Apple killed the Pro line of its notebooks

Surprise appearance at the WWDC turned out to be the least welcome, at least for me. Refresh of the entire notebook line with better hardware and lower prices is fantastic and I would be tempted to buy new MBP when Snow Leopard is out (same as I did with Leopard). Especially given the fact that I would very much welcome huge increase in battery life (got to be seen to be believed).

However, I was quite shocked to see that Apple decided to remove its only expansion slot – ExpressCard/34 – while keeping the FW800 and 2 USB ports, with no additions at all. No eSATA port. No additional USB nor FW ports. No integrated SIM slot for 3G connection.

Instead of EC/34 slot, we get measly SD card reader. Wonderful, it would serve as nice dust conduit.

It’s ridiculous change. On the so-called professional machine, you’re stuck with slow connection methods, you’re stuck with consumer-level card type and you have no means to add what’s missing. Expresscards are not exactly large presence on the market but are by no means non-existing. I own two. Novatel Wireless Merlin X950D for 3G connection and Digitus eSATA 300 card. Both add the stuff pro-level notebook should have outright, but I didn’t mind getting them because the machine itself is great.

These new models are so good, but sadly crippled in the expansion area.

So, if you buy MacBook Pro you’re left with 3 ports and no other option to expand. All that with the portable machine which is a dream to own otherwise - very large hard disk, up to 8GB of RAM (amazing stuff for a 15" which is my target size), very, very fast CPU and strong graphic card and 80% better battery life than anything else out there. You can do wonders on a machine like that. But if you do video, you’re stuck with FW800 and USB2, both 2-4x slower than eSATA so you’ll be left twiddling your thumbs while things are copied back and forth. Or if you use CF-cards (most hi-end DSLRs do) your best bet is FW-based card reader, instead of EC/34 types which connect directly to PCIe bus and offer much faster transfer rates.

I hope Apple will come to their senses – like they did with bringing FW800 back to all models – and bring EC/34 back. After all, if they wanted to add SD, they could supply simple 5-in-1 card reader that uses that slot – something Sony did with 13" VAIOs several years back. Those things probably cost few bucks now.

The way things are now, I will not buy a new MBP. I doubt Apple will lose a moment of sleep for that, but if there’s enough of us sending them appropriate feedback, we could have something next year.