“Pro.” “Creative.” They’re words that are repeated so often in computing it’s easy for some people to forget what they mean.

By definition, though, if a “professional” is getting paid for their work, investing in more power to get their work done has a return on investment. And being “creative” on a machine means pushing it to the limits of expression. This may be the post-PC era after all, but that ought to mean we get computers that focus ever more on those use cases.

Remember Jobs’ infamous quote about trucks? Embedded in his thinking was an answer to what the traditional computer would look like in the era of ever-smarter mobile devices. It would get more specialized – more focused on niches who had more demanding needs. And given Jobs’ own history (including some of his failures, as at NeXT and with Pixar’s abortive hardware entry), he was intensely interested in how to serve those kinds of people.

Last week’s coinciding Apple and Microsoft events made a study in contrast.

Apple wasn’t remarkable so much as it was business as usual. Apple delivers a new generation of its machines. It’s faster, it’s lighter, it’s thinner. It isn’t cheaper. If all you wanted was a new MacBook Pro and for it to be faster, lighter, and thinner, then you probably wound up happy.

The difference last week, though, was that Microsoft was talking about real creative and professional applications. And – surprise! – for once, it had more to say about that than Apple.

Microsoft did have its usual sprawling event. And as is often the case at Microsoft events, some of the interesting things they showed aren’t out yet. (Apple under Cook, as under Jobs, focuses strictly on the products they’re making available.)

But the reason I think Microsoft made a compelling case was that they offered some products that represent new ideas. And they gave pro users some things those customers really want.

There are two trends happening. Microsoft is on them, I think they’re meaningful to our market segment, and Apple is clearly choosing not to pursue them.

And that’s making devices that are more touchable and tangible, and more three-dimensional and immersive.

Desktop touch is finally a thing

One focus is clearly on input.

Surface Studio is a pretty niche product, but it certainly seams to speak to visual artists. I’m also intrigued by how it might work as a studio music machine. As on the Surface Book, Microsoft opts for a 3:2 aspect ratio. But it’s a product you might well expect to come from Apple – a new form factor for desktop computers, and perhaps a new class of computer. It’s expensive as hell – US$2999 is the base model. On the other hand, I think it makes a compelling case for its existence in a way the Mac Pro didn’t. You spend more cash, you get this enormous display with touch and pen input.

Surface Dial is a physical knob, somewhat reminiscent of the Griffin PowerMate if anyone remembers that. It’s a haptic input device, with clever added functions if you touch it to the Surface models. (Surface Studio only initially, though it seems they’re possibly bringing to other models later.) And it’s already got app support.

Surface Studio may be more important than it initially appears, too. By giving you such an enormous display, Microsoft also lends justification to adding touch to Windows. It’s tough for a 10″ tablet running Windows 10 to face off against iOS, with interface paradigms built from the ground up for touch. But on a larger display, touch in almost any app becomes more appealing.

And Surface Studio you can think of as literally a canvas for developers. I don’t doubt for a second developers are going to be excitedly buying this thing – I know a few who are. That includes in our music segment. This is why Microsoft’s new hardware strategy ultimately benefits OEMs. It solves the chicken and egg problem of needing new hardware to get new apps to get new hardware.

Google may have an awkward relationship with its OEM phone and tablet makers. But we’re talking Microsoft here – this is the company that invented this ecosystem model. They’ve been building up relationships with hardware makers since the Reagan Administration.

Surface Studio on its own I think really isn’t competitive with the iPad Pro and Pencil. Those are terrific products, Apple Pencil performs beautifully, and because these are mobile devices, some people will get them subsidized by their mobile provider.

But there’s still a story here. Apple’s iOS updates aren’t necessarily in sync with what music developers want. And there’s strong incentive for music developers who sell products for $300, $400, and $500 to stay on desktop operating systems. (Why would Ableton start selling Ableton Live for $19.95?)

What the desktop ecosystem lacked was a flagship. Surface Studio is that flagship. And it’s a prime target for developer expense accounts to start looking at the platform.

It’s still going to be an uphill slog. Windows’ UI is still stuck in the desktop era, and the apps aren’t there yet. But if you want to create a new category seemingly out of thin air, you need an exciting device, which is what Microsoft pulled off. Just ask Apple how important that is.

Take a look at this video, though. While Apple had you tapping emoticons on a function row touchscreen and adjusting sliders and attempting to DJ with the top of the keyboard, Microsoft had a compelling demo with an enormous screen and serious third-party applications. And, oh yeah – actual users and use cases, not just marketing executives showing canned demos.

Entering the third dimension

Knob, touch, and (finally) usable stylus input all represent the expressive, tactile input side of the equation.

The other side of this is the full embrace for three-dimensional graphics paradigms, virtual reality, and augmented reality.

I’m wary of the hype around some of these issues. Consumer electronics makers usually try to create demand for things that allow them to sell more hardware. So they see VR as a cash cow: you’ve got a buy a new computer, with a new more powerful graphics card, with some headsets. VR seems all too easy as the sky-high pricey salvation of the sagging PC industry.

Taking the long view historically, though, there’s something there. For decades, almost all computing has been done in two dimensions, outside of games. And it took a long time for even that paradigm to take hold: early graphics in the 60s, XEROX PARC in the 70s, the Mac in the 80s, Windows only going mainstream in the 90s.

Our brains can think in three dimensions, and computing has been about nothing if not feeding our brain with familiar stimuli. Art technique has worked with tricks of virtual perspective for centuries. It seems the computer is due to catch up.

So this isn’t just about donning silly-looking goggles. Microsoft I thought had a really compelling view of 3D end to end. It’s capture of 3D data on phones. It’s their innovative new paint program. It’s full support for 3D information integrated in the Windows update coming early next year. (The sand castle was an elegant example.)

Watching this video brought back memories from me of using the Mac for the first time, and first seeing two-dimensional graphics in Apple’s ground-breaking HyperCard and paint apps (thanks, Bill Atkinson). Of course, now I think Bill’s legacy is alive at Microsoft. (Bill is a personal hero of mine; I was fortunate to meet him once at Macworld, where he was touting his exploration of advanced photography of cross sections of rocks – seriously.)

Now – I’m sure Paint 3D isn’t right for every task. But it also makes a compelling case for touch and pen input on Windows, something available on iOS but absent on the Mac. And I’m sure that’s the point.

The capture capability – being able to form 3D models just by pointing your phone at an object – is simply insane.

Really hoping these apps use standard 3D file formats.

Virtual reality is what we often think of, the solitary experience of a virtual world blocking out the real world around you. But people in fields from architecture to industrial design have long contended with 3D. I think Microsoft’s aim to bring this stuff to the masses is admirable. That can be about augmented reality (as with their HoloLens) and 3D information in general.

While Apple was investing in smart watches and TV, Microsoft was making “holographic” technology an entire platform pillar. I hate the misuse of the word “holographic,” but the platform is cool – and while HoloLens is a hugely pricey research project for now, consumer products around both augmented and virtual reality are imminent.

https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us

I’m simplifying here, intentionally, because the VR landscape gets … messy. There’s some nice analysis on The Verge.

Microsoft’s other competition is clearly mobile-focused vendors entering this arena. Their 3D capture app was running on a Windows phone, but the implication was that it’d come to iOS.

No matter. Desktop computers are the ones with advanced 3D graphics. And even with mobile catching on, a platform with good 3D support could well become the authoring platform. Just as Apple’s iOS App Store drove purchases of Macs for development, so too could this tech stimulate the PC as a 3D creation tool for people who hadn’t even thought of themselves being in the 3D creation business until now.

And the rest of the PC ecosystem

I don’t think you have to be donning a VR helmet or drawing a web comic on a Surface Studio. Last week was a week to reconsider Windows regardless. The Microsoft announcements, whether they were relevant or not, just added to great theatrics.

And what music and and creators were discovering was that some of the things we’ve been putting up with on the Mac aren’t so with Windows. So while Microsoft’s Surface line is very premium, in line with Apple’s price points, there are other options.

The Surface Book and Surface Studio themselves offer added expressive features missing on the comparable MacBook Pro and iMac, respectively. But after that, it gets more interesting. Pay the same, but get a desktop class graphics card and loads of ports – no adapters needed. Pay less and get faster graphics and more ports. Get machines with extra power – even at the cost of battery life and heat, but if you so choose to fit your needs. Get matte displays and other options.

Some of this equation really is new. After years of a race to the bottom, PC vendors finally looked at Apple’s offering and their own collapsing profits and reevaluated the industrial design of PC laptops. The post-PC era has had an unexpected side effect: it’s pushed PC makers to make more advanced, high-end laptops, including for the creative segment.

In other words, instead of laptops going away or merging with mobile devices, some have become more like Apple. Only unlike Apple, these devices typically add new buses and connectors (like Thunderbolt and USB-C), rather than take away the old ones (HDMI, legacy USB, SD card, and so on).

Leaving that MBP behind isn’t so easy

Now, don’t get too excited too fast.

Some of the tradeoffs Apple makes that so frustrate pros also give us stuff we like. So, sure, you get slower GPUs – but you also don’t get fan noise. And you pay more – but you get a machine that’s uncommonly easy to service in a hurry (because of Apple’s network of repair shops). And one with really good design and build.

There are things to like about the new MacBook Pro – yes, the one I was complaining about. The big trackpad holds some potential. The Touch Bar should let you load handy shortcuts in some apps. And if you prefer macOS, this means the older machine is cheaper, and the newer machine is marginally faster.

Still, it’s sad to see the Apple desktop left out of native pen and touch input. It’s frustrating to watch the PC platform embrace the capabilities of 3D when the Mac doesn’t do the same.

To get more detailed, it’s also disappointing that Mac users can’t play along with powerful new capabilities of NVIDIA graphics chips (even the AMD chip costs $2399 to start, and there’s no NVIDIA option). It’s been frustrating that graphics and audio subsystems have sometimes been unpredictable in recent OS updates.

The ideas from Microsoft aren’t perfect. We still have a lot of testing to do. But at least there are new ideas. These are really efforts to explore how you interact with a computer – not a clever (or even useful) gimmick, but some thought into fundamentally how we use the machines.

I fight for the users

I went back and skimmed some moments from computer unveilings past. Even in the end of Jobs’ tenure, Apple’s pitch for the Mac was slowly evolving from something that centered around users and what they did with the machines to what sounds almost like a description of supply chain and engineering instead.

I don’t want to make a Mac versus PC argument – that’s not what this is about. In music and visuals, I recall pretty vividly when we were arguing the AMIGA and Atari, too. Platform competition is good. Things change.

But I do hope that whoever is playing, the future of the computer is focused on what people can do. And I believe the way to excite that world is to push the capabilities of those computers as far as possible.

  • Lee Huddleston

    great, well balanced article

  • rattyuk

    We get it Peter. Did Tim Cook come round and puss in your cornflakes?

    • People were unclear on why I had a negative take on Apple’s launch last week; it was partly because of some of the positives I saw in Microsoft.

      And this is largely to do with our particular niche – it’s not a judgment on what may or may not work for Apple’s entire business. It just happens to be a niche I’m passionate about.

      This is a competitive industry. The CEOs of Apple and Microsoft have each said that publicly, repeatedly. It’s just one week of tech news.

      • slave2sync

        I couldn’t write a more honest article myself. As a musician I felt a lot was captured and said in a nutshell.
        It must be disheartening to see such comments criticizing an honest opinion about where things are evolving to, from a user standpoint.

    • Clif Marsiglio

      I ran a mostly Mac music forum for years…it was amazing the amount of vitriol from former fans the day after a keynote where Jobs didn’t jump out of the screen and personally give them a happy ending and decide that it was no longer for them.

      Kirn seems to have fallen into this same rut. Steve’s corpse didn’t rise up and give him a putrid handjob. Now he is sour.

      Honestly, I wish there was more PC coverage here. PCs are great machines…I had one in a rack for YEARS that I used for Gigasampler back in the day (ok…I still have it!)…use to build machines and friends from Native Instruments and I would see who could get the most polyphony out of a build and then we’d share our particular recipes. There are some drawbacks to Windows that I don’t care for…but I’d imagine others don’t mind. In the end, if you can’t make creative and professional music from EITHER platform, the problem isn’t the machine, its with the musician.

      Either way, it is sad when people get into platform bashing, especially when they know their audience leans towards a specific platform. Unless CDM is supposed to now be edgier and angrier. There are forums out there like that (mine was)…and they get boring really quick.

  • Sin Sentido Comun

    I hope that MS after deploying ths computers aimed at graphic/architecture/animations pros goes back and think about offering a dedicated system to music/sound creators.

    Hopefully MS gets the audio driver issue solved while doing their new music making app so that windows is on par with MacOS in this regard.

  • novc

    Creative coding work (whether audio or visual) really benefits from the linux/os x command-line. It might be better now but my experiences with command-line tools on Windows have been just terrible. As long as I’m relying on node and ruby I can’t imagine switching from my macbook pro.

    • Start imagining. 😉

      https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/commandline/wsl/about

      Node and Ruby support are part of what they’re explicitly supporting.

      And apt-get support means package management is actually easier than macOS – *for some things*.

      The problem I have with this is that this doesn’t totally resolve more complex build chains for other projects. I think your use case is covered… but this looks promising, for instance, for covering all three desktop OSes:
      https://github.com/ofnode/of

      Open source support on Windows has steadily gotten better. For instance, someone has already ported Swift. 🙂

      Whatever platform I choose, the more platform independence I’ve got, the happier I am … especially with open projects and students.

  • Tony Scharf

    The best part about the Surface Studio is that it will have *competition*. As Microsoft put out the Surface Tablet and others then made cheaper versions, I’d expect to see some other OEM’s make their own Surface Studio type machines that won’t be quite as expensive, but may be more configurable. In any case, I think the consumers are really going to win on this. I can see the day coming when I *don’t* need a keyboard and mouse on my desktop, but only down the PC route…not the Apple one.

    • Well, and that’s the other interesting thing. As Microsoft have staked out the high end, some other OEMs have, too.

      I think it makes for a way better experience than in the disposable (and disastrous) netbook era.

      That’s not just some kind of elite “first world” opinion, either. Those terrible netbooks didn’t make any inroads into developing markets, either – who wisely opted for decent mobile phones over bad laptops. (I also imagine that a lot of preconceptions about these different markets are going to be proven very wrong very soon – the netbook being a case in point.)

      But you need to have a high end to refine how these products work, and to make tools that will last.

  • I’m a long time mac user, but I would be all over this thing… if only I could add an expansion card to have Firewire… I’m not quite ready to give up my Fireface 800.

    • I think through some weird combination of adapters you can use them. I think it’s Firewire -> Thunderbolt -> USB-C (probably not directly, probably only via two adapters … )

      • I doubt the drivers would work with that combination of adapters. Thunderbolt to FireWire is fine, but the USB part of the chain would likely break everything. Actually, I doubt there is any way of going from USB to FireWire.

        • JonYo

          It’ll work, because the USB-C port is not just USB on the new MBPs. It’s a TB3 interface, native, that can switch to USB 3.1 in a USB-C form factor. You use a TB3->TB2 adapter, add the TB2->FW800 adapter, and that’s it, it’ll work as well as the TB-2->FW800 adapter has by itself on the previous Macs that had the older TB ports that have display port form factor. There are no driver combos here, it’s the same as it was before.

          • This is absolutely correct for the MBP; however, we’re talking about the USB ports on the Surface Studio which are not TB3, but only USB 3.0

          • JonYo

            Oops! Sorry, got turned around on which reply went with which reply! K, shutting up now… Yeah, USB3-only USB-C ports can’t be turned into TB or FW ports via an adapter to my understanding.

  • fishphacurr

    Yeah, as a Macuser since 1994, the Surface Studio is seriously the first Windows based machine that I’m interested in. My family would be freaked out to hear me even make that comment ha ha.

  • Brian Wagner

    Gotta make a plug for Staffpad which is in the top image. And no mention in the article?! I’m no pro but using it is amazing, light years ahead of when I tried Finale years back.

    I totally agree that new input methods, like pen, represent a huge opportunity for digital music and other fields. And Apple, of anyone, should be taking the lessons from touch on iPad, etc., and transfer that to laptops.

    • It’s absolutely genius, and probably worth another story.

  • Jean Phillip (loquat56)

    Welcome to CreateDigitalMusic.Com I’m Peter Kirn and I’m going to explain to you why Macintosh Computers are terrible and you should all adopt PC computers with Microsoft Windows 8, and buy a Meeblip while your at it. Please disregard the fact that I have been pro-Mac computers for the last 4 years.

    • Random Chance

      People can change their mind given new information, can they not? I for one am also more excited about what Microsoft has to offer right now. It’s not that I am willing to put up with Windows for many of the things I do on macOS and it’s not like I am an artist who would benefit from Microsoft’s offerings. But I can tell you one thing: I am worried about the fate of the Mac as we knew it. Not being able to change and expand things like the hard disk or RAM in a pro machine or having to rely 100% on adapters to get any work done that involves the outside world (not including WiFi) is not right. Granted, I’m typing this on a 2016 MacBook which is probably the epitome of all that I dislike about the newer MacBook Pro. But I haven’t bought the machine as a professional desktop. It’s for being on the go and for that it fits my needs perfectly. I would like to see Apple diversify their line of portable computers some more instead of sacrificing everything that a professional might want (like Ethernet or Firewire) on the altar of portability. Hackintosh becomes ever more enticing although I know the pain of keeping one of those things running between updates from personal experience. Bottom line is: I’m too invested in the Mac eco system and that is a big part of my frustration with the current direction that product development takes.

    • Right – part of what’s significant here is that many, many users and journalists who had been bullish on the Mac platform are raising alarms.

      It’s one thing if someone just regularly stakes out a partisan pro-Mac or pro-Windows position and stays there. It’s another if people see reason to change their minds.

      I think what some people may imagine is me being “pro Mac” has more to do with me having gotten fairly intimate with how their platforms work. I’ve also had a long-standing relationship with Apple PR, which is to say, I’ve gotten to see first-hand how they communicate and message stories.

      Part of what surprises me is, I’ve never known Apple to really bungle communication. No one’s products are great all the time – but even then, usually Apple had their message together. Here, it really does seem like the messaging was disconnected from users, too.

      But you know, this is a fast-evolving industry. All of us learn not only from successes but mistakes. So this is not a judgment on the company or their leadership, just this week’s announcements. I actually try not to speculate too much about where things are going, because I don’t think that’s my place or where I’m informed. On that, we’ll see. And yeah, that means sometimes you change your position, because you want to only judge what is immediately in front of you rather than get caught up in too much speculation about where they may go in the future.

  • lala

    Haha, the surface book ad really hurts, have a look at those movements …
    On the Softwareside nothing has changed, windows is still point and click and nothing happening in userland that makes me look up.
    This won’t change because of reasons…
    Somebody wake me if anything of interest is happening in the windows world.

    • lala

      btw. What makes you think ableton live would have to go for 20 bucks on IOS?
      I don’t think you understand the AppStore.

  • spiral

    Similar feelings in the Verge article : http://www.theverge.com/2016/10/28/13452084/microsoft-apple-new-pc-surface-macbook-prices-expensive-exclusive

    The problem is the new Google-like direction Windows 10 has been taking, becoming a giant piece of spyware trying to outGoogle Google when it comes to privacy invading. Apple has been sitting at the opposite trend of this, both on iOS and MacOS. It’s hard to give up that when you get used to it.

    BUT if MS decides to drop this new privacy invasion strategy, you might witness a massive exodus from Apple users.
    Or we just decide that no privacy is the new privacy, and learn to love it. Zuckerberg’s Facebook likes to constantly remind people that privacy is an outdated concept and no one cares about that anymore.

  • Gesslr Gesslr

    I think it’s a fantastic article. I have NEVER seen an offering from MS that interested me in the least…until this week. The juxtaposition of the Apple and MS events was jarring. It brought to light some frustration I’ve been feeling with Apple for awhile now…and the fear that I am about to live through a Scully-like period/experience all over again. I weathered that once with the company. I don’t want to see it brought on again by hubris and the rise of the “finance and marketing guys” to leadership roles (per Steve Jobs analysis of where Xerox went wrong).

  • alamilla

    Great article once again Peter.

    As a decade’s long Mac user having recently switched to Windows 10, I have to agree with your comments regarding the UI, but for the most part I find it very intuitive and most of the comments I read regarding the OS being an absolute pig unfounded (read: fanboyism).

    Which leads me to audio driver support in the Windows world and those in the comments section who still think it’s 2007!
    Thunderbolt 3 has been out in the wild for over a year now with external GPUs to external storage arrays widely available.
    I am adamant that TB3 is and will be THE best audio solution for both platforms as it brings direct access to the PCIe bus and offers the lowest latency available.
    With MOTU and RME already offering TB2 products for Windows and now Focusrite AND UA announcing Windows compatibility (not widely covered news stories) it makes a compelling argument to see what’s being offered by Microsoft OEMs.
    I think it might be interesting to write an article on audio interface support/Thunderbolt 3 on Windows as I think it’s very likely we will see several new, one cable Thunderbolt 3 solutions with support for BOTH platforms at NAMM.

  • Matt Leaf

    In many ways Apple have been out in front for years, and so that has made Microsoft have to fight so much harder to come up with a unique offering, in hardware *and* software. Perhaps Apple needs to feel the sting of falling behind in some respects to pull its sleeves up again – for so long they have been happy with incremental change. But, it is probably hard to see how much work goes into these products, in any camp. It’s easy for us to criticise but I am sure they all work their damn butts off. I actually think the new Macbook Pro is pretty sweet – its a revision on a tried and true design and you probably couldn’t doubt it’ll be the best laptop on the market for 2017. All the naysayers now will actually probably end up buying one. It’s so robust, reliable and refined. But the Surface Book isn’t a laptop, its a hybrid tablet. So it kind’ve exists in another market. The Studio I would think is more of a Cintiq competitor, so for Apple’s part I’d be more concerned about their iMac line, which is beginning to look antiquated, and whether or not they see it competing in a similar space. Much of Apples decisions about their line up is predicated on the idea that laptops and desktops and touch input are seperate from each other. This idea might have worked for a while, but they shouldn’t confuse short-sighted imagination for dogmatic ideas, particularly when the hinge design of the Surface Studio seems to break their ideas about vertical screen input wide open. I personally am too scarred from the malware and spyware experienced in Windows land to ever go back. It’s all well and good to vote with dollars on their shiny new products, but I always felt Microsofts OS’s existed in a quagmire of virus paranoia, which has always been the refreshing thing for me when using a Mac. In the end I can probably live with Apples conservative gameplan in exchange for the security and robustness of their machines.

  • Robin Parmar

    Fundamentally, “professional” does *not* mean getting paid for work, though that is indeed how musicians use the term. And often how the state defines it for reasons of taxation, etc.

    Instead, “professional” means that you have adopted a shared code of ethics that you will stand by, regardless of whether you are getting paid or not. Doctors have a code of ethics. So do engineers. So do computer programmers and teachers. Musicians do not, which partly explains the nefarious behaviour and lack of trust in the industry (which is more built on wage slavery and exploitation than anything else). It is interesting to imagine a musician’s code of ethics and what this might include. Fuel for an article, perhaps?

    • I always thought our provincial arts’ council (Quebec) had found a clever way of defining “professional artist” in terms of peer assessment. A professional artist is someone who is recognized as such by other professional artists in the field, or as they say it now: “Have participated in at least one production outside of his training, in a professional context recognized by his peers.”

      • Robin Parmar

        That’s a nice communitarian approach.

  • chaircrusher

    I was the guy in 1985 that got one of the first Mac 128s on his desk, because I wrote documentation for a computer company. Over the years I’ve used all computing platforms, including Cray supercomputers, goofy HP workstations, SGIs, Dec 11/780, Macs and PCs.

    So when people get into Mac vs PC wars, I’m not impressed. I use both, and I remember the HP vs Sun wars.

    I admire Apple for their industrial design and OS X is pretty nice. Apple did something no one thought possible 15 years ago: they took a full featured Unix version and made it end-user accessible and maintainable. Linux is years away from that,

    But against Apple’s expertise and marketing success: I’d put the PC ecosystem. There’s a zillion PCs, and even a market for components to build your own. You can even build a PC that will run OS X. You can lash together a supercomputer for a few grand in the PC space. You can run any number of operating systems.

    And even if you just stick with Windows, it runs — with very few exceptions — all the music software you can imagine. It supports serious pro-quality audio hardware. It has multipoint touch, which will only get more useful as time goes on.

    If you want to play live, buy a $600 Windows laptop, a midi controller and a USB audio interface and you’re good to go. If you buy a Mac Pro for $3000, you then have to buy an additional USB adapter, and you have to wonder if your USB audio interface will work through conversion from Lightning to USB.

    TL;DR — there are no compelling technical reasons to buy any particular OS platform. Buy what works for you, that you can afford.

    And that’s another thing — the Apple Tax is real. There are a lot of people who can put together $500 for a PC, and fewer people who can put together $3K and up for a Mac. There’s actually a class division between Mac and PC users.

    • Erty Ytre

      Sorry but you’re not making any sense. Why would the choice be between a $600 laptop and a $3k desktop Mac Pro? The actual choice at the low-mid entry end is more likely between a ~$1000 windows laptop and a $1300 or $1500 MBP.
      And what gave you the impression the Mac Pro doesn’t have regular USB ports? You seem to be mixing up different products here.

      • chaircrusher

        At the top of the post I was talking about desktops and the PC ecosystem in general. When I mention laptops, I’m talking about laptops. It should read ‘Macbook Pro’ not ‘Mac Pro’ Sorry to be confusing

  • Velocipede

    What if Apple integrated iOS devices into Mac OS as peripheral devices? What if we could have mirroring both ways, so your artwork or clip session view could appear and be manipulated on your iPad? 3rd parties offer apps to do things like this, but I am sure Apple could do it in a way that makes it easier and smoother. That would make me want to update my Mac for the first time in 4 years rather than having a meh feeling about both the hardware and the OS.

  • John Billington

    Another great post – thanks for this whole series about the new windows advancements. It’s amazing that Microsoft, of all companies, is courting creatives. Those videos look like old Mac ads.

  • R__W

    This box is cool but its nothing special spec wise. it’s also not expandable or upgradable which has been the prime complaint creatives have made towards the mac pro and MBP. The 3D paint app is cool but irrelevant. Unless you can do the same interactions with Maya/3DSMax/Modo/Cinema4D/Zbrush it’s not interesting to 3D pros. Also 90% of 3D pros use the mouse anyway, and only the model painters and sculptors use tablets.

    It’s a bit weird that MS puts out a non-expandable all in one (sound familiar?) and so many former Apple romantics decide it’s the bees knees. Seems a bit like the computer version of the 7 year itch.

  • The recent posts on Surface/MacBooks have been very thoughtful. I think Peter articulated well what many people are feeling about Apple, that they are losing their way and are myopically focused on engineering and supply chain instead of building machines that unlock creative potential – the history of the Mac to which many people feel a very strong connection.

    I’d buy a new MacBook if I had to but where I might have desired an upgrade in the past, I now feel that the smarter choice is to stick with what I have. I’m a long-time, loyal customer and I really want to stay on the platform, no matter how cool the Surface looks. But I’m less enthusiastic than usual and want to see a clearer picture of the future of the desktop line,
    especially.

    Regarding the reception of the latest MacBook, it’s not so much about the touch strip, but where the trajectory of the recent changes to the Mac point. If these changes are a commercial success then the future of the Mac may be different than what creatives expect or need.

    One side note, it’s notable that the Surface Studio videos feature older, commercial creatives. The touch strip seems more likely a nod to Millennials. There appears to be an age/experience difference at play at least from a marketing angle, which likely points to the types of users internal research targeted for each product. For those in the former camp, the apparent “dumbing down” of a given thing, such as a hardware interface, is hardly limited to this specific case. I do not think that is a matter of Gen X-ers ranting “get off my lawn” to Millennials as is so often lazily assumed, but a different set of needs and expectations, probably irresolvable, that are equally valid. It’s just that there are more Millennials–and more who are willing to take on additional debt.