When Apple introduced new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros last month, they were almost too good to be true. For the most part, they were everything that professional users had been asking Apple to deliver for the last five years.
There’s a lot to like about the new laptops, and after spending a few weeks with a 14-inch version, I’m convinced it is the best Mac the company has made in a very long time. The thing is, the most brilliant thing about the new MacBook Pro was something that came as a surprise–just how good they really are. I think that was by design, and that Apple intentionally under-promised and over-delivered on the performance of these devices.
In reality, a lot of what Apple delivered had been leaked in advance. The ports, the new 14-inch size, the mini-LED displays, and even the notch had been rumored ahead of the announcement. There were even diagrams of the processors, even if the names themselves did come as a surprise.
Read the reviews. People knew these machines would be top-notch (no pun intended). Everyone expected them to be fast and capable of handling just about anything you could throw at them–the M1 versions were capable of that.
Still, every single person I know who has used one has been surprised at just how good they really are for everything from video or audio production, software development, photography, and anything else you might want to do. No one knew exactly what to expect because Apple seemed to be lowering expectations.
When Apple released the iPhone 13, it was pretty quiet about the capabilities of its new processor, the A15. I theorized (like many at the time) that it could be a bad sign for the next-generation Macs that the company would introduce. I’m delighted to admit I was wrong, at least about these MacBook Pros.
Apple shattered expectations. It did that–in part–by subtly tamping down expectations more than they might otherwise for a product of this level.
The thing is, most companies have no problem raising expectations to create hype. Google, for example, raised expectations for months about the Pixel 6, holding events and running ads, before it had officially “launched” the product. The problem is, you have to live up to whatever expectations you set. That’s not always easy.
In Apple’s case, the company lowered expectations with what would become the M1 Pro and the M1 Max. Now, it’s entirely likely that the M2 will represent a more incremental update compared with the M1. That makes total sense. The leap from Intel’s chips to Apple Silicon is a once-in-a-generation improvement in performance and efficiency. It would be unrealistic to expect that every time.
And, the chips inside the new MacBook Pros–and presumably the next iMac–are further expansions of those chips. They are sort of an M1-plus. They have more performance cores, more graphics processing cores, and more memory bandwidth.
There’s actually another benefit to the way Apple managed expectations. If Apple had promised they’d be really fast, and they were exactly that fast, everyone would be happy, but no one would be surprised. And surprising your customers–by delivering more than what they expect–is a powerful way to create delight.
Listen to people talk about their experience with the new MacBook Pros and that’s exactly what you’ll hear: they’re delighted. That’s something even the most loyal Apple users haven’t felt in a while about their Macs, and it’s the best thing about the newest ones.