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Despite promises by Chief Executive Tim Cook that "great desktops" are coming, Apple's Mac team has become seriously neglected in favor of iOS devices, a new report claims.
In recent years, the design team led by Jony Ive has been making fewer visits to see early concepts at the Mac labs, and that change is said to have become even more pronounced after design leadership was rearranged last year, one of several sources told Bloomberg. That elevated to Ive to "chief design officer," giving him a more hands-off role, while two other people — Richard Howarth and Alan Dye — stepped in to fill the gap.
Managers have meanwhile been floating multiple competing ideas at a time, forcing designers and engineers to split their attention in the hopes that one option will be shippable, Tuesday's report said. As an example, the publication pointed to the 12-inch Retina MacBook, which had two core prototypes: the lighter Stealth Fighter, and the heavier, more conventional Stealth Bomber.
Although the lighter option was picked, the work on Stealth Bomber meant that there was less time available to figure out how to slim down components. This resulted in the finished computer shipping in 2015 — several months after an original 2014 target.
Some engineers were allegedly hoping to add Touch ID and a second USB-C port to this year's model, but instead had to settle for a speed boost and the new rose gold color.
The 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar was originally supposed to have high-performance battery packs contoured to the chassis, much like the 12-inch MacBook, another source claimed. Because the battery failed an important test however, Apple decided to revert to an older design to launch in time for the holidays. The company had to pull in engineers from other teams to get the Pro finished on time, causing work on other Mac hardware to suffer.
Bloomberg noted that not only is there no longer a dedicated macOS team, but most of the engineers are iOS-first, and the company's design strategy has turned to making Macs more iPhone-like, for instance emphasizing thinness and minimal ports. The 2016 MacBook Pro was at one point going to have a gold color, and early 12-inch MacBook prototypes are even said to have used a Lightning connector in place of USB-C.
Over a dozen managers and engineers from the Mac hardware teams have left for different parts of the company — or other companies entirely — in the last year and a half, multiple sources said. While some were simply searching for a less grueling work environment, others are claimed to have been worried about the future of the Mac given executive focus on iPhones and iPads.
On the future, some engineers have allegedly suggested moving Mac Pro production out of Austin, Tex. back to Asia, where it's not only cheaper but the manufacturers are better prepared for ambitious designs. The desktop was last updated in 2013.
Designers are meanwhile said to be considering standalone keyboards with the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar and Touch ID components. Their release, though, will supposedly be tied to how well the features do on the MacBook Pro.
The company is otherwise said to be preparing "modest" Mac updates in 2017, namely USB-C ports and AMD video cards for the iMac, and speed boosts for the MacBook and MacBook Pro.