Is Apple’s new MacBook the last of a dying breed?

New MacBook and Apples future
Apple’s ‘Spring Forward’ event brought the unveiling of the Apple Watch, a piece of technology that follows in the footsteps of devices like the iPod and the iPhone. It certainly seemed like the company was looking to the future — but, at the same time, it may  be preparing to put one of its most popular products in the past.

On the surface, the reveal of a newly refreshed version of the MacBook might seem a sign that Apple’s premier brand of laptops is set to continue far into the future. That, in fact, is probably true. Yet it’s also possible the new MacBook represents a change in direction. Looking back to a similar Apple event held in September of 2007, we see a similar scene; a potentially game-changing product stole the headlines, in that case, the iPod Touch, while another device was announced that catered to more traditional consumers: the iPod Classic.

Though it wasn’t fully discontinued until last year, the fate of the last traditional iPod was set in 2007. The iPod Touch was the precursor to the ubiquitous smartphone usage of the present, a necessary stepping stone towards the iPhone, and a canny way of familiarizing pockets of the company’s userbase with touchscreens. Like the Watch, it signaled a major change in the way people use electronics, one that eventually swept away old categories.

A new path

The Spring Forward event contained plenty of hints that the new MacBook is a similar product to the iPod Classic. It’s a product that appeals to a passionate user base that has stagnated. There are forward-thinking features, but it’s a legacy product in essence. It’s refined rather than revolutionary, and its wholly familiar look and feel is evidence that it’s aimed at an audience that already owns an older MacBook model.

There’s been a sense that Apple is in a creative slump, waiting for the next big hit. Now that’s changing.

There’s been a sense that Apple is in a creative slump, waiting for the next big hit. Now, things may be changing. There’s a certain confidence beginning to shine through. Aesthetically, the design of the new MacBook is a sharp deviation from systems before, closer to the look and feel of an iPad than anything we’ve seen from previous Macs. And the decision to go with a single USB-C port for all wired connectivity is incredibly bold.

But it’s perhaps not as bold as Apple would like it to be. As Tim Cook himself noted at today’s event, the laptop market has been changing for some time. He suggested that Apple has reinvented the notebook, building upon the foundations they’d established with the iPhone and the iPad. In truth, though, the MacBook is still undeniably a Mac, and it refines rather than reinvents notebook compute.

Yet Apple wants to do more, which suggests the company is working on some amalgam of a portable device that fixes the tension between tablets and modern laptops. What would that mean? A focus on touch, but without the abandonment of tactile input. The MacBook is a step towards that, but it doesn’t go as far as it could, most likely due to the limits of modern technology.


The compromise between the utility of a keyboard and the portability of a touch-based tablet has to be at the core of any manufacturer’s design for the future, including Apple. If people weren’t quite so attached to the feel of a keystroke, tablets might have snatched away even more of the laptop audience than they have done thus far. Input method will be the defining factor in the next big advance in portable computing, and Apple is probably working on the answer in its labs.

What’s crucial is that Apple is working on the feel of a keyboard. At present, the fruit of that labor is the butterfly mechanism in the new MacBook, which helps the company offer a decent keyboard experience in an incredibly slim system. But that doesn’t mean that the process is complete. Apple is probably looking for solutions that don’t require mechanical components. Haptic feedback seems a possibility, for example; the “Force Touch” feature on the new MacBook and MacBook Pro 13 with Retina is an example of how Apple may get creative with touch in the future to create a better computer interface.

The Next Big Thing?

Apple used the slogan ‘Think Different’ for many years, and while its been dropped for promotional purposes, it still seems to be the company’s ethos. The Apple brand sees no merit in a me-too device. The company still enjoys an ‘outsider’ status that differentiates it from the pack of faceless tech companies. That’s what helped the Mac carve out a niche when Windows was the norm, and it’s the difference-maker Apple will need to gain any sort of foothold in their often-rumored automotive efforts.

Apple is likely researching a new interface that doesn’t require mechanical components.

Few other companies can claim the same rabid fan-base that Apple possesses. There are plenty of consumers out there who would blindly buy whatever Apple releases, for better or worse. A cynic might take that fact as a license for the company to release incremental updates to its most popular devices, but an optimist would argue that it puts them in an enviable position. Apple can release a wholly original device with some confidence, knowing that it won’t bomb completely thanks to their dedicated fans.

That’s why the company can offer a $10,000 smartwatch, and it may well be why they can redefine the portable computer in the future. A device that isn’t quite what we know as a tablet, but isn’t a laptop either. Something that’s as portable as an iPad, but has a compelling haptic solution that makes typing feel as precise as it does on a traditional keyboard. This may sound like wishful thinking, but it’s a logical solution to the gap in the market between tablets and laptops. And it’s actually a step in the direction the new MacBook, with its near-iPad thinness, large touchpad and focus on portability over performance, is already headed.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.


Rekindled yet again, Nokia’s next-gen phones offer more than just nostalgia

HMD Global, a startup that designs and builds Nokia Android smartphones, wants to put the Nokia brand name back “where it belongs.” It helps that it’s made up of ex-Nokia employees. We go behind the scenes to see how HMD formed.

Apple may be developing a new iPod Touch to woo younger users

Apple may be developing its first new iPod touch model since 2015 as it aims to capture younger users who are not yet ready for their own smartphone, and expand its overall listening base in the future.

C you soon? Rumors swirl of a USB-C port on 2019 iPhones

While it's not been long since the last iPhones launched, rumors for the next iPhone are already surfacing. Apple's 2019 flagship could include a variety of upgrades ranging from a new design to enhanced features.

It took three years, but OLED laptops are having another moment at CES

To our surprise, OLED laptops made a strong showing at CES 2019. With options in the works from most of the major PC manufacturers, it seems OLED is making its comeback.

Pinning websites to your taskbar is as easy as following these quick steps

Would you like to know how to pin a website to the taskbar in Windows 10 in order to use browser links like apps? Whichever browser you're using, it's easier than you might think. Here's how to get it done.

Stop your PC's vow of silence with these tips on how to fix audio problems

Sound problems got you down? Don't worry, with a few tweaks and tricks we'll get your sound card functioning as it should, and you listening to your favorite tunes and in-game audio in no time.

Chip off the auction block – Intel’s i9-9990XE may be sold to the highest bidder

Intel's alleged Core i9-9990XE may only be sold at auction to OEMs, meaning that only a few of the 14-core, 28-thread, 5GHz CPUs will ever see the light of day in specific devices and systems.

Yes, Android apps can run on your PC, and it's easier than you think

Wish you knew how to run Android apps in Windows? It's easier than you might think and there are a number of different ways to do it. In this guide, we break down the steps so you can follow along with ease.

Don't spend hundreds on Pro Tools or Logic. Try one of these free alternatives

Believe it or not, Pro Tools isn't the only digital audio workstation worth your time. Check out our picks for the best free recording software, whether you're looking for a lightweight app or a full-blown audio workstation.

How to share an external hard drive between Mac and Windows

Compatibility issues between Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS may have diminished sharply over the years, but that doesn't mean they've completely disappeared. Here's how to make an external drive work between both operating systems.

Should you buy the affordable MacBook Air, or is the MacBook Pro worth the price?

Though they both share Retina Displays and similar keyboards, there are still some specs differences and other changes that differentiate the new 2018 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. In this guide, we stack the two up against each other.

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019: Complete Coverage

There's no bigger show for mobile tech geeks than Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain: where flagship phones are born and intriguing new wearables shine. And this year, where foldable phones and 5G are likely to dominate the news. For…

Google is giving its G Suite web apps new touches of visual improvements

Your G Suite applications will soon have a different look. Several of the web apps are getting updated with subtle visual improvements inspired by Google's Material Design guidelines. 
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…