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Phil Schiller talks MacBook design and why official market share stats aren’t reflected in coffee shops


A joint Mashable interview with Apple’s SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller and VP of Mac and iPad engineering John Ternus reveals a few interesting details of the 12-inch MacBook design.

The little strip of black along the two back edges of the MacBook’s twin speakers could easily have been mistaken for a bit of shielding or a vibration dampener. Except, that’s not what it is.

Some like to call it the “Speaktenna.” The black strip along the back edge of the MacBook speakers is a never-before-tried combination of speakers and antennas for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It’s a fairly ingenious bit of space-saving technology that teardown artists ignored … 

It was, says Schiller, something that wouldn’t have been possible without Apple’s design approach of having disparate teams work together to solve problems.

From the beginning, the Mac has been about Apple taking responsibility for the whole thing: hardware, software, how applications can work and, increasingly, Internet services. But that means something different today than it did 20 years ago,” Schiller said.

“Today, those teams are not only integrated and designing something together, they’re actually thinking of features that could only exist because of that integration and solving problems that could only be solved because of that unique advantage.”

The speaktenna was one of the problems that needed to be solved in order to make the MacBook so small: both speaker and antenna need space to resonate, and combining them allowed both to work effectively in an extremely small space.

When the machine was launched, Apple made much of the terraced battery design with matching cutouts in the body, allowing it to pack a lot of battery capacity into a small space. But the cutouts had a secondary job – there are additional ones there only to reduce the weight of the chassis.

Apple is famously secretive about its supply chain, and Schiller says that’s not just for reasons of commercial confidentiality, but also because ascribing components to particular suppliers can give a misleading impression of what’s inside the devices.

The most common scenario is simply that what we got from a supplier basically has been created so uniquely for Apple that implying it’s an off-the-shelf part like others may get would be really misleading. So it’s best not to even talk about the source because that implies things that aren’t true.

Schiller says the company was aware of the controversy that was likely to greet the company’s decision to replace conventional ports with a single USB-C socket, but feels that Apple needs to be bold.

“We found that the best thing we could do is push boundaries beyond what’s expected, beyond what’s comfortable sometimes,” he said.

Schiller contends that people expect a little bit of daring when it comes to the MacBook. “It’s a little counterintuitive to people, that doing what people don’t expect, ends up being what people do expect.”

Schiller also argues that Apple’s official 6% share of the PC market doesn’t reflect what you see in the world around you.

“There are endless numbers of stats out there, you can quote any of them to tell any story, but the number that closest reflects what we all experience and see as we travel around is actually a U.S. market share approaching 25 percent,” he said. “That closer reflects what we see when we go to the airport, when we go to the coffee shop, when we go to schools. You increasingly are seeing more Macs than PCs.”

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  1. Rod Drury (@roddrury) - 7 years ago

    Love my MacBook but 6 months on and still no Monitor/Mic/Speaker options in the market. Where is the USB-C Cinema Displays or an adapter to the existing dated 27″?


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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