apple's new macbook pro

Why does Apple keep making life more difficult for music makers?

The controversial new MacBook Pro makes us wonder whether Apple is still making its products for creative people.

- Oct 31, 2016

Tim Cook said Apple has continued to redefine portable computing for 25 years. Then, last week, he showed the world Apple’s new MacBook Pro.

“This is the new MacBook Pro,” Cook said. “And it’s absolutely incredible.”

Then he showed us their most recent worst kept secret, dubbed the TouchBar. It’s a touchscreen strip that replaces the function keys. The first use we see in its unveiling is a scrolling GarageBand timeline as a song plays.

Apple Special Event October 2016 (HD) | Macbook Pro 2016

I'm not concerned about myself, I'm concerned about people who are starting out. It seems like [Apple is] just trolling artists and manufacturers.

The message is clear: “Look, music makers, we’re still thinking about you!”

Except where are the ports? More specifically, where are the ports music makers rely on?

The Macbook Pro does away with traditional USB ports (USB-A, the ones you’ve had on your computer since the ‘90s), and an SD card slot, to name a few. Four Thunderbolt 3 ports are their replacements.

On its face, the change doesn’t present much of an issue. “Not to worry guys,” you imagine them saying, “you can use dongles for your old devices! We have four USB ports; that’s plenty for your creative endeavours!”

Except Thunderbolt 3 uses USB-C, not the familiar USB-A to which music makers are so accustomed. Again, it might not seem like a big deal, unless this is where your creativity lives. And for many music makers, it is.

To reinforce the idea that creative minds haven’t been forgotten, Apple brought up Karim Morsy, creator of djay, a controller app for MacOS.

He did some fiddling on the touch bar to DJ, and played a very cool one-song set. Both hands were rubbing away at the top bit of the keyboard with abandon.

Touch Bar lets DJs scratch and mix on their MacBooks (CNET News)

This would all be cool and appropriate if it was made for the baby brother in Apple’s lineup, the 12 inch MacBook. But this is the MacBook Pro. What does the “pro” in its name mean?

“What pissed me off the most is that they showed Photoshop, Final Cut and... djay Pro? What the hell?” Toronto electronic artist Harrison reacts in an interview. “I don't know a single DJ who uses that.”

Apple’s digital audio workstation, Logic Pro, didn’t feature in their new laptop’s unveiling at all. The lack of ports supporting older musical instruments also weren’t mentioned.

The most likely solution for buyers is to use adapters for older devices. Adapters work fine for transferring data traditionally, to a USB stick for example, but it poses a unique problem for playing music, particularly a live set: delayed signals.

“It's a defendable thing, but [adapters] have latency issues. Especially if you don't have good USB hubs,” says Harrison.

“I'm not concerned about myself, I'm concerned about people who are starting out. It seems like [Apple is] just trolling artists and manufacturers. I hope the transition to USB-C is quick so we can go about our lives.”

Harrison - So Far From Home (feat. Young Guv) [Official Music Video]

And forget about music makers for a second, what about listeners?

If you own a new Macbook Pro and iPhone 7, you have some issues with headphones. The iPhone doesn’t have a headphone jack, it has Apple’s proprietary lightning port. They give you special headphones in the box to use with that iPhone, and make you buy an adapter to render regular wired headphones usable.

Now, if you have wireless headphones, your issues are solved. But if you don’t, and want to go from listening to Beats1 on your iPhone 7 with your wired, lightning earbuds to listening on your MacBook, you need an adapter, or a different set of headphones.

Apple products let you make, share, stream, download and listen to music offline. But there’s no simple way to do that in their new product line without a pocket full of accessories — accessories that are not cheap, are small, and presumably easy to lose or break.

Apple Get a Mac ad - Angel/Devil (2006)

Apple's branding has always been wrapped up in how creative people use their products.

Apple has never had so much control over music, from creation, sharing, selling and everything in between. For many musicians, the company’s products have become nearly indispensable.

Yet with their new product lineup, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do it all easily.


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