Change Comes to Apple in Mid-Summer

The middle of the summer is usually a quiet time at Apple—from an external view. It's the time for Cupertino's software developers to deliver on the promises made at WWDC in early June. In addition, it's time to finalize the development of the fall's slate of hardware releases.

However, things have been unusually busy in the last few weeks. The headline news, of course, is the departure of Chief Design Officer Jony Ive after 27 years with the company. In addition, there's a strong rumor that Apple will revert from their butterfly keyboard design to the more common scissor design, with first system up being the next-generation MacBook Air.

The butterfly keyboard is perhaps the ultimate example of Apple's obsessive pursuit of thin and light above all else. The press release from its introduction with the MacBook 12-inch in March 2015 touted the fact that it allowed the keyboard to be 40% thinner than an equivalent scissors design. That announcement has aged poorly, as there have been many user complaints and a "Keyboard Service Program" that covers every butterfly keyboard Apple has made.

Has a butterfly brought down a man?

It's hard to see this (likely deliberate) keyboard leak as anything but a hint from Apple that even they know that thin and light above all is played out. It is not a coincidence, I believe, that this news comes as the primary champion of thin and light leaves the company.

The problem with thin and light as an only direction is that there are no real secrets in this business and that Dell, HP, Lenovo, and (aaack!) Microsoft also have competent engineers. Between the four of them, they can play this game, too—the original Infinity Edge Dell XPS 13 should have been a hint to Apple that they needed to adjust their strategy.

I believe we'll see a slow adjustment from thin and light to thin and light enough. It'll take time, but I expect the next life-cycle's worth of products from Apple to reflect this.

John Mulhern III, Posted 7/7/2019

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