MacBook Pro case study. Why keyboards are nontrivial

Ah, that makes perfect sense. One of those, “obvious once someone points it out” things!

So that question is off my list. I still wonder about someone using standard keyboard keys, but combining them with the layer approach. Not that I think it would be better than a TB, but even with the greater vertical reach compared to the TB, you’d still be reaching less than you would for a regular keyboard with 5 rows! Of course, you also wouldn’t have nearly the portability of a TB either! Still, I can see how it could still be superior to the typical keyboard today.

I could more easily see someone coming up with that approach to start and then later maybe someone would take that basic concept and further it with the TB variation. That’s one of the things that amazes me about this thing. It’s like having years of telephone development and then someone comes up with a an iphone - in 1950! You just jumped right over what I would have expected to be many years new ideas gradually being added!

Some folks design to minimum requirements.

But when you design to optimize, you mine the opportunities.

You’re not looking for sufficient, you’re looking the limit of the possible.

So you methodically compare many alternatives, and you probe their limits.

You look at each parameter individually, then also collectively.

The best that you’ve ever measured for each individual parameter always sets a bar.

And the best synergy of all parameters always sets the collective bar.

The conflicts between the individual and collective metrics are the defining work of optimization.

Once you know what’s possible, it’s uninteresting to settle for anything halfway.

When you’re determined, and hammer hard enough - one by one, the conflicts will all yield.

And you have your prize.


This is something I keep telling the team here, it applies to every kind of situation we deal everyday, on a project, on a meeting or in our private life. When you evaluate your own metrics/standards and apply that collectively with a group is when a major and astonishing idea comes up.

Congrats on the line of thought that defines WayTools!

1 Like

The solution is obvious. Embed a TextBlade instead of their keyboard! Heck, they can even keep it as a bluetooth keyboad so you can use your MacBook Pro to type on your phone. (I often have me phone next to me when working on the computer and need to type something out quickly…)

Well, a few things are afoot:

  • A12X in iPad Pro (3rd Generation) scores between an i7 and an i9 in performance, and completely trounces it in energy efficiency.
  • the iPad is therefore as powerful as anything but the highest end maxed out MacBook Pro
  • but it’s much much thinner and lighter, with longer battery life
  • Intel is going nowhere. They’re not at 10nm, don’t plan to go to 7nm. While Apple is aiming for 5nm, Intel is reopening its 22nm lines “due to demand”.

So, the next iPad will absolutely crush the next MacBook Pro. It is inevitable. It will weigh less than half, but have better battery life, more connectivity options that you actually use in mobile (ie LTE), and the USB-C means you don’t have to give up docking it to a 4K or maybe even 5K display.

There’s no point embedding a TextBlade in a MacBook form factor. Just port the rest of macOS to A-series silicon, run macOS on iPad Pro, and call it a day.


For someone who really likes the laptop form factor that might be a really good idea, to jump to different devices with that.

1 Like

Colinng - very accurate synopsis.

The R&D dollars for iPhone are driving the advance of silicon, because smartphones are the largest market, by an order of magnitude.

5nm next year will be more significant than most customers can comprehend right now, but it’s coming.

The holdback on MacOS for iPad Pro is purely a business decision. There’s no technical reason. iPad is already the better hardware.

It’s a strategic calculus to try to milk both the tablet and laptop market longer, with the same customers.

It may be rational quarterly profit management, but it’s very much at odds with what customers want.

With enough user outcry next year, at some point Apple will have to yield to customer demand, and make MacOS a choice on iPad Pro.

It will be a scary transition that greatly impacts the MacBook and iMac, but it’s the natural evolution.

If played deftly, Apple can create even bigger business with a wave of upgrade sales.

And all of those folks will need a much better keyboard solution than what Apple sells today.

That’s a very good thing for TextBlade.


That is the key. The iPad just doesn’t have the function of Mac OS.

As soon as Apple release (if) that I would dispose myself of every PC I have and buy one of these iPad Pro with MacOS…

1 Like

vinicabrera - that latent demand is why the opportunity for TextBlade is so huge.

You are not alone in your sentiment. This feeling is widespread, and it will ultimately compel Apple to let iPad Pro have MacOS.

1 Like

I’m still using my 2013 13” MBP. For me it’s still the ideal combination of power and lightweight, and it’s got a keyboard that I don’t mind typing on when I have to, though I really try to remember my TextBlade if I’m going to be gone for most of the day.

The newer computers in the MBP line don’t excite me — they sacrifice power and “typeability” in the name of thinness and lightness. The new computers may be stronger than mine, but not stronger enough to be worth the money. And the keyboards are so bad that I consider it a waste of space.

An iPad Pro, on the other hand, would be a no-brainier if it had MacOS. That, plus my TB and Microsoft Wedge Mouse (or some other not-yet-released pointing device, hint hint @waytools) would replace both the MBP and the iPad that I currently carry in my bag, and would make me a very happy camper indeed.

Hurry it up, Apple!

1 Like

And of course, to use it away from a desk, we’d all want a not-yet-released way to hold the TextBlade, iPad on our laps. :wink:


hope you’re right.
I’d the opportunity to lay hands on an iPad Pro for a couple of days during an company event. Man what is that? I have an i7 7th gen 24GB ram SSID 256GB Dell laptop and the experience was better on iPad Pro. Could be the associated feeling of the event but since that day I could think of a better opportunity for apple to let iPad Pro have the MacOS, it would be a game changing for laptops/tablets integration.

Vinicabrera - Check out LumaFusion app for iPad. It leverages the custom HEVC silicon in A12X to render video faster than any MacBook or Dell. It can do this all day long, on batteries, in your hands.

Time for keyboards to advance.


Thanks for the tip! I wanted to write a HEVC encoder so I wouldn’t have to wait forever on my Mac (and spin it’s fans at max for like 14 hours). And someone’s done it for us!

I’ll take a look on this, it would be helpful! Tks

Credit to treg user Bobwhite for finding LumaFusion.

There will be many more apps emerging that use the new power of the A-series cpu’s.

1 Like

And as seen on Daring Fireball,

MacBook Keyboard Reliability Dark Matter: People Just Living with Broken Keyboards

David Heinemeier Hansson, writing at Signal vs. Noise:

So here’s some anecdata for Apple. I sampled the people at Basecamp. Out of the 47 people using MacBooks at the company, a staggering 30% are dealing with keyboard issues right now! And that’s just the people dealing with current keyboard issues. If you include all the people who used to have issues, but went through a repair or replacement process, the number would be even higher. […]

But as always, in a time of crisis, the event itself is less indicative of the health of a company than the response. Is Apple going to accept that they’re currently alienating and undermining decades of goodwill by shipping broken computers in mass quantities?

Hansson used the headline “The MacBook Keyboard Fiasco Is Way Worse Than Apple Thinks”, but I suspect it’d be more accurate to say that it’s way worse than Apple admits. They don’t need to look at the number of support incidents from customers. Almost everyone at Apple uses MacBooks of some sort. They know from their own use of the product how problematic reliability is.

And how much worse the new arrow key layout is compared to the old inverted-T layout, how much developers miss a hardware Esc key, and the general sentiment regarding the Touch Bar. And while I know some people prefer these new low-travel keys, I feel confident that most people do not.

Shipping customer-facing items is hard. It takes time to get it right, and a lot of testing over a long time.

Colinng - Hard to challenge Hansson’s reasoning that Apple must have known this for a while.

About 1/3 of MBP users we polled required repair. Many have had more than one repair.

If we were to see a 5% incidence rate of some artifact, we’d have to jump all over it to crush it. For a human interface device, you have to. People are very fastidious about the performance and feel of their keys.

At intro, when we tried out the demo mbp’s in Apple store, many brand-new units already had key failures in the first few weeks of their debut in the store.

We did a tech comparo of the two architectures when Apple announced -

Not All Butterflies Are Equal

What we said back then, has proven to be true.

“These dramatic differences will become more apparent with time, as each product gets more widely used.”

You have to bring joy to your users, whatever it takes to deliver that.

No matter how big the company, customers will only love something if it’s actually good.

Things should be serviceable!

You can repair an older white Apple USB Keyboard, even corroded traces can be repainted with conductive paint. You can restore an iPhone 4S to pristine condition, order the stainless steel band and replace it yourself.

My 2009 Apple Aluminum Keyboard - not so. Splashed with inkjet ink, and that was it. It’s spot-welded together.

"They don’t make things like they used to!"

With TextBlade, the break from the past is in a different direction. It is the most robust keyboard I have ever encountered.

It’s incredibly pleasant to use and with unprecedented portability. From a serviceability standpoint, first of all, it’s so robust you’re unlikely to need to service it. But should damage occur, you don’t need any tools to service it! Even extreme damage means you swap out the destroyed part and continue.

TextBlade hardware has never once failed me. 8+ hours per weekday.

My nephew, on the other hand, has a different story. Anything portable, and in less than a month it’s gone from new to dead:

  • smashed iPad mini screen twice (it had a protective case)
  • broke his laptop charger brick at least a half dozen times: sheared off the plug 3 times, destroyed the jack once, severed the cord twice. I have part numbers on hand, and he has learned to solder!

Imagine my surprise when he snapped an axel pin on a butterfly mechanism. (This doesn’t come from normal usage, for those curious.)

“I have no idea how it happened!”

I facepalm. We talk. I see he’s embarrassed. I remind him to be more careful.

And then I swap out the damaged butterfly in 20 seconds flat. Good as new.