Jony Ive wanted to combine MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lines

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 29

Former Apple design chief Jony Ive wanted to converge the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro into one product line, an anecdote on his working relationship with CEO Tim Cook reveals.

Former Apple design chief Jony Ive
Former Apple design chief Jony Ive



Jony Ive was an important part of Apple's product designs over the years, putting his hand on almost everything that the company came out with for a long period. However, not everything went his way.

During an episode of The Vergecast first spotted by Notebook Check, veteran journalist Walt Mossberg retold an anecdote that he was told from a "high level source" who was very knowledgeable about the company's products. Mossberg explained that, due to changes in how co-founder Steve Jobs and Tim Cook worked with Ive, there was at one point a possibility that the MacBook lineup would be pared down from two ranges to just one.

"Tim is a guy who knows what he doesn't know. He knew he wasn't a product guy," Mossberg starts. Because of this, Tim Cook handed more power over to Jony Ive, both in hardware and in software, due to not handling the designer in a similar way to Jobs.

"Steve Jobs was his editor," he continues. "Steve Jobs would pull him away from his crazier instincts. Steve Jobs would say no to some things and yes to other things. Tim Cook didn't do that."

After providing Ive with more control and with Ive lacking the editorial oversight, Ive decided "there didn't need to be an Air and a Pro," Mossberg explains.

"He decided he could do the Pro and make it as light and as thin or thinner than the MacBook Air. And it would be a higher price machine, so that would be better for their bottom line and people would buy it even if they didn't need the extra power it gave," the journalist continued.

While Jobs wanted two notebooks covering consumer and Pro users, Ive wanted just one. This way of thinking started "a big war between the design team and its acolytes" led by Ive, and the "engineering and product manager side of the company."

The pushback from engineering was due to it desperately wanting an improved version of the Air, since "the Air was their best-selling product, probably the best-selling laptop in the world, the thing everyone was chasing, and they did not want to leave it on a hill to die."

Mossberg concludes the anecdote by saying "the product guys and the engineers managed to yank it back. And they brought out a new MacBook Air with very minimal changes, but it was a new model."

While Mossberg admits the story doesn't have "journalistic rigor" due to it being from one source with little other evidence, anecdotes from elsewhere certainly help make it seem true.

In 2019, biographer Walter Isaacson claimed he knew Ive was reducing his role at Apple, and insisted that his biography on Steve Jobs "softened" complaints from the co-founder about Tim Cook "not being a product guy."



Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34
    There is hardly any difference between the MacBook Pro and Air since Apple silicon. One has a fan and the other doesn't. All other differences are purely down to marketing and deliberate product placement. Improved heat sinking would remove the need for a fan, the display could be made premium and suddenly there is no need for two product lines. Ive was right. 
    designrMisterKitmuthuk_vanalingambala1234grandact73dewmebyronlstevenoz
  • Reply 2 of 34
    Kind of obvious considering the direction the MBP went during that period of time.
    muthuk_vanalingambala1234entropysbyronl
  • Reply 3 of 34
    XedXed Posts: 2,546member
    timmillea said:
    There is hardly any difference between the MacBook Pro and Air since Apple silicon. One has a fan and the other doesn't. All other differences are purely down to marketing and deliberate product placement. Improved heat sinking would remove the need for a fan, the display could be made premium and suddenly there is no need for two product lines. Ive was right. 
    The lack of a fan affects the weight, internal space usage (i.e.: overall size), power usage, and speaks to the performance allowable. An improved heat sink will improve that but I'll need hard numbers showing cost and benefit to know if that's both worth it or even feasible with a maxed out MacBook Pro.

    Additionally, Ive has been gone for 5 years and that was before Apple Silicon Macs starts to be introduced. Was Ive talking about the then unreleased Apple Silicon Macs, but this also could've been a quote from years before that was on the table. Personally, I'm very happy that Cook didn't listen to Ive —assuming this is all legitimate in terms of discussion and memory of past events — as I don't to use the anemic MacBook Air as my primary computing device.

    And let's not forget that Ive is not infallible in his ideas. The hockey puck mouse, the  clamshell Mac with the upside-down Apple logo when open, charging port on bottom of Magic Mouse 2 to name a few. But at least we're not all talking about the MacMan, which is what Steve Jobs wanted to call the iMac. Bullet dodged there.

    https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/06/30/the-worst-apple-designs-by-jony-ive-according-to-the-appleinsider-staff
    edited January 29 flashfan207bala1234gregoriusmthtelijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 34
    mrstepmrstep Posts: 514member
    Xed said:
    timmillea said:
    There is hardly any difference between the MacBook Pro and Air since Apple silicon. One has a fan and the other doesn't. All other differences are purely down to marketing and deliberate product placement. Improved heat sinking would remove the need for a fan, the display could be made premium and suddenly there is no need for two product lines. Ive was right. 
    The lack of a fan affects the weight, internal space usage (i.e.: overall size), power usage, and speaks to the performance allowable. An improved heat sink will improve that but I'll need hard numbers showing cost and benefit to know if that's both worth it or even feasible with a maxed out MacBook Pro.
    True on sustained performance, but the odd thing is that there's been almost no weight difference ("Air"?) for years when it was 2.8lbs vs 3lbs. Apparently the solution was to make the Pro start at 14" and 3.5 lbs, I'd still love to see a true Air show up at the 2 lb mark again. 🤷‍♂️ 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 34
    XedXed Posts: 2,546member
    mrstep said:
    Xed said:
    timmillea said:
    There is hardly any difference between the MacBook Pro and Air since Apple silicon. One has a fan and the other doesn't. All other differences are purely down to marketing and deliberate product placement. Improved heat sinking would remove the need for a fan, the display could be made premium and suddenly there is no need for two product lines. Ive was right. 
    The lack of a fan affects the weight, internal space usage (i.e.: overall size), power usage, and speaks to the performance allowable. An improved heat sink will improve that but I'll need hard numbers showing cost and benefit to know if that's both worth it or even feasible with a maxed out MacBook Pro.
    True on sustained performance, but the odd thing is that there's been almost no weight difference ("Air"?) for years when it was 2.8lbs vs 3lbs. Apparently the solution was to make the Pro start at 14" and 3.5 lbs, I'd still love to see a true Air show up at the 2 lb mark again. 🤷‍♂️ 
    I know that the larger chassis of the MacBook Pro needs a beefier aluminum structure to support the extra weight over an extra distance without flexing, and I wouldn't be surprised if the higher cost of the MBP is more than than just the performance components, but also some better components for cooling which can be lower in weight compared to the entry-level MBA. I'm not sure where these components will fall but I do know that there are a lot of variables to consider to make a valid comparison.
    gregoriusmstevenozwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 34
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,668member
    No doubt there are many 'wars' going on within Apple and all technology companies where two opposing philosophies have to co-exist.

    Thin vs thick
    Repairabilty vs non-repairabilty
    Keyboard designs
    GUI
    ... 

    The 'bottom line' is where things get tricky. Where to set the needle on bang for buck. 

    2016 was a watershed moment for me. The then new Macbook Pros saw a huge jump in price and several design changes that didn't sit well with me. 

    Apple had already garnered a reputation for being a dongle fetishist and suddenly it was all in on USB-C on those models. It was doubling down on storage and RAM price gouging too (upsell) and I'm sure there were plenty of dissidents within Apple on all those decisions.

    However, the bottom line has long been the God to worship at the company and I voted with my wallet.

    Apple is unlikely to change anytime soon. 

    Especially if healthy sales are being generated. 
    edited January 29 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 34
    omasouomasou Posts: 572member
    When Job's returned he greatly simplified the product lineup mess Sculley had created.

    I would 100% like to see the MBP take on the MB form factor in terms of weight (today's battery is too large) and the MB take on the MBP's additional TB ports and drop the extraneous MBP ports, MagSafe, HDMI and most of all the memory card slot.

    It use to be so easy to plug TB/USB C cables into my MBP but now I have to look at what I'm doing b/c I keep trying to plug into one of the other ports that I'll NEVER use.
  • Reply 8 of 34
    mrstep said:
    True on sustained performance, but the odd thing is that there's been almost no weight difference ("Air"?) for years when it was 2.8lbs vs 3lbs. Apparently the solution was to make the Pro start at 14" and 3.5 lbs, I'd still love to see a true Air show up at the 2 lb mark again. ߤ禺wj;♂️ 
    Thank you for pointing out that the Air stopped being "airy" long ago, with almost no weight difference vs MBP until the latest MBPs put on weight.

    Sadly, the second iteration of a "true Air" has come and gone: it was the Macbook 12" Retina. 2 pounds of pure joy. Not only was it my primary work computer for five years, but it was the choice of pretty much every top level exec at the top ten cable channel where I was employed. Sure, our video editors weren't using it, but the idea that you couldn't get "real work done" on the MBA 12" was just ridiculous. My current MBA M2 feels unwieldy and like an anchor compared to the super compact and lightweight MB 12" Retina. I keep hoping they resurrect it with Apple Silicon, but I doubt that will happen. 
    edited January 29 mrstepMisterKitroundaboutnowmuthuk_vanalingam9secondkox2tokyojimuwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 34
    mrstepmrstep Posts: 514member
    charlesn said:
    mrstep said:
    True on sustained performance, but the odd thing is that there's been almost no weight difference ("Air"?) for years when it was 2.8lbs vs 3lbs. Apparently the solution was to make the Pro start at 14" and 3.5 lbs, I'd still love to see a true Air show up at the 2 lb mark again. ߤ禺wj;♂️ 
    Thank you for pointing out that the Air stopped being "airy" long ago, with almost no weight difference vs MBP until the latest MBPs put on weight.

    Sadly, the second iteration of a "true Air" has come and gone: it was the Macbook 12" Retina. 2 pounds of pure joy. Not only was it my primary work computer for five years, but it was the choice of pretty much every top level exec at the top ten cable channel where I was employed. Sure, our video editors weren't using it, but the idea that you couldn't get "real work done" on the MBA 12" was just ridiculous. My current MBA M2 feels unwieldy and like an anchor compared to the super compact and lightweight MB 12" Retina. I keep hoping they resurrect it with Apple Silicon, but I doubt that will happen. 
    Yes, the 11” Air was fantastic, and the MacBook 12” was the ultimate expression of that form factor - a laptop you could take along without having think about the size and weight and with a great screen and enough power to get real work done.  Bliss for portable function. 

    I used Xcode and did some 3D modeling on it (and had a Mac Pro at my desk for the heavy lifting) - and that 12” form factor with Apple Silicon would give more power than the older Mac Pro towers in a 2lb package - good enough for almost anyone on the road.

    I keep hoping too.

    (Edit to add: I think people who didn’t have one of the lightweight machines may think it’s not that much of a difference.  The 11” Air was the first machine that made me think “this is what a laptop was meant to be!” Transformative.)
    edited January 29 MisterKitroundaboutnowmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 34
    One thing is for sure, we will not see a 2 lb Apple notebook (whatever it would be called) with a display bigger than twelve inches. I think today's Apple would say that is covered by the iPad lineup. Keep in mind Apple is just getting started with Apple Silicon. With 100% control over its architecture, I am sure we will be seeing some big changes in every lineup equipped with Apple Silicon in the next couple of years. 
    gregoriusmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 34
    M68000M68000 Posts: 725member
    mrstep said:
    charlesn said:
    mrstep said:
    True on sustained performance, but the odd thing is that there's been almost no weight difference ("Air"?) for years when it was 2.8lbs vs 3lbs. Apparently the solution was to make the Pro start at 14" and 3.5 lbs, I'd still love to see a true Air show up at the 2 lb mark again. ߤ禺wj;♂️ 
    Thank you for pointing out that the Air stopped being "airy" long ago, with almost no weight difference vs MBP until the latest MBPs put on weight.

    Sadly, the second iteration of a "true Air" has come and gone: it was the Macbook 12" Retina. 2 pounds of pure joy. Not only was it my primary work computer for five years, but it was the choice of pretty much every top level exec at the top ten cable channel where I was employed. Sure, our video editors weren't using it, but the idea that you couldn't get "real work done" on the MBA 12" was just ridiculous. My current MBA M2 feels unwieldy and like an anchor compared to the super compact and lightweight MB 12" Retina. I keep hoping they resurrect it with Apple Silicon, but I doubt that will happen. 
    Yes, the 11” Air was fantastic, and the MacBook 12” was the ultimate expression of that form factor - a laptop you could take along without having think about the size and weight and with a great screen and enough power to get real work done.  Bliss for portable function. 

    I used Xcode and did some 3D modeling on it (and had a Mac Pro at my desk for the heavy lifting) - and that 12” form factor with Apple Silicon would give more power than the older Mac Pro towers in a 2lb package - good enough for almost anyone on the road.

    I keep hoping too.

    (Edit to add: I think people who didn’t have one of the lightweight machines may think it’s not that much of a difference.  The 11” Air was the first machine that made me think “this is what a laptop was meant to be!” Transformative.)
    I remember a road warrior who had the 12 inch in gold.  I thought it was such a cool looking thing to use.  Unfortunately,  i doubt we’ll see sich a size again, especially if the bigger screen macbooks outsell the smaller 13.3 size.  Apple wants sales volume and would probably consider larger sizes way before they would do smaller if the larger sizes sell more units. We see the same trend in phones,  people rather use 2 hands now on these ever bigger phones.  It’s as though screen size, mostly for videos, as well as battery now override all other considerations.
    edited January 29 watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 34
    Ive was going off of two things:

    1) a roadmap provided by Intel saying that they’d be ready to do this. We know how accurate that roadmap was now. 

    2) inside knowledge of an eventual shift to apple silicon. 

    As it is, the air is basically a MacBook Pro minus the fan (which wouldn’t be a feat to add btw). So he wasn’t off base. Just a bit earlier thanks to Intels failure. 

    The higher price thing would absolutely suck though. LOL

    personally I’d love for Apple to offer a MacBook Fat option that can accommodate the Ultra chips. Don’t mind a 17” screen option either. 

    The Air should just be called MacBook While they’re at it. Drop the “Air” until something worth the title comes along. 
    edited January 29 watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 34
    omasou said:
    When Job's returned he greatly simplified the product lineup mess Sculley had created.

    I would 100% like to see the MBP take on the MB form factor in terms of weight (today's battery is too large) and the MB take on the MBP's additional TB ports and drop the extraneous MBP ports, MagSafe, HDMI and most of all the memory card slot.

    It use to be so easy to plug TB/USB C cables into my MBP but now I have to look at what I'm doing b/c I keep trying to plug into one of the other ports that I'll NEVER use.
    The battery is most certainly not too large. It’s just right now. In the past, laptop battery usage sucked. It’s actually very useful now. 
    elliots11thtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 34
    I would say he doesn't understand market segmentation. But looking at Apple's current offerings, I would say Apple does not either
    edited January 29 9secondkox2
  • Reply 15 of 34
    omasou said:
    When Job's returned he greatly simplified the product lineup mess Sculley had created.

    I would 100% like to see the MBP take on the MB form factor in terms of weight (today's battery is too large) and the MB take on the MBP's additional TB ports and drop the extraneous MBP ports, MagSafe, HDMI and most of all the memory card slot.

    It use to be so easy to plug TB/USB C cables into my MBP but now I have to look at what I'm doing b/c I keep trying to plug into one of the other ports that I'll NEVER use.
    The battery life and power of the current MacBook Pros has enabled me to do my work on a laptop which I could never do before.   I’ve had to travel a lot recently and I’ve been able to work while traveling which has enabled me to help some family members out without going broke.  

    To me moving away from a combined MacBook Pro and Air is the best thing that could’ve happened.  They’re two different use cases and meeting in the middle abandons a lot of opportunity on both ends.  I could see adding more ports to the MacBook Air and just making it a traditional MacBook but since it’s a big seller as the Air I’m sure Apple doesn’t want to screw that up. Adding a third line of just standard MacBook makes sense in some ways but it does complicate things as well.  I’m sure they’re constantly exploring their options on this.  
    thtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 34
    Ive wanted everything to be as thin as possible and that’s why the iPod Touch battery was so limited. 
    9secondkox2watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 34
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 2,316member
    charlesn said:
    mrstep said:
    True on sustained performance, but the odd thing is that there's been almost no weight difference ("Air"?) for years when it was 2.8lbs vs 3lbs. Apparently the solution was to make the Pro start at 14" and 3.5 lbs, I'd still love to see a true Air show up at the 2 lb mark again. ߤ禺wj;♂️ 
    Thank you for pointing out that the Air stopped being "airy" long ago, with almost no weight difference vs MBP until the latest MBPs put on weight.

    Sadly, the second iteration of a "true Air" has come and gone: it was the Macbook 12" Retina. 2 pounds of pure joy. Not only was it my primary work computer for five years, but it was the choice of pretty much every top level exec at the top ten cable channel where I was employed. Sure, our video editors weren't using it, but the idea that you couldn't get "real work done" on the MBA 12" was just ridiculous. My current MBA M2 feels unwieldy and like an anchor compared to the super compact and lightweight MB 12" Retina. I keep hoping they resurrect it with Apple Silicon, but I doubt that will happen. 
    This is the problem with only one line. People want the extremes either super light and portable or enough benchmarking on power to be a desktop replacement. 

    There will be a sweet spot for either in different machines but never a sweet spot both. 

    Sure use what is learned from each to make  sure each is doing its job. 

    Ive was wrong to try and merge them and make the fridge toaster book. 
    edited January 29 tht9secondkox2watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 34
    M68000M68000 Posts: 725member
    Ive wanted everything to be as thin as possible and that’s why the iPod Touch battery was so limited. 
    Well, your mileage may vary.  I have a ipod nano, the last generation they made and  i’m pleased with the battery.  Great device too,  hard to believe this kind of device may be gone and not made sgain by Apple.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 34
    Jony Ive is a stylist and ruined the MacBook Pro so he could make a case for his tiny toy- the MacBook Air.
    The keyboards were useless, they ditched magsafe - you needed a dongle for everything.
    Jony Ive leaving was the best move Apple could make.
    Now if someone would talk some sense into Apple about getting serious about small business and return Apple Server- and fix Apple ID to work easily for corporate owned devices we might actually get somewhere.
    pulseimagestokyojimu9secondkox2
  • Reply 20 of 34
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,808member
    Jony Ive is a stylist and ruined the MacBook Pro so he could make a case for his tiny toy- the MacBook Air.
    The keyboards were useless, they ditched magsafe - you needed a dongle for everything.
    Jony Ive leaving was the best move Apple could make.
    Now if someone would talk some sense into Apple about getting serious about small business and return Apple Server- and fix Apple ID to work easily for corporate owned devices we might actually get somewhere.
    There's no need for needing a server these days. Apple already has an AppleID solution for enterprise. It's called Apple Business Manager and they also have a lite MDM called Apple Business Essentials. With an MDM there's no reason to have a server at all really. If you need storage there are more than plenty of storage solutions out there that work great with Apple products. 

    https://www.apple.com/business/enterprise/it/

    https://www.apple.com/business/essentials/

    Fortune500 companies all over the world use Apple Business Manager and an MDM solution such as Jamf to manage their Macs, iOS devices and AppleTV's. IBM for one is one of the largest major companies that use Macs in its environment using ABM and Jamf. They also use it for their iOS devices as well. 

    You don't image a Mac anymore as it's all configured by MDM out of the box, or you restore it and let the MDM set it back up the way you want it. iOS devices are also setup automatically with the MDM, same goes for AppleTV's. There's no reason to do something like Netbooting, or QT streaming server, etc. There's just simply no reason to have macOS Server anymore. 
    edited January 29 avon b7avon b7fastasleeptokyojimuwatto_cobra
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