Strategy Analytics has given us its view of tablet sales in the last quarter and they make pretty grim reading – sales are down by 10% overall and nearly a third of the market is taken by white box vendors, the low-end devices that rebadged by various retailers around the world.
At the same time we’re being told that the 2-in-1 hybrid market is booming, with sales up by 25%. Those PC vendors who caught on to the trend early are seeing rewards as the devices get into second or even third generation iterations. When Samsung dropped the. previously Android exclusive. ‘Galaxy’ name onto the TabPro S – a Windows 2-in-1 – it marked out a sea change in OEM thinking.
For everyone except Apple, for whom the touchscreen laptop is the wrong tool. After the launch of the MacBook Pro Apple’s senior executives went full-press on the media to explain why the, frankly ridiculous, Touch Bar was better than a touch screen. It isn’t. It never will be. And Apple full well knows it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be proposing the iPad Pro as a computer.
Touchscreens and the flexibility to use them in different configurations are what define a current state of the art laptop and Apple doesn’t have one.
The problem for Apple appears to be that making OS X touch friendly is going to be very difficult. Remember the pain the Microsoft went through with Windows 8? Apple doesn’t want to go through that for the sake of perhaps as few as 15 million sales a year. Not when the highly profitable iPhone sells that number about every ten days. The iPad outsold the Mac better than two to one last quarter, despite the shrinking tablet market.
Right now I think Apple is paying lip service to the desktop in the same way that Microsoft is paying lip service to mobile. The unibody MBP came out in 2008, the Retina update (which in itself was minimal) arrived in 2012. In the intervening four years Apple managed to achieve what exactly? From being perhaps the best laptop you can buy the MBP has gone to being an also-ran, with dated design, restricted capabilities and poor value for money. Apple’s Mac design and engineering teams just seem to have phoned this one in.
Apple has slipped behind Microsoft, HP, Lenovo, Asus and even Acer in industrial design. Even Dell produces more exciting hardware than Apple. Imagine a time in history when we could say that? Even in the darkest Sculley / Amelio days, prior to Steve Jobs return, that was never the case.
The part of me that sees Apple as an innovator would like to believe that OS X will get touch capabilities and a MacBook sporting a touchscreen will follow. After all this wouldn’t be the first time that Apple has railed against a technology it couldn’t deliver right up until the point when it could. However the part of me that sees Tim Cook as the salesman thinks that Apple will pay lip service to OS X for as long as it takes them to develop iOS into a fully capable desktop platform.