The Apple MacBook 2015 and Moore’s Law

Apple’s new MacBook looks insanely great. It follows in a fine Apple tradition of forcing the pace of technological change by removing ports slightly ahead of what is practical (original jellybean iMac, legacy ports, floppy drive; Macbook Air, optical drive). It takes port-removal to almost its logical extreme, with only a newfangled USB Type-C port, which doubles as power, and a headphone socket. It also takes thinness that much closer to its asymptote, while it actually bumps against the width-asymptote (at least as long as we stick with full-sized traditional-layout keyboards). Computers can’t get much smaller without changing form dramatically.

But impressive though all that is, it’s not what stood out for me in the keynote. No, that was this frame of the presentation:


All the black stuff? Battery. The actual logic board is that tiny sliver of PCB, crammed up near the top hinge. So in case we need any more evidence that while Moore’s Law marches merrily on for processors and storage, it doesn’t apply to battery technology, this is it. (The other thing you can see is the trackpad – until we grow smaller fingers that’s not going to shrink much, and nor is the screen, and nor is the keyboard – we’d need new interaction methods entirely to get smaller.)

That logic board is smaller than an iPhone 6 (which, of course, is also mostly battery). Insane!

MacBook 2015 comparison

The new curse of 27? U2 in 2014 = Rolling Stones in 1995

Popular music’s famous ‘curse of 27’ makes the spooky observation that a disproportionate number of musicians have died at that age. Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix are leading members of the so-called ’27 club’.

It’s a tempting hypothesis. After all, if people over 30 shouldn’t be trusted, then 27 is as good an age as any for when people stop being cool. In an industry continuously mainlining the fountain of youth, this transition must present crippling anxiety and self doubt, and would naturally be accompanied by a higher rate of alcohol and drug abuse, and general self harm, right?

Unfortunately, this myth has apparently been busted by the statistical boffins at QUT.

However I think I’ve discovered a replacement. In 1995, the Rolling Stones song Start Me Up was licensed by Microsoft to promote the launch of Windows 95. It was the first time the Stones had allowed a song to be used this way, and as much as Microsoft must have hoped that a bit of Jagger swagger would rub off on multitasking windowed operating systems, the result was unsurprisingly the opposite. Even if this kind of thing ever works (doubtful) the Stones were clearly too old to signify ‘cool’ by 1995.

I was reminded of this watching U2 perform at the Apple iPhone/WATCH (really, all caps?) launch. Both Apple and U2 seemed to come off worse from sharing a stage, with Desperation turned up to 11. It doesn’t help that Tim Cook has about the same level of cool as Bill Gates.

So here’s the punchline. The Rolling Stones’ #1 track on Spotify is Gimme Shelter (1969) although both it and Sympathy for the Devil (1968) seem to have around 27 million listens. Either way 1968-1969 seems like a fair place to mark the start of the Stones “golden age”. The time between 1968 and 1995: 27 years.

You can guess what’s coming next. U2’s #1 track on Spotify is With or Without You (1987), at 44 million listens. The time between 1987 and 2014: 27 years.

Interestingly, Microsoft in 1995 was 20 years old. Apple in 2014 was 17 years old, if we count from the Second Coming of Jobs.

So to conclude: Rockstars don’t die at 27. Bands do stop being cool by 27. And tech companies have until 20 at the latest.

Postscript stock tip: Microsoft stock peaked 5 years later, in 2000. So hang onto AAPL for another 5 years.