Seems some of the blowback against the new MacBook Pros gets caught with the 16 gig RAM limit. That's a good place to start. I get sort of tired of the lumping Gruber does to work himself out of RAM being a problem.

From Daring Fireball: Baldur Bjarnason: 'The Downside of Believing in Apple':

Most of us, if given the choice between making compromises to our productivity and compromises to the battery life of the machines we buy, would choose a shorter battery life every time.

This is the nut of the argument against the new MacBook Pros. If the 16 GB RAM limit in the previous MacBook Pros was a limiting factor for your productivity, the new ones are no help at all. And I’m sure Bjarnason is correct that those people would gladly trade battery life for the ability to install 32 GB of RAM.

But that’s not most MacBook Pro users. Most MacBook Pro users will do just fine with 16 GB of RAM (in fact, most will do just fine with the 13-inch models’ default configuration of 8 GB). For most MacBook Pro users, Apple is right to prioritize battery life over the maximum RAM configuration. That is, if they’re only going to offer one lineup of “pro” notebooks — which is how they’ve done it for at least 15 years.


Because we’ve bought into Apple’s design myth, we are forced to come to one and only one conclusion:

Apple really, really doesn’t care about its professional Mac users.

I disagree with that conclusion. If your priority is the display, the new displays are brighter (500 nits) and offer wide color gamut. The new MacBook Pro SSDs offer industry-leading read and write performance, years ahead of the competition. The 15-inch MacBook Pro offers a quad-core i7 with speeds up to 3.8 GHz. For many demanding use cases, these are professional machines. Just not all professions.

A less punchy, but more accurate title for Bjarnason’s piece would be “The Downsides of Depending Upon a Company With a Relatively Sparse Product Lineup When Your Personal Needs Are Outside the Mainstream”.[highlighted emphasis mine -mfn]

I'm sighing just reading back through this.

  1. Not only did Apple only make one line for pros (why the quotes, John?), they said one version of the MacBook Pro was their intended replacement for a consumer box. rly?
  2. Web developers are not outside of the mainstream when it comes to pros using laptops.
    • If anything, web developers are archetypal.
    • (Not a majority, but representative.)
  3. It's not a zero-sum game between battery and RAM.
    • Why not make the 15" 2mm taller? Who'd care short of Apple design?
    • Why are we so obsessed with thin and 10 hours of battery life?
  4. Can Stephen King make a living writing books on a MacBook Pro? Sure. That doesn't make it a professional laptop.
    • We're starting to lose the meaning of the word professional.

But let's take a quick second to see what Baldur talked about. Does he really need 16 gigs of RAM today? Remember when we used to do fine with 4 megs? ;^)

From The downside of believing in Apple – Baldur Bjarnason:

I’m writing this on a fairly high spec 2015 13’ Macbook Pro with 16GB of RAM and that amount of RAM wasn’t enough even on the day I bought it. Since then the memory requirements of basic web development work has only increased:

  • Most web developers now use VMs and Docker for server-side code because it’s much more reliable. It also consumes much more RAM than just using node.js on its own.
  • Browsers have, if anything, increased their memory use over the past couple of years and web developers need to run several of them at a time.
  • Some of those browser have to be run in their own VMs because they don’t run natively on the Mac.
  • Having a test environment in a VM on your machine is also much more productive than always going to your test machine (which you should also have).
  • The dominant web development IDEs are now built using browser tech (Electron/Chromium) and have much higher memory requirements than good old BBEdit. If you use TypeScript, you pretty much have to be using Visual Studio Code. If you use Flow, you pretty much have to be using Atom. Switching to a code editor with a more reasonable memory requirement means making workflow compromises.

That’s without getting into the graphics programs we use (a surprising amount of web work involves working with images). And if you’re a native app developer you have all of the above problems (VMs for testing earlier OS versions instead of browser versions) plus a need for fast compilation times.

We're really down to one reason -- VMs. If your developer box is used to host multiple boxes' worth of power, well, you do need more than one box worth of hardware. And Baldur, my man, why in the world do you have your production environment mirrored on your laptop?

But I agree with Bjarnason on the general point. If your laptop for pros is below state of the art for specs and you're charging beyond state of the art prices, well, you've screwed up. If you don't have too much battery life or RAM or CPU (to be clear, having too much should be your goal with a pro box) so that you can make your laptop thin and svelte, that's a problem. In two years, it'll hurt to use this MacBook Pro for VM based development, whether web or native, and that's a disservice from Apple when there's no obvious hardware to fill that gap for professionals. The 5k iMac is the closest, I suppose, but even that's over a year old now (415 days right now).

So Grubes, come on, let's stop pretending that because Apple has a box with a 2.9GHz i7 for OMGWTFBBQ!1! an entry price of $2700 that we've got pros covered. That's not competitive for many developers, who only "need" Macs to test out Safari -- or to host Windows in VMware to code native apps. These developers have other, much more useful, efficient, and affordable options. Apple's failed them, and Bjarnason's conclusion, that, "Apple really, really doesn’t care about its [software developing] Mac users," isn't that far off the mark after all.

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