Return of the Mac
Photo: Apple

Return of the Mac

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Good morning! This Tuesday, the new MacBooks look strangely familiar and that's a good thing, Amazon wants to hire thousands of people, and Facebook hates embargoes.

It's 2015 all over again

That clacking you heard yesterday was the sound of millions of tech employees emailing IT asking for a laptop upgrade.

Apple announced a bunch of new products yesterday: new HomePod Minis, new AirPods, a $5 Apple Music plan that only works with Siri and seems like a truly weird idea. But the two new MacBook Pros were the star of the show.

  • Actually, the chips were the star of the show. The M1 Pro and the M1 Max appear to be leaps beyond even Apple's other chips, which were already by most accounts better than anything Intel or others are putting into laptops these days.
  • A day after Intel's Pat Gelsinger announced his intentions to win back Apple's business by building "a better chip than they can build themselves," Apple made plain exactly how difficult that's going to be. (And early rumors on the forthcoming M1-powered Mac Pro indicate it'll be even more impressive.)

The new Pros appeared to be exactly what users wanted. Ironically, they felt like a direct upgrade to the 2015 MacBook Pro, the computer so many tech folks have been clinging to ever since. More ports! No crappy butterfly keyboard! Long battery life! MagSafe charger! And most importantly, no Touch Bar! Never has the phrase "function keys" been met with so much rejoicing.

The whole event felt like a love letter to power users, which Apple only offers every few years or so. It also made clear that Apple increasingly sees whiz-bang innovation as beside the point on devices like these.

  • The pandemic has brought new life to the PC market, with millions of people needing a way to work from the couch, the bedroom or the garage. Tim Cook said that the past year has been the Mac's "best year ever."
  • While Microsoft continues to try to build multi-hyphenate devices out of its Surface lineup — Chief Product Officer Panos Panay often refers to supporting "the five senses of input," including touch, voice, keyboard, mouse and pen — Apple is content to let the iPad be its shapeshifter.
  • The Mac line, if anything, is going back to basics: These computers are meant to be central hubs for other devices to connect to and borrow from. They are devices for pros to work on, and those pros don't want wacky new ideas about input or new keyboard designs. They want computers that work.
  • The new 14-inch model starts at $1,999 and the 16-incher at $2,499, and you can bet they'll be showing up in a lot of home offices in the next few weeks.

Apple's transition to its own chips is almost complete, well ahead of Apple's own schedule. It's a huge win for the company: The M1 lets Apple control its own destiny, in a market where the world is waiting for Intel to get its act together and grappling with a huge chip shortage. It also lets Apple continue to unify its products and software, and to build the walls of its walled garden ever higher.

But for tech employees everywhere, none of that matters now. After Apple finished announcing the new devices, the response seemed to be nearly unanimous: finally. After years of trying things, Apple had gone back to giving the people what they want.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

A version of this story first appeared on Read it here.


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People Are Talking

Facebook's director of comms, John Pinette, went after those reporting on leaked documents by attacking something the company does all the time:

  • "We hear that to get the docs, outlets had to agree to the conditions and a schedule laid down by the PR team that worked on earlier leaked docs."

On Protocol | Workplace: Janneke Parrish said her firing from Apple speaks for itself:

  • "The goal of #AppleToo was essentially to ask Apple to do better, to better protect its employees, to provide a more inclusive and safe environment for everyone. The recent retaliatory action against me, it says that's not what we're doing right now."

Gary Gensler said the GameStop trading madness put the securities market to the test:

  • "GameStop was just one of many so-called meme stocks that exhibited significant price volatility, trading volume and attention in the markets."

Sundar Pichai wants lawmakers to take more action against cyberattacks:

  • "Governments on a multilateral basis … need to put it up higher on the agenda. If not, you're going to see more of it because countries would resort to those things."

Making Moves

Amazon wants to hire hundreds of thousands … in this economy! The company is looking to tap 150,000 seasonal workers and 100,000 non-seasonal workers in warehousing and delivery.

Brandon Borrman is joining Alchemy to oversee communications. The former Twitter VP has been working as an adviser at The Franklin Project.

Anusha Alikhan and Margeigh Novotny are Wikimedia Foundation's new VPsof communications and product design, respectively. The duo have been with the foundation for some time.

Vivek Narayanadas and Ruth Ann Keene are joining BSA | The Software Alliance's board. Narayanadas is a Shopify exec, and Keene is an exec at Unity.

In Other News

Bill Gates was told to stop emailing a female staffer long before his reported affair a few years ago, according to The Wall Street Journal. Microsoft execs told Gates at the time that his behavior was inappropriate and he needed to stop, and he agreed.

Netflix employees have a set of demands ahead of their walkout tomorrow. They're asking for more investment in trans-affirming content, among other requests, but didn't ask for the Dave Chappelle special to be removed.

On Protocol | Policy: Companies promised to hire and train Afghan refugees, but it's harder than they thought. Experts say many are still held at military bases, and others are held back by their legal classification or Trump-era refugee resettlement changes.

Lawmakers say Amazon may have lied to Congress about the company's treatment of third-party sellers. The lawmakers wrote a letter to the platform about the issue, saying a couple recent reports contradict claims that Amazon does not prioritize its own offerings.

On Protocol | Workplace: Async work works, according to leaders who swear by it. Founders and execs said their employees are generally happier and stick around longer, so long as companies are implementing the model the right way.

The FCC hates robotexts, too. The commission is looking at a measure to block scam messages after seeing a rise in the number of robotexts in the last year.

Meet Una Kravets

Una Kravets is a Google Chrome developer by day and podcast host by night.

Kravets runs Toolsday and the CSS Podcast, which talk about development practices and, uh, CSS. She also maintains a video series called "Designing in the Browser," which covers everything from color standards to animation. She's a prime example of a person who can translate really technical stuff into something the rest of us can understand.

We're featuring tech-industry creators and leaders we think you might like here every Tuesday. If you have folks you think everyone should know about, send them our way!


Target critical skill gaps and close them with engaging and personalized employee learning. Empower your people with ProEdge, the single solution that can upskill entire organizations and help keep them ahead of the ever-changing demands of the digital world.

Learn more

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