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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Top 5 things disappearing from the Mac

With the new MacBooks revealed, and a few people here at TDL being riled by the loss of firewire on the MacBook, we figured it was a good time to look at our top five features/concepts that have disappeared, or are beginning to disappear from Apple products. Here they are, in no particular order.

5. Simplicity. The once so-easy-grandma-can-do-it iPhoto has become a patchwork of menus and heads-up displays. We're not saying these aren't improvements, but if you want to make an Adobe Elements competitor, do it. Don't eliminate the simplicity that's brought so many people to Apple products. And don't even get us started on what's become of iMovie.

4. Firewire. Sure firewire's still hanging on, but it's nowhere to be found on the new MacBook, and firewire 400 ports have disappeared from the Pro models as well. Millions of DV and HDV cameras use firewire exclusively for connectivity. Many of those cameras were sold to people buying into Apple's digital lifestyle pitch. Sure people now use a lot more cell video, flip cameras, and still cam video capabilities, but there's still millions of people with Firewire devices. Manufactured by companies who would've probably opted for USB to begin with, if not for Apple (and to lesser extent Sony) championing the connection. Any way you slice it, it's sad that a five year-old iBook, or even older Powerbook is better equipped to edit DV video than the newest MacBook. Why even put iMovie and iDVD on these machines?

3. The Apple Key.Perhaps the least important change on the list from a functionality standpoint, but from a lineage and marketing standpoint, we hate to see it go. Having people use the name of your company every time they give a shortcut: brilliant. Despite the "start" button, no one will ever say press Microsoft-N to open a new window.

2. Cutting-Edge Disc Support. There was a time, not so long ago, that creating DVDs was only the work of the big studios. Then a little computer company came along, and decided to change things. Apple was on the cutting edge when it introduced the superdrive, and iDVD/DVD Studio Pro. Suddenly any average Joe who could pony up for a Mac tower could author and burn their own DVDs. Now, Blu-Ray is the talk of the town. Rather than sit on the cutting edge, allowing Mac media creators to unleash the power and flexibility of this format, Apple has decided the "complex" nature of licensing the technology means it isn't worth it. While far less innovative computer companies have been able to figure it out, and despite the fact Apple can create a laptop out of a block of aluminum, licensing is just too difficult for them. Then again, when Apple introduced the Superdrive, there was no iTunes music store, let alone HD video downloads. As Apple expects you to get all media from the iTunes store, perhaps that makes them a little more hesitant to support a competing HD format like Blu-Ray.

1. Common Standards Support. To call Apple a supporter of standards can be a stretch, or an understatement depending on the subject at hand. When it comes to things like wifi and h.264, Apple has been a champion of common standards. When it comes to ports, especially for displays, it's a mixed bag. Apple Display Bus: non-standard. VGA: standard. Apple display connector: non-standard. Full DVI: standard. The latest announcements brought a new connector to the world: the mini DisplayPort. While the display port may indeed catch on in the years to come, it seems silly to switch ports simply because it's smaller. Technically, there's nothing this port does that can't be done by HDMI. And let's not forget there are millions of VGA/DVI monitors out there. Monitors that will now require an expensive adapter to be used with Apple's newest products. If you don't like the connector though, wait a few years: it's bound to change again.


Van said...

They claim that the mini displayport has a higher max resolution which will be useful down the road.

jamie said...

True but HDMI is already on it's way to becoming the standard with million of devices already using the connections. HDTVs, gaming systems, monitors, projectors. The "better" technology isn't always the one that wins out. See Betamax vs. VHS.

jamie said...

Another thing that is sorely missing is the ability to customize your laptop purchase. Apple should be offering one Macbook that is completely customizable online. You get to choose what speed processor, what level graphic card, what size screen etc. Allowing customers to purchase a 13 inch with a 1.8ghz processor with no backlight keyboard and intel graphics for $799 if they want.

ryanrit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ryanrit said...

I should've also given an honorable mention to iCards.

James Katt said...

HDMI does not do higher resolutions than 1900 x 1080. Thus the Mini Display Port is much more useful. Since it is compatible with VGA and DVI, one will only need cable adapters to connect to older style monitors.

ryanrit said...

@james_katt: It's true. Display Port does support a higher resolution (2560x1600). But it also supports a form of DRM, and does not support audio as HDMI does.
It seems like Apple supports these connectors until they almost become standard, then they switch again. Maybe that's the price of innovation.

While this post was focused on general changes, I see a blog post on the pros and cons of the connector soon...

Airplaneguy said...


I love the looks of the new Macs - Hate the machines.

I have convinced over 20 people in the past year to buy Macs - no small feat.

One of my favorite things is to talk about connecting up a firewire video camera and make a DVD. No expertise needed! Everything I own is now firewire. USB is way to slow. I could not imagine making an intial time machine backup on USB. It might take a couple of days???

Why didn't Apple at least give us eSATA? WHY WHY WHY? I will now be stuck with the pathetic USB. I was going to upgrade until this.

By the way - Where are the Quad Core Intel's ?????

What I wanted was:

Atom based Netbook.
Quad Core Powerbooks
eSata + 1394b (FW800) standardized

I hope that enough people complain that Apple wakes up and smells the coffee !!!

peace out

ryanrit said...

@airplaneguy: Couldn't have said it better.

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