jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Future Viability of the Mac

Despite aspirations of expanding my fields of interest and adopting new hobbies outside of technology, my day-to-day work gets done on a Mac. I’ve got a vested interest in the Macs continued survival, I’m one of those “truck drivers” that uses their machine for all it’s worth, and would have a difficult time transitioning to anything else. In my job I need to run shell scripts and build Docker containers, I need to ssh to Linux servers and RDP into Windows instances. I need to write, edit, and run Python code that connects to a database through a ssh tunnel. I need to do things that are either difficult or simply impossible with iOS, but are dead simple1 with a Mac.

That’s why I switched to a Mac in the first place, someone had finally put a useable interface on top of a solid Unix core. The Mac community, especially the third-party developers, is why I stay on the Mac. I could get my work done on Linux, but my Lord, why would I want to? My degree is in human-computer interaction, I’d spend half my time ranting about the thousands of paper cuts in the user interface until I abandoned the GUI and ran everything from the command line, or a stripped down paneling interface. I’ve been there before. The Mac is a comfortable work environment that doesn’t skimp on capability like iOS does. Look deep enough into any of the iOS only workflows and nearly all of them are relying on outside computing devices of some type to get around what iOS can’t do.

But today we are once again hearing the death knell being rung for the Mac. This time it’s not because of an outside source taking over, but Apple itself who might simply decide that the Mac isn’t worth keeping around anymore. This is despite it being a profitable business, and being the sole source of development for iOS apps, and despite it being an industry leader in features and design, the tech media have decided that Apple is only a breath away from blowing out the Mac candle forever.

Well, we’ve been here before, right? It was before my time as an Apple user, but it’s my understanding that in the late ‘90s you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting on an industry “think piece” about the death of the Mac. Yet, here we are at the dawn of 2017 and the Mac is still here.

That’s not to say that it isn’t entirely possible that Apple might kill off the Mac Pro, or the Mac Mini. I wouldn’t be too surprised if neither of those products existed by the end of the year. But a new macOS-running computer of some sort is something I expect to be able to buy for the next three years, at least.2

Assuming the current Mac I’m typing this on lasts for the next three years, which it should unless I break it somehow, my next Mac should last for another estimated three to five years. Let’s just say I draw this out as far as I can and say five, that means I’ve got at least eight years of Mac use easily planned for the future. Which of us can look that far into the future and see what the computing industry or our lives will look like by then? Perhaps the iPad and iOS will finally have matured enough to make Macs truly obsolete, or perhaps my work requirements will have changed sufficiently to make adopting iOS full-time relatively painless. Who knows?

The point is, all this handwringing over the future of the Mac is overblown. We have years of macOS ahead of us. Apple is selling some fantastic Macs right now3, and I expect they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Until iOS actually is better than the Mac, there’s no reason to think that any of us will have to adopt our toolset to another platform. The Mac is here, has been here, and from what I can see, will continue to be here for many years to come.

  1. Well, dead simple in the sense of “if you have nearly two decades of Unix experience under your belt”. 

  2. If not for the rest of my working life. 

  3. And some very poor ones, I’ll give you that. 

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