No FireWire? No Matte Display? Aaahhh! I’m Trashing Everything and Getting a Dell!

Or words to that affect. That’s what I’m seeing on blogs and in a boatload of forum comments. Geez, people. Why is it every time Apple makes a move there’s a pile of people to step in and claim how stupid Apple is, or how they don’t care about their customers, etc.? As if Apple’s not nailing almost all of their decisions lately (and by “lately” I mean over the last 10 years).

Some of the complainers are downright conspiratorial in their railings against the change. And many seem to think that FireWire 400 is gone altogether, apparently unaware that it’s available on the MacBook Pro via the FireWire 800 port. Only the MacBook lost FireWire completely.

Look, I’m not unsympathetic to those MacBook users who may have come to rely on FireWire, but some of the discussion around this move is kind of silly.

The MacBook is Apple’s most popular Mac. They’ve sold a bajillion of these things (note to literalists: “bajillion” is an exaggeration for effect). I do not believe for one minute that Apple doesn’t know what features are being used by their customer base. They didn’t remove FW to anger their base, they removed it because it was used (or required) by a small enough percentage that it simply couldn’t be justified in the new design.

And for those of you saying that it probably only adds a few dollars to the cost, so what? I’ve sat in hardware meetings where we debated something that adds a few cents to the cost! Just as a simple example, let’s pretend FW would add $1 to Apple’s cost of the new MacBook. It’s their most popular Mac, so to keep the example simple let’s say they sell 5M in the next year. That’s a $5M cost! Actually, it would even be more than that since the total cost also includes expenditures in the form of supporting FW issues, drivers, patches, QA, etc. 

If you say that $5M is pocket change to Apple, I would counter that it’s only pocket change when spent wisely. If, say, 93 percent of MacBook users don’t use FW, or won’t miss it, then it’s an unnecessary expense. Apple’s $20B war chest doesn’t come only via profits. It’s as much about what they don’t spend (or, as Steve Jobs would say, when to say “no”). This includes money saved via many of these types of decisions.

Regarding the lack of a matte display on the new MacBook Pro, from the discussions I’ve seen, you’d think no one had ever used a glossy screen before. But do you really think Apple killed the matte display just to wield their mighty power? Really? They know how many of each screen type they sold on their pro models. 

I suspect matte was put on the block partially because the even brighter LED screens make glossy “glare” less of an issue. As for cost savings, it’s probably less about what the differing screen types add to the price, and more about having to deal with dual SKUs. The fewer SKUs, the better. Inventory is expensive. Especially when it’s the inventory of your flagship line. Apple may also have felt that if demand for a matte display is great enough, third parties will step in. After all, this is an omission that can be readily addressed after the fact. 

Sometimes, it’s just human nature, when confronted with a new model or version, to dwell on what’s “missing.” We admire the new stuff for five minutes, then decide what’s gone we can’t live without (floppy, anyone)? And of course Apple can make a misstep (they have before, they will again). But it remains to be seen in this case, and the idea that Apple yanked these items just because they allegedly know better, or because they’re stupid, or they don’t care, or maybe even because they just felt like it, makes no sense.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but some of the comments I’ve read are just nuts. It’s not that hard to come up with reasonable speculation as to what Apple’s motivation may have been, both fiscally and strategically. Nor is it difficult to come up with a more reasoned analysis of the loss.

You're subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings


Comments have been disabled for this post