The most boring exciting thing ever

If there is anyone on the planet who overuses the Rorschach test metaphor to describe life, it’s me. And yet, I can’t help but think it is the only way to describe how people view reality.

If Apple’s WWDC 2017 keynote is the ink blot on the paper, the reality that people see in it varies from “best keynote ever” to “the keynote was boring”. I think there were aspects of both, but I also think that mainly people’s Apple keynote expectations and experiences are often largely determined by a slightly romantic view of history. There have been some really boring and disappointing keynotes, both under Steve Jobs and after. Very seldom does anything truly revolutionary come out of Apple, and very seldom are keynotes universally acclaimed as amazing. There are a bunch of them on YouTube – I challenge people to watch a bunch of them and see if there are more than three or four that meet their excitement standards.

This WWDC didn’t feel boring or lackluster, as some people told me they thought it was. I don’t think there was a lack of energy as much as there was just a crushing amount of material for Apple to get through. Some of it probably could have been dispensed with – I don’t really understand why (exciting as it is for me personally) the announcement of Amazon Prime Video on Apple TV counted as one of the 6 main topics for the keynote.

But what about the things they did announce?

For starters, the Mac is back. Whether or not it really went anywhere is (sorry) again a bit of a Rorschach test. I think it did – I think Apple lost sight of the ball on the Mac. I know many people who have been bothered for two or three years now with the relatively underperforming hardware on Macs compared to similarly priced PCs. While much of the historically touted Apple tax has generally been nonsense, the relative lack of performance upgrades and the relative lack of compensating downward price adjustment has meant that Macs have not been a good value in recent years. Worse, it meant that games, 3D modeling, game design, and other performance intensive activities have not fared well on the Mac for some time. Indeed, VR headset and development software vendors have ignored Macs completely, citing the lack of adequate GPU hardware in the line.

The new Macs may not seem exciting to some people, but I’ll just be blunt and say those people don’t use their Macs hard and don’t see the importance of Apple keeping the people who do on their platform. Why would you purposely wave goodbye to photographers, video editors, 3D modelers and game developers, and allow the entire VR/AR industry to just pass you by when rectifying it would be so simple? Apparently Apple finally realized this as well, and the new Mac hardware announcements are huge, both in terms of performance and in extending and renewing Apple’s relevance in the computer world. This was more important than people think.

By the way, speaking of the Mac, I did see some Mac journalists who were rather upset that some people took the announcement of the iMac Pro to mean that it was going to be THE new pro solution in the Mac line. It’s a silly thing to be upset about, but the fact that a Mac Pro is still coming later down the road is great news. The iMac Pro just gives us power users and professionals one more option. I do agree with John Siracusa that at one point, the iMac Pro probably was intended to be THE pro Mac, so those wondering weren’t all that far off from what was probably intended to be reality. The fact that there will also be a Mac Pro now was clearly something Apple decided relatively recently. So the journalists were mostly choking on their Rockstar energy drinks for no reason.

The new iPad Pros and iOS 11’s iPad specific features are also very needed, very important, and (in my humble opinion) very long overdue. I have argued for years that iPad is a luxury in a world of luxuries, and it has always played a distant fourth to iPhone, Mac, and lesser purchases such as AirPods. I know my family is far from the only one that has not been able to justify an iPad after biannual iPhone upgrades and the occasional Mac upgrade. And that’s even with us running the Macs into the ground.

My first and only iPad was the iPad 2, and that belongs to my daughter now. It’s pretty much too slow even for her uses, but we have no plans to replace it. At least, we didn’t. Now the new iPad Pro with the added capabilities of iOS 11 could well make it a viable contender for school device. Expensive, yes, but far more capable and versatile than a cheaper Chromebook option. I can honestly say that without the sorely needed iPad specific additions to iOS, this wouldn’t even be a consideration. Apple let the iPad languish in terms of software for far too long, all the while touting it as a laptop replacement. That was laughable until now. It still won’t be for many people, but iOS 11 truly brings the iPad into that territory for a lot more people for the first time.

Apple’s Keynote at WWDC 2017 was important, encouraging, and (frankly) a huge relief. Apple has committed to keeping professional content creators on the Mac, and to truly expend effort into making the iPad into the workhorse they have been saying it is.

By the way, a bit of a side note: a friend of mine said on Twitter that they’re bothered with the way Apple keeps trying to force the iPad as a Mac replacement. I don’t see it that way. There’s no way the iPad is going to replace any of the iMacs they showed off. I think they just finally realized that it’s not even going to be an option for anyone serious about getting work done, apart from some extremely dedicated geeks, without making iOS more capable in some of the same ways that computer operating systems are. I don’t think this is a case of Apple holding the iPad up in the foreground to block the Macs in the background. I think it’s a case of Apple doing something they had to, and the result will be a lot of people finding the iPad more than capable of being their main work device. Part of getting it done meant adding some features that macOS already has, and that’s fine. That is not the same thing as a merging of devices.

I don’t see anything wrong with that it all. I think if Apple didn’t do it, they may as well have discontinued the iPad. That would have been a shame, given the potential I honestly believe it still has.