A journalist's wrecked MacBook keyboard tells a terrible story
They’ve been the source of more laments than the fate of Taylor Swift music catalog.
They’ve driven some people to exhibitions of rage and rancor. (I’ve not been immune.)
They’ve even been called “the worst products in Apple history.” And that was by enthusiastically Apple-positive commentator John Gruber.
Yes, we return once more to the Apple MacBook’s wayward butterfly keyboards.
They seem to have all the design finesse of a pomegranate hammer.
In the case of my own MacBook Air, it was the M key that went on strike. I bashed it and bashed it until it came back to life.
Others haven’t been so lucky.
It’s one thing, though, to hear stories and quite another to see the evidence.
Recently, Washington Post journalist Dave Weigel tweeted an image of his MacBook Pro with this pained message: “Today’s newsletter will be brought to you by MacBook’s keyboard, which I’ve started to dismantle because the keys simply don’t stay on.”
It’s as if these things were knockoffs, rather than the real thing.
Oddly, the constant travails of the MacBook keyboard have coincided with the unashamedly gentle departure of Apple’s design prince, Jony Ive.
Some say his obsession with making everything thinner was responsible for this debacle. But it now seems clear — if you believe the Wall Street Journal, rather than Tim Cook — that after the launch of the Apple Watch and the unveiling of the Spaceship headquarters, Ive began to take his leave.
Even iPhone X, with its surprisingly ugly notch, seems to have moved him far less than previous iPhones.
So is this MacBook keyboard a foretaste of things to come, of decisions made with operational exigencies in mind, rather than the demands of a beautiful and lasting design?
The company says it’s redesigning the MacBook keyboards yet again.
Perhaps, given Cupertino’s persistent neglect of the MacBook line, it was the interns who cobbled together this woeful, embarrassing jalopy of a laptop.
Perhaps now Apple will put someone more experienced on the project.
But given that Ive isn’t being replaced, and Apple’s designers will now report to the operations department, should customers routinely expect a diminution in product quality?
I only mention this because yet another MacBook-related headline assaulted my eyes last week. It read: “Apple to fix 2018 MacBook Air logic boards for free, report says.”
2018 was last year. These are relatively new laptops. And all Apple will say is that a “very small number” of them have a power problem.
Yet on Thursday a fresh, perhaps even reliable, rumor emerged. MacRumors, reporting the words of influential analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, suggested that this butterfly keyboard is to be euthanized.
The new keyboard will allegedly be based on scissor switches. Kuo’s reported words: “There have been successful developments in the new scissor keyboard. The new keyboard could improve the typing experience by offering longer key travel and durability by adopting glass fiber to reinforce the keys’ structure.”
Anything to reinforce the keys’ structure would seem like progress. What’s painful — at least for those of us who bought a MacBook Air at the end of last year — is that Kuo suggests the new keyboard will appear in an updated Air later this year.
Not so long ago, a Best Buy salesman told me that the best Windows laptop is a MacBook. The simple reason, he said, is that MacBooks last twice as long as other laptops.
These latest MacBooks, though, seem incapable of lasting very long at all before beginning to disintegrate like a coalition of vast political egos.
Perhaps Kuo is right. Perhaps they will be fixed and return to something resembling reliability.
Or is this Apple’s way of subtly telling us to start using an iPad Pro as our primary computer, because Apple just can’t be bothered to create new laptops anymore?