The New Apple Paradigm

It’s time for a bit of recreational Kremlinology regarding Apple’s strategies.

When Intel and Apple brought the Thunderbolt interface into the world, there were a lot of interesting possibilities created. Thunderbolt being essentially the PCI bus on a wire, many peripheral solutions that were previously done with internal cards, could now be created as breakout boxes, which could serve both desktop and laptop users.

Since Thunderbolt is capable of carrying all of the other peripheral busses, one great solution it enabled was Apple’s Thunderbolt display, which could act as a peripheral hub for a laptop. You plug power into the display, and then the display has an upstream cable which branches into thunderbolt, and Magsafe power for the laptop. So with that one cable, your laptop effectively becomes a desktop (and your laptop’s power adapter stays in your travel bag).

My 68 year old mother, who is an accountant, uses this solution. She has a light, compact, 13″ Macbook Air, with which she travels interstate every quarter to work with clients. In her home office she has the big display, keyboard, mouse etc. On the road, the system is light & compact, at home it has screen space for her MYOB Windows VMs, remote desktop sessions with client computers etc.

The new Macbook isn’t set up to do his. It’s only external display options are HDMI and VGA, and with no Thunderbolt due to its sole USB3-C port, arguably, it never will.

It remains to be seen whether this is a repeat of the goof that was the original 13″ Aluminium Macbook (which dropped the firewire of its polycarbonate incarnation, only to regain it in the next revision), or whether this is a new paradigm of less versatile Macs, which have a narrower but deeper usability. By forgoing all the ports that make a laptop able to be both a portable, and desktop, Apple have made a computer that is arguably better when it’s being a portable.

The question is whether this will make its way into the rest of the laptop lineup. If so, I think we can probably say that the paradigm that Apple is heading towards, is this: People who need both desktop and laptop usage scenarios, should be buying a desktop and a laptop, and then using Continuity to move their work state between devices. The net result of more device sales for Apple is obviously just a happy coincidence.