MacBook Pro case study. Why keyboards are nontrivial

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.

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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.