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How Google, Apple and Microsoft just saved the PC

Mike Elgan | Oct. 31, 2016
In a single week, three of the industry's biggest companies dragged users kicking and screaming into a better future

mbp 2016 apple 
Apple's MacBook Pro kills the password, function key, Escape key, dedicated charging port, USB-A port and SD card.

The replacement of old ports and readers is ushering in a dreaded "Donglepocalypse." Your peripherals won't work with the new laptop until you buy special cables and converter "dongles." Your existing devices that use HDMI, VGA or even Thunderbolt 2 ports will all need special adapters.

Even an iPhone 7, which ships with cables that are Lightening on one end and USB on the other, need a replacement Lightning-to-USB-C cable that starts at $25 on the online Apple store. Apple's biggest fans, who will buy both iPhone 7 and MacBook Pro, will be swimming in dongles.

"Donglepocalypse" is inconvenient and expensive, but the transition is necessary. Thunderbolt 3 enables devices to be daisychained out of the same port, and also the conveyance of massive quintiles of data, enough even for the LG 5K display designed to work with the new MacBook Pro. And USB-C is far superior in usage and convenience to the old USB-A standard.

The MacBook Pro was tweaked, improved and optimized across the board, as Apple tends to do. The biggest change is the Touch Bar -- which is conceptually a context-aware, touch-screen version of the old function key concept. Buttons, controls and functionality changes with applications, and developers can program exactly what the Touch Bar looks like and how it works while their application is selected.

In a single product, Apple killed the password, function key, Escape key, dedicated charging port, USB-A port and SD card.

The MacBook Pro also introduced Mac users to two ideas that will transform future laptops. The first is the idea of touch screens on a Mac (the Touch Bar is just a thin strip, but it's technically a touch display). The second is the idea of solid state, on-screen keyboards. No, the Touch Bar doesn't give you QWERTY keys, but future MacBooks will.

These are just two evolutionary steps to a solid-state MacBook of the future -- no moving parts except the clamshell hinge -- which will have touch-screen glass both top and bottom, a concept I first described here years ago.

Pricing for MacBook Pros with the Touch Bar start at $1,799 for the 13-in. version and $2,399 for the 15-in. model.

With the new MacBook Pro, Apple is dragging users kicking and screaming into a better laptop world.

Microsoft Surface Studio

Problem: The PC has been stuck in the WIMP model (windows, icons, menus and pointing devices) since the Nixon administration.

Solution: Microsoft Surface Studio.

Microsoft unveiled this week a new PC called Surface Studio.


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