Apples an elusive company these days. Their glory days behind them have relentlessly pursued a misguided concept of optimization that has alienated their user base and compromised their products. A MacBook SE would go a long way in smoothing out the lag they left behind.
I was excited that this would be possible years ago when the iPhone SE came out. "Here," I thought, "is a company that has seen the value of its legacy products."
While the (old) SE is indeed the best phone Apple has ever made, it is now clear that it was little more than a way to make a bit more money out of some leftover components. (The new SE seems to serve the new purpose, but I accepted it anyway as the old model is increasingly being left behind in design decisions.)
That one of its most popular products was an accident shouldn't come as a surprise, as Apple doesn't seem to know or care about what its customers want. In recent years, it has either copied its competitors or compromised usability to skim an extra millimeter or two fewer devices.
The philosophy of telling people what they should want has long been known at Apple, but it only works when you have someone who knows those people better than you do. Apple seems to no longer have someone like that, and has like that she mindlessly pursues the horizon like a car without a driver and without a destination.
Of course, they're not the only company that does this. Get big enough and cruise control is the safest option. You can go a long way without touching the wheel. But those of us who are going with you can contact us at some point.
So here I am: Apple, I would really love a MacBook SE. And I think a few million others would too.
The iPhone SE appealed to the surprisingly (for Apple) large group of people who didn't like the direction of iPhone design. They liked the new larger size, the move away from TouchID to a creepy new authentication technique, the notch, the fragility, and the lack of a headphone jack that made their device backward compatible with decades of hardware and software.
A MacBook SE would similarly appeal to people who don't like the direction notebook design has advanced in. They like the awkward, hard-to-maintain keyboard, the removal of the beloved and convenient MagSafe, the decision to limit themselves to USB-C ports only, the sticky and underutilized Touch Bar.
These are people who know what they want and have no option to buy it from a company that previously provided it. There's a good trade between MacBook Pros (pictured above) and 2015 Airs, as they were the best notebooks Apple ever made.
To be clear, I imagine an SE: a 13-inch notebook with a MagSafe power connector, USB-C ports, and a headphone jack on one side, as well as an old-school USB-A, an HDMI out and one SD card reader on the other side. Oh, and while it goes without saying, let's just be clear: the old keyboard, please.
Obviously, it's a little presumptuous of me to tell one of the largest and most successful companies in the world that they are getting it wrong, and I have the answer. But I don't mean to say that you should give up all advancement and experimentation. I just want them to toss a bone for those of us who don't want to be their guinea pigs.
And yes, I hear you all out there – get yourself a Pinebook! A ThinkPad! And so on. Listen, I'm not a Mac-only elitist, especially for years their products have not been worth the premium they have always paid for them – and that premium has only increased. I build my own Windows PCs and I like it. I just prefer the synergy of Apple's hardware and software in the notebook form factor. And it's not just the aesthetics, although Windows is certainly ugly.
This is why it is so disappointing to me that Apple seems to have forgotten the reasons behind the legend of its laptops. Because the same reasons were obstacles to Apple's misguided idea of what it might call elegance. Thinness and "simplicity" at all costs – even if the thinness is imperceptible and the simplicity is entirely on the side of the computer itself, not in the way the user interacts with it.
Every “sleek” new Mac notebook I've met – and most of my colleagues at theinformationsuperhighway are – has to carry around or borrow a menagerie of dongles to work effectively across generations and industries. Maybe a USB-A port looks ugly next to a USB-C port, or the MagSafe port upsets the symmetry of the device, but it can't be worse than the tentacle disaster I see when someone puts something on one new mac must do laptop but type.
It's like Apple made pocket knives and switched from a Swiss Army Knife to a Folding Knife to a solid-bladed ceramic blade over the years. Yes, the latter is simpler and more elegant in a way. But it sure doesn’t help if you have to open a can or bottle of wine.
Funnily enough, I filed the opposite complaint 7 years ago when I felt that cell phones were overflowing with features. Just keep it stupid!
But in a way it was the same problem, just a reflection. In this case, I felt like increasingly bloated Android phones had moved from a few good things to a lot of bad things – things that no one asked them to do. The real problem is not just too much or too little; there is no choice of how much or how little.
I am disappointed with Apple because the approach that made their laptops appealing to me fell by the wayside. Maybe that's just a difference in philosophy, but I'm confident that I'm not an extreme outlier. When Apple realized when the iPhone SE launched that there were millions of people who wanted what came before, I think they will find it on a MacBook SE too. Sure, it will affect sales of the newer, "sleeker" devices, but it will open and sustain a market of people who have been holding back from buying a new device for years because, like me, they have been waiting for Apple to do it right again .
So please, Apple, give me my wish. Oh, and if you want to guarantee a few extra sales, let me give you one final tip: the rainbow logo.