There’s good news for MacBook Pro and MacBook Air fans today with a new security feature for the MacOS hardware. Unfortunately Apple’s new laptop features are not new at all. Bringing FaceID to the platform three years after its incredibly useful debut on the iPhone feels like it is too little too late.
More than that, it strongly suggests that Tim Cook and his team would rather the iPad Pro is considered ‘your next laptop’ than Apple’s actual laptop.
The details come from a recently published patent. Jack Purcher reports:
“Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to adding Face ID to future iMacs and MacBooks that could replace or supplement their current Touch ID biometric system. While the application is straight forward for an iMac with all of the components being at the top of display and able to function like an iPhone. For the MacBook, however, the integration of Face ID is awkwardly designed having some components at the top of the display but having light pattern recognition module that includes the needed dot projector built into the Touch Bar area in the keyboard.”
It should not come as any surprise that technology that was initially for the iPhone and the iPad has finally arrived on the MacBook, or that the MacBook is having to wait in line while the favoured hardware runs off into the distance with the candy.
It’s worth asking the question “why now?”
The March launch of the iPad Pro saw Apple introduce the Magic Keyboard for the tablet. Not only did this feature Apple’s rediscovery of scissor-switch technology for the keyboard, it also included a trackpad and improved pointer support inside iPadOS.
Tim Cook’s Apple has been pushing the iPad forwards as the consumer equivalent of a laptop for some time now, and the resulting iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard combo is now in the same place as Microsoft’s Surface Pro design.
But it’s the software where Apple is facing a difficult transition. iPadOS, for all the talk of it being a computer, still operates inside Apple’s walled garden. If an application is not sanctioned by the moderation team at the App Store, if an app doesn’t offer a modern day tithe of the income derived from the app sale or subscription, if an app is deemed to be code in the wrong way or with an older tool, then you will not have access to it.
This stands in opposition to the MacOS platform. It is open, allows users to run apps downloaded from outside the Mac App Store (even though that is available), and although it is being brought closer into Apple’s cloud-based services the Mac is a machine that could live outside of Apple’s influence.
Tim Cook’s strategy of putting Apple’s long term focus on software and services means that the preference will always be for machines that stay close to this circle to be in the consumer market. That means the iPad Pro needs to be seen as the natural ‘laptop’ in Apple’s portfolio.
Why now? Well, the Mac platform, especially the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, cannot yet be ignored, but they can be diminished in both media visibility and in features.
During March, the iPad Pro picked up the new keyboard, new software, a new form factor, and all the slick YouTube adverts and promotional material. The MacBook Air? Well it also picked up the keyboard (after the platform has suffered with it for five years) and the latest chipset, but that simply brings parity to the competition. Yes it was an upgrade, but it was the minimum viable upgrade.
And now the ‘new’ technology for the MacBook is FaceID, which debuted on the closed iPhone system three years ago in 2017? I think it is clear where Apple’s priorities lie.