Apple built the wrong truck


PCs are like trucks: While talking about the iPad and whether tablet devices are bound to replace the laptop, Jobs resorted to an analogy involving motor vehicles. “PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them… This transformation is going to make some people uneasy. The PC has taken us a long way.”


“I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore," Cook said. Granted, he's promoting the iPad Pro, which, with its all-new smart keyboard and pencil, is a laptop replacement in many cases. But one has to wonder what that means for Apple's Mac and MacBook categories, with which the company had good success in the last two years.

Cook doesn't really care much, as long as Apple is stealing from itself. Speaking about the iPad mini, he said it "clearly created some cannibalization" but, as long as the company cannibalizes itself, it's "fine."

You see exactly where I'm going with this. Did Apple build a truck? Do they even care about trucks any more?

I think the quick answer is no. Let's check out the tech specs of the 13"...

procs and RAM in new MacBooks 2016

To overextend the metaphor, none of these have a great engine or are rated for much payload in the bed. The engines start at 2.0 GHz dual-cores. That stinks. And it's $200 to get to 16 gigs of RAM. No, really. $200 for an additional 8 gigs of RAM! My new Lenovo ran me $64 to add 16.

Want 16 gigs of RAM and a 3.3 GHz (dual-core [sic]) processor? Minimum drop is $2300.

Want 16 gigs of RAM and a 2.9 GHz quad-core? Minimum drop is $2700.

Stretching the limits of a truck

Okay, fine. Apple wanted to build a really slick truck, price be damned. Let's look to the truck market for an analog. There have been some neat trucks that are more worried with going fast than carrying a load.

The 1978 Dodge "L'il Red Express" is one. From

10. 1978-’79 Dodge L’il Red Express

By the late ’70s, the feds had all but broken up the party for muscle cars. But most of the new safety and emissions laws on the books were for “passenger vehicles under 6,000 GVR,” and with that, Chrysler found a glorious loophole. Introduced in 1978 as part of Mopar’s “Adult Toys” lineup (hey, it was the ’70s…), the Li’l Red Express was a stripped-down Sportsman pickup with massive side pipes, garish gold accents, an oak-accented step-side bed, and a free-breathing 360 cubic-inch V8 that could take the full-size pickup from zero to 60 in under seven seconds, and run the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds. It wasn’t just the fastest American vehicle to 100 miles per hour back in ’78 – Car and Driver had it out-accelerating the Porsche 928, 911 and Ferrari 308 too.

That's cool. It's a truck whose straight-ahead speed puts it into Porsche & Ferrari's class. Imagine taking off at a stop light in one of these with some idiot acting like they own the strip with their 308 or 911. (The Ferrari 308 is what Magnum drove, fwiw.)

Yet this isn't really a truck, is it? This Dodge is a muscle car in a truck skin. It exists only because, as pointed out elegantly, a "glorious loophole" existed. Detroit had cornered the market on go-fast, but also on gas guzzling and emissions madness. I drove an old 60s Olds 442 around a little, and you could watch the gas needle move noticeably downwards as you drove. Smells great, goes fast, but wow. Not OPEC-independence friendly. When the government discovered emissions control was important, where could that go-fast knowlege go?

Dodge was great at muscle cars, so great that it got to the point it couldn't stop making them. It took a truck off the assembly line and turned it into something else. Okay, I'm stretching the metaphor waaay too far, but you get where I'm going.

If you want to buy a truck for your landscaping business, these are insanely overpriced, and spend a lot of money doing things you don't need them to do. The Dodge isn't a failure because it actually goes fast. But it's no longer doing the job of a truck. More to the point, this Dodge is for muscle car buyers, not truck buyers.

But don't she look good?!

I can kind of hear Schiller now claiming that the new MacBook Pro is so small. Look, it's thinner and weighs the same as a MacBook Air. Um, wow. I never had much trouble lugging around my PowerBook 150. Why do I care?

And you know what else looked cool when it was released?

From's list of the 50 Worst Cars of All Time:

As the North American International Auto Show kicks off in Detroit, TIME and Dan Neil, Pulitzer Prize-winning automotive critic and syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times, look at the greatest lemons of the automotive industry

2004 Chevy SSR

William Thomas Cain / Getty

It's surprising, considering that Chrysler and GM are in the same town, that GM didn't learn from the Plymouth Prowler episode. When GM decided to kick up some custom retro mojo, it commissioned the Chevy SSR, an awesome-looking hotrod pickup truck with composite body panels and a slick convertible top. Alas, the chassis and mechanicals for the SSR were borrowed from GM's corporate midsize SUV program, making the putative performance machine heavy, underpowered and unforgivably lazy...

Here's a better look if that's not ringing any bells:

From Road and Track SSR from Road and Track

And Wikipedia:

SSR in yellow

The SSR is a lot closer to what I see in the new MacBook Pro. It's not a truck at all, dang it, and what's more, it never was.* It might be svelte. But programmers and professionals, though they can be swayed by svelte (and have; look at all the Macs at press and professional conferences), still need to put payload in the back of their trucks. Like the SSR that, iirc, couldn't tow but 2500 lbs off of the lot, and couldn't carry that horribly much either.

The Chevy SSR was a truck for truck designers who wished they were designing sports cars. Now you've really gone meta. And gutted your potential market.

What a truck looks like...

If you've been reading for a while, you know I bought a Lenovo 14" Y700 back in April. And my initial review was fairly positive.


  • An i7-6700HQ
  • User upgradeable RAM and drives
    • Includes an m.2 slot for dual drives
    • +16 gigs from Crucial is $65
  • Max 32 gigs.
    • Sorry, MacBook Pro.
  • A 1920x1080 screen

For $850 out the door, I got...

  • MacBook Pro 15" class quad-core i7
  • 24 Gigs of RAM
  • 128 gigs of SSD + 1 TB of spinning platter storage
  • 1080p screen

The keyboard I kinda fixed like this (it's an external keyboard -- see the USB cable coming out of the top):

External Thinkpad keyboard

That's a truck, folks.

Apple's not dumb, is it?

Of course, I should add a disclaimer: Perhaps this simply means I'm not in Apple's audience any more. I've been buying Macs because they were better at what I wanted to do since the LC. Maybe now, as a web and applications developer, I'm better off with a fast WinPC and a slow Mac, relegated mainly to iOS-compilation duty.

But let's at least admit this -- with the Touch Bar MacBook Pro, we've left Jobs' truck metaphor.

* Okay, okay, the SSR did have an SUV platform -- the Trailblazer. But the Trailblazer wasn't exactly a truck either.

Written with MarkUpDown for Win10

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