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The laptop is dead

Mike Elgan | April 3, 2017
Here's my open-and-shut case on why the venerable laptop is on its way out


Credit: Samsung's DeX dock/Samsung

You may never buy another laptop.

Ten years ago, laptop sales overtook desktop PC sales to become the dominant hardware platform for computing. Now smartphones are about to do to laptops what laptops did to desktops.

But wait, you may ask. What's wrong with laptops?

 

Apple has run out of good laptop ideas

For the past decade, Apple has led and dominated the laptop market with design and innovation. The company has been moving toward better quality, so-called "Retina" screens. Apple’s keyboard designs and unibody aluminum construction have been heavily imitated. The company used to dazzle the industry by sweating the small stuff, like the MagSafe power connector and lights that shine through aluminum.

It's not just that Apple innovated. It's that its laptop innovations evolved their products toward elegance and usability. And that's over.

After years without a significant new laptop design, their latest release, last year's MacBook Pro, landed with a thud. The laptop was seriously underpowered — called by some a MacBook Air at a MacBook Pro price. The company ditched its incredibly popular MagSafe power connector in favor of USB C power.

And that Touch Bar! Some like it, others hate it. Either way, the innovation turns away from elegance and simplicity toward awkward interface design and complexity. Most reviewers and users either hate the Touch Bar or like the Touch Bar, but few love it.

The keyboard is a mixed bag. Its short key travel thrills some and annoys others. And the touchpad is way too big. Users report constant accidental taps.

Apple's attempt to be more elegant and minimalist has had the opposite effect. By offering only four USB C ports, the laptop itself has become simpler. But USB C requires the user to buy ugly, awkward, easy-to-lose dongles and adapters for all those devices and media we use that don't support USB C. Yuck!

The best thing that can be said about the MacBook Pro is that it's faster and has a better screen than previous models. But this is inevitable and expected, not revolutionary.

There's nothing about this laptop that's going to drive the industry to imitate. Rivals are more likely to see the new MacBook Pro as an opportunity to provide something different, not something similar.

Most importantly, is the MacBook Pro worth the price?

We'll get to that question in a minute. But first, let's look at all the trends happening this year that conspire against the laptop in general.

 

Flying the unfriendly skies

The U.S. and U.K. governments recently banned all non-medical electronic devices larger than a smartphone as carry-on for U.S.-bound flights on specific airlines from specific airports in the Middle East and North Africa. Passengers are required to check their laptops.

 

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