Sunday, July 8, 2012

iOS X?

Macs have long been the designer and art director's productivity platform of choice, but I believe that's changing.

Apple has been shoving the ever-profitable content consumption model of OS down our throats for some time now; in certain cases at the cost of the content creation platform. New editions of OS X have awkward multi-screen swipe functionality borrowed from iOS. At first novel, one quickly grows frustrated with certain windows being associated with specific screens forcing the user to jump back and forth, and there remains the failed ideal of distancing the user from the file system that grows ever painful when trying to share file paths with coworkers. To this day there's no easy way to globally minimize all windows to reveal the desktop, and don't tell me about Option-Command-M, that's just for finder windows. These are issues to me because I'm a platform agnostic designer who has used both PC and Mac intimately. And I have little hope that these issues will be recognized let alone resolved by the OS X team in light of the myopic direction they're heading in.

Now, with the new MacBooks, we find a move to a sealed hardware "device" model not unlike the iPhone and iPad. Furthermore, the 17" monitor has been done away with. This is a move towards positioning the MacBook Pro as a portable consumption platform in the footsteps of the iPhone and iPad. This would be fine if we were dealing with a $500 device that checks email and browses the web, and if creativity was limited to the sophistication of what can be achieved in a casual entertainment app like Draw Something. But we're not. We're looking at an $1800+ piece of hardware that must perform on an enterprise level for serious content creators; namely, graphic designers!

Sophisticated content creation requires scalability, and not necessarily longer battery life, the justification for the sealed hardware approach. For instance, I don't know a single advanced Photoshop user who realized they didn't have enough RAM after a software upgrade or had to upgrade their machine in light of a major project that pushed the envelope in a way that wasn't initially expected. Anyone who's sat their watching Photoshop grinding away trying to open a large file on a system with only 4 gigs of RAM understands just how the creative process can be hampered due to hardware limitations. As far as battery life: Most of us are plugged in with a dual monitor setup unless on business overseas or presenting.

One could argue that Apple is aiming for a unified hardware standard like console game systems that allows for fewer hardware unknowns and hence better optimized software. I applaud this ideal if in fact it was part of their reasoning. But I don't see this happening for a very long time. As in the past, software has pushed the boundaries of hardware, and that trend hasn't let up for a number of reasons. So for this fact alone, I see new MacBook owners being considerably bottlenecked, where the cost of more RAM is now the cost of a brand new machine, and where the max RAM (8 gigs) one can have in the current selection of MacBooks may not be enough. Heck it's frustrating as it is to only have USB ports on the left side, or to have to listen to a startup sound that's been the same since the early 90s.

Has Apple forgotten the needs of creative professionals, historically passionate champions of the Macintosh platform, in pursuit of the more profitable consumer-level demographic? I believe so. We've all seen how Jobs treated Adobe and how everybody drank the Kool-Aid; and for those of us who understand and are deeply invested in the creative space, the disparagement of the venerable Adobe brand was painful to watch, and their adaptation to the situation just as exciting. Multimedia shops like my own the world over are adapting to the the shutting out of Flash, particularly on the mobile platforms, with varying degrees of success.

And now we're faced with a new challenge.

What's most scary about Apple's wonton push for the consumption platform is that with Microsoft flailing in the wind with Windows 8, there's nobody to competently fill the empty space it will leave for serious creatives seeking a serious creative workstation with the portability of a laptop. It appears that one's best bet if things get any worse will be *GASP* Windows 7, where I can copy a path and paste it into a messenger window in two simple steps, minimize all windows to see the desktop with a single click and vice-versa, maximize two associated windows to exactly half the screen, and paste a path into a finder window without resorting to Command-Shift-G and other multi-step acrobatics. And it goes without saying that I can add more RAM to most Windows laptops any time I want.