Target User

As you may have read, a couple of months ago I bought a new MacBook, the new ultra-portable twelve-inch version. When this MacBook was announced there was a lot of controversy about the ports, or more accurately port, that it possesses. Apple's taken a lot of flack over ports this year (It's pretty much abandoned all legacy connections) and I understand why; but Apple weathered this over serial ports with the iMac and optical media with the MacBook Air — everyone will get over it again and move on (that doesn't mean the transition will be easy for people who rely on their older stuff though).

A single port is still a little extreme however, and I don't think it's enough for most people. It's enough for me, though, as are a number of other choices made for the MacBook, and I think they're worth examining.

There are a lot of technologies that other people I know use almost every day that more or less passed me by. While I have owned CDs, and absolutely understand their necessity, its also true that the gaming PC i built in 2002, and later gave to my sister in 2010 (after several internal upgrades) still had the Windows install disk in the DVD-RW drive when she received it. I've owned three USB pen drives and never used them (I have on occasion borrowed one momentarily out of convenience) — they seemed like a really good idea but I didn't really need them. I bought a MacBook Air (the final generation that had the flappy USB access) with an external Super Drive and never connected it to the machine.

I'm a little unusual in that I never so much embraced digital distribution of software so much as I was just waiting for it to become accessible. My games came from Steam, my music was downloaded, I e-mailed files or used FTP (or Dropbox etc. as they became available). It was never a sacrifice for me to give up my DVD drive, honestly it was an inconvenience if I had to use it. Yes, in 2002 the internet was slow and sometimes getting things actually downloaded was a pain, but for me it has always been better than stacking boxes and discs on shelves forever. Many people form a tactile connection with these things; that instinct/nature is completely foreign to me. I'm not really worried about owning my media, I have relatively few possessions. I am not anxious about loss of access to the things I have paid to use not because I don't believe it could happen but because that isn't important enough to me. I don't collect anything, and I don't experience nostalgia from all but the rarest and most meaningful of objects. I do understand how some or all of these concerns make some people uncomfortable, and how the physical objects that don't really inspire me can be a source of pleasure or satisfaction for them. I can only speak for myself however.

I was, up until buying this laptop, a MacBook Pro user. Generation 1.5 of the retina models. It had a discrete graphics card which I used for gaming. I also had a Thunderbolt Display (now discontinued) to hook it up to, again primarily for gaming. The Thunderbolt Display was more docking station than screen. It had speakers, a webcam for FaceTime, provided power, additional USB and Thunderbolt ports, Firewire and Ethernet.

I didn't use any of that stuff, bar the speakers and the screen, and the convenient power cable.

I fully accept that my use case is atypical, but most people are not that far away from it. Synchronised cloud-based file storage is almost ubiquitous. Software downloads are overwhelmingly more common than physical distribution. My storage needs are also very minimal. I stream all my media, and don't really accumulate 'stuff' over time (see my SSD usage below). My increasing body of writing is all plain text, the biggest space requirement by far is my photo library and on the scale of things it is pretty slim.

So now I have a beautiful laptop with a single port, and that port exists for one primary reason: charging. I have bought one additional cable, USB-C to Lightning, so that I can quickly perform encrypted backups of my iPhone. Still, ironically, you cannot enable wireless syncing of iOS devices without first connecting them to a machine by cable. I don't really care about syncing iOS as all the benefits of that process now happen via iCloud in real-time; it just seems like an oversight that this isn't also authorised through iCloud by now. I'm going to buy a USB-C to A dongle while they're on sale — and expect to never need to use it. At some point it's reasonably conceivable that it will be convenient to connect a USB memory stick or external HDD so I feel that it's worth having one in my arsenal.

I am the outlier that this laptop was designed for, and with the MacBook Air as a predictor the rest of you aren't actually all that far behind and you folks are probably running at a wiser speed. The MacBook Air took a lot of the same criticisms but went on to become the everyman's notebook. Give it a few years and the things that seem to hamper this machine will become well-loved features. I'm not sure however that this will be as smooth for the new MacBook Pro, where livelihoods depend on peripherals and established workflows. I think it'll get to the point where there's no friction but it'll be a rocky interim.

Right now though, I love this machine.