment. What was the point of making the track pad so damn big if we have to use that tiny area to work on important sh*t? Why can’t we scrub through that same footage with 2 fingers on the track pad? I’m no scientist but the ergonomics behind levitating my hands over the keyboard for a professional session of editing anything sounds ridiculous.
My lead editor Sean had this to say in response after we watched the keynote:
I prefer to keep my eyes on the display and the touch bar pulls my attention down to the keyboard. It’s location of the touch bar is also somewhat awkward for me being at the back of the keyboard. I have no way to rest my wrists while using it. The touchpad has palm recognition so I don’t activate it while I type, but there is no similar feature implemented on the keyboard. The touch bar will be useless in many workspace set ups. Anyone who places their laptop on a stand at eye level, paired with a wireless keyboard will not find it practical to use the touch bar.
Let’s break this down even more by exploring your “pro” setup in your presentation.
First, allow me to point out that those two monitors you displayed in your photo (pun intended) are matte finish. It’s like you know what we want but refuse to make it. You acknowledge the importance of this feature but don’t include it in your “pro” versions as an option. Second, is that if you are going to build out and work in a badass studio like this, you certainly won’t be editing RED footage on a laptop. It would be one of the MacPro’s you neglected to update or even mention. I get that this is a mobile solution but this setup you showed is permanent. Therefore this photo makes no sense. Had you put this laptop in a mobile situation like the footage on those 2 matte screens I wouldn’t be writing this letter.
One clear option is to have a picture of this setup on-location, ingesting footage from the RED mags. Instead, you put a camera next to a laptop like we’re on set reviewing footage with the client. Nope, that’s an editing suite with a laptop. Who in their right mind would be editing shit like this in a studio on a laptop? Stop making this commercial photography that doesn’t depict the real working professional. Just stop it. I’m highly suspicious that this laptop can keep up with anything current that RED is making at anything above 4K at a 1/4 resolution. I know because your 6-core MacPros with 128 GB RAM barely keep up on 4K footage from a Sony A7R II. Furthermore, only a savage wouldn’t use a keyboard and mouse or trackpad in this ridiculous setup. This setup would truly call for a laptop stand to keep the laptop monitor at eye level and a wireless keyboard and mouse. Had this photo not been this ridiculous then I wouldn’t be writing this letter.
I also reached out to retouchers in the industry to get their take on where apple is going. I spoke with Pratik Naik, from Solstice Retouch and he had the following to say:
With the MacBook Pro, it has become very clear to me that their products aren’t congruent with the needs of professionals with the direction of their forced change. Apple’s brilliance came from their focus on minimalism while providing the efficiency that every creative immediately gravitated toward. Now with their latest update, they welcome a flood of inconveniences that are becoming hurdles to efficiency.
Yes, USB-C is seemingly the future, but the world is still very much on USB-A without it being on the tipping point just yet. The change has forced many die-hard fans considering abandoning the entire ecosystem. Yes, the MacBook Pro is impressive in its build, dependability, and aesthetic, but it’s conflicting with how inconvenient using the system is now going to become. For casual users, it won’t be a big deal, but for professionals who have been with Apple, it really felt as though their loyalty hasn’t been rewarded in any way aside from the consolation prize of being forced to buy a multitude of dongles. The Pro may just have shifted the definition to Prosumer. P.S. I cry for the departure of MagSafe.
From here I reached out to a working professional photographer Michael Woloszynowicz who had this to say:
I understand that Apple’s typical approach is to innovate from within rather than ask the client what they want to see in a product. That strategy works fine for mass consumer products but it becomes dangerous and arrogant in the face of a “professional” product. My grievances with the latest line of MacBook Pros stems from the fact that it doesn’t seem like they actually asked any professionals how they use and interact with their products. Professionals are unlike typical users that can quickly adapt to changes. We have mountains of legacy drives and devices that we can’t switch over, not only from a cost standpoint but also because it’s overly onerous to do so and also because alternatives aren’t yet available.
We have to deliver results based on client expectations and to do that all our equipment has to work seamlessly. While I appreciate that technologies like USB-C are the way forward, this is a case where a gradual approach isn’t just recommended, it’s necessary. As professionals we could care one bit if dropping the port has made the laptop 2mm thinner or slightly lighter. Not to mention that I’ve not once heard a single professional complain that their MBP is just too big and bulky. What we covet is flexibility, performance, and stability. Sure, we can buy a bunch of adapters and go on with our lives, but things just aren’t that simple. Adapters create an extra point of failure and when you look at something like camera tethering–which is often problematic enough–it’s just a recipe for errors at times when we need our gear to work. Furthermore, adapters are yet another item that we need to remember to bring with us in an already mile long list of tools.
Peripheral ports aside, we have other elements in the new laptop that further question whether Apple has bothered to understand their clients’ needs. While laptops can be expanded to a whopping 2TB of local storage, memory tops out at 16GB, just as it did nearly 4 years in the previous generation model. This seems quite silly given that few professionals will ever need 2TB of onboard space since we exclusively use external hard drive arrays with barely anything actually stored on the laptop itself. Given that, the physical room that 2TB of drive storage occupies would have been much better served for memory since it’s not something we can ever expand in the future. “Innovative” additions such as the addition of the Touch Bar may be cool for the masses but for many professionals it’s nothing more than a ‘nice-to-have’.
We’ve spent years interacting with applications and developed muscle memory for numerous shortcuts and actions we take within those programs; We’ve refined our workflows to keep our eyes on the screen, so Touch Bar does little to help our efficiency and may, in fact, hamper it. The addition of this “innovative” feature once again looks like an attempt to appeal to the masses rather than professional users. In the end, the latest MacBook Pro brought us nothing that we want and something we don’t really need. Perhaps we can at least stop kidding around and change the name from MacBook Pro to MacBook Plus.
From here I reached out to Filmmaker and RED user Mark Toia based in Australia, who said:
Apple, you idiots! Typical everyday scenario: You have a new 2017 Apple laptop, and a person hands you a USB stick to copy files, or an SD card, or ask you to plug in an HDMI cable in for a large screen presentation. You take the USB stick, SD card, and HDMI cable and throw it out the f%^*ing window, as they are now deemed useless without having to carry around an adapter. So the simplicity of having an Apple computer with a few different ports built in the side of it for different applications is now gone. You now have to purchase yet another gizmo to make it work. You’ve just lost yet another loyal customer.
It seams that in the search to innovate, you’ve inconvenienced and alienated the actual working pros that use your devices and depend on your computers to make a living and streamline efficiency. In the quest to make things thinner, lighter, and faster we’ve made it harder to shoot tethered, too expensive to fit into an existing ecosystem, and full of features that pro’s don’t really want. I think it’s time to address that these computers aren’t built for pros but for the audience aspiring to be a pro, with the dreams that they can one day have a MacBook Pro hooked up to two matte screen monitors and a RED Dragon on their workstation. My suggestion to you is to actually solicit advice from the pros and provide computers with solutions that make our jobs easier.
Gary Winchester Martin