Morning Coffee

April 03, 2016

Hello there, welcome to another issue of Morning Coffee.

There’s something about the latest Apple event that’s been bugging me, and I’d like to explore it in a bit more detail.

Issue #38: Confessions from a sad Mac user

During the presentation of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Phil Schiller joked on stage that there are currently more than 600 million PCs in use that are over 5 years old. He then cracked a joke at how sad the situation of those users is. Of course, the joke was received with laughs from an enthusiastic crowd. You’re so funny, Phil.

Except you’re not, not this time. Your considerable personal charm wasn’t able to make up for what was essentially an incredibly tone-deaf comment. It may have gotten a laugh out of the room, but out there in the real world, it fell pretty flat. You may have been careful to point out you were talking about Windows PCs, but the same reasoning must necessarily apply to old Macs as well.

Yes, we all like new and shiny stuff, but replacing a perfectly working computer just for the sake of owning the latest is a luxury at best, and irresponsible at worst. In any case, there’s absolutely nothing sad about owning your machines long-term, until they reach the end of their useful life.

My main Mac is an early-2008 24-inch iMac. It has a Core 2 Duo chip in it, which sounds ancient by today’s standards, but still performs rather well. It may not be the fastest machine anymore, but it takes on Lightroom and Xcode like a champ. In fact, after an SSD upgrade, it’s faster than it’s ever been. I do lust after a Retina 5K iMac — who wouldn’t — but I don’t think my iMac is sad in any way. Apparently you do, Phil, and that is sad. Sad that you seem to have forgotten about the real value of things.

My laptop is also sad. It’s a 2010 13-inch MacBook Pro, again with a Core 2 Duo chip inside. Like the iMac, it isn’t cutting-edge in any way, but I’m OK with that. It even has an optical drive and user-replaceable storage and memory, if you can believe it. And, check this out, if you look at it closely, you can even see the actual pixels in the display. I know, right? To you, Phil, this machine must feel like the kind of computer cavemen used to use.

Of course, I keep writing Phil, but I really mean Apple. This lack of respect for the old is an inherent trait of today’s Apple, and to some extent, they’ve always been like that. They’ve always loved new things, and they’ve always been keen on discarding the old to make room for the new. That willingness to wipe the slate clean and start anew is what makes them one of the most innovative companies in the world.

But discarding old technology to create better things is not the same as making fun of the people who can’t or won’t upgrade. This is not about poking fun at Windows, or Dell. They’re throwing their own customers under the bus, too, which is a first for Apple. That’s the slippery slope they seem to be on these days, and it’s one I personally find distasteful. I expect better from Apple.

Compare Schiller’s ill-advised joke with Elon Musk’s message when he unveiled Tesla’s upcoming Model 3 car. He said this is the car they’ve been working towards since the beginning, and specifically thanked the people who bought their previous models, because they helped pave the way for the Model 3 to be possible. He didn’t say everyone who still owns a Roadster is lame, he actually made it a point to publicly thank them on stage because without those orders early on, Tesla would not have been able to be where they are today. Now, that’s how you respect your customer base.

This is a very important message that I find completely absent from today’s Apple, and it worries me. It won’t be the end of the world — they have a lot going for them — but it makes them a bit more distant in my eyes. And that is sad.

Dear Apple, I get that you need to keep selling iPads, and maybe you’re even grasping at straws a little, trying to come up with new reasons for people to buy one. Clearly the ones you’ve been banking on so far aren’t working very well, and that’s a bit scary. I get that iPad sales are disappointing, and that even you don’t fully understand why. All of that I get.

What I don’t get is why you’re so bitter about it, lately. It used to be that you took pride in making things to last. You understood that for most people, a Mac was an investment that wasn’t always easy to make. To justify. You understood people made the effort, because it was worth it in the end.

Those people are the reason you’re here now, sitting atop the hill watching the billions come in. Had they not decided to stick with you through the difficult times, there would be no iPad. No iPhone. No iPod. No iMac. You get the idea.

There are a lot of ways to get people excited about new tech products; you know that better than anyone. Shaming long-time customers into upgrading should never be one of them.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Top Five: Sad PCs, Andy Grove, easy things that make our lives better, the inside story of ‘Superman’, and a window into Paris’ history

This week there’s a bit of Apple, and a bit of everything else. Enjoy.

Hey Apple, a five-year-old computer isn’t ‘sad’ | Sam Lionheart →

iFixit’s Sam Lionheart also takes Phil Schiller to the woodshed for precisely the same issue I wrote about above. It’s a good one.

Andy Grove and the iPhone SE | Ben Thompson →

Great piece by Ben Thompson on the remarkable career of Andy Grove. This is from last week, but I missed it then, and so here it goes:

Grove soon persuaded Moore, who was still CEO to get out of the memory business, and then proceeded on the even more difficult task of getting the rest of Intel on board; it would take nearly three years for the company to fully commit to the microprocessor, even though said microprocessor was already a smashing success thanks to IBM’s decision to use it in their first PC.

Over the next two decades Intel would not only reap the benefits of IBM’s decision but also greatly increase their profits through more shrewd moves by Grove. As part of selecting Intel in the first place IBM insisted that Intel share their design with another chip manufacturer called Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) to ensure multiple suppliers, but once IBM’s position was weakened through the rise of IBM-compatible manufacturers like Compaq, Intel reneged and eventually renegotiated the deal, allowing the company to leverage its technical superiority into the sort of differentiation it had not been able to achieve in memory.

Fascinating stuff. Grove is a man for the history books.

4 absurdly easy things I do that make life disproportionately better | David Cain →

The most important things in life are those that take very little effort to do, but create a massive improvement on your happiness, productivity, or any other area of your life. They’re usually easy to miss because on the surface they seem insignificant or mundane, but they’re really, really important.

In this article, David Cain touches on some of the things that work for him. Your mileage may vary, but the method is sound:

Making your morning coffee beside a shiny sink is an empowering, self-affirming experience. Making coffee beside a dull sink, containing even a single dirty fork sitting in a puddle, is comparatively draining and dehumanizing. Add a stray, bloated noodle or two and it becomes strangely life-destroying.

In my experience, one of two different people emerge from that coffeemaking process, depending on the condition of the sink. One of them is sharp and ready for life. The other must fight his way to his desk from under some great existential weight, some grimy psychic debris that’s inseparable from the marooned soup remnants that greeted him this morning. The Sun is his enemy, not his ally, and all his work will be uphill today.

This is absolutely true for me. It’s the little things.

‘Superman,’ The Inside Story: Director Richard Donner remembers meeting Stallone to play the lead, working with Brando, and a near-fatal knife attack | Stephen Galloway →

The title on this one is pretty self-explanatory. What a fantastic read.

Via Daring Fireball.

Paris. Fenêtres sur l’Histoire | Julien Knez →

This is a remarkable project by photographer Julien Knez. Commissioned by French magazine Parigramme, it’s a series of historical photographs of Paris merged together with the current state of the city. Spectacular work.

The entire series was edited in book form by Parigramme, and it’s available on Amazon.

Thanks to Candid listener Aaron Alfano for the heads up.


Life is slowly returning to normal after the past few weeks, and I’m excited about the near future.

Before I sign off, though, I’d like to remind you once again about the giveaway we’re having this week on the podcast. We’re trying to settle the backpack vs messenger bag discussion once and for all, and the good folks at Think Tank Photo have generously offered a Retrospective 20 messenger bag or an equivalent backpack for the winner.

All you need to do it tweet whether you prefer a backpack or a messenger bag to carry your photography gear, and why. Depending on which side you’re on, use the #TeamMessenger or the #TeamBackpack hashtag, and don’t forget to include the show’s Twitter handle (@Candid_FM) at the end of your tweet.

The winner will be announced this Wednesday, so you still have plenty of time to participate. Best of luck!

Have a great Sunday, and thank you for reading.