Why no ExpressCard34 slot on new MacBook Pro models?

Digital Rebellion blog called it “one step forward, two steps back” and questioned whether or not Apple are in touch with their “pro market”. I’m sure they care about their pro markets. Note the plural? While the pro video market is significant, the pro photography and pro audio markets by comparison are huge.

As for the ExpressCard34 slot. Sure I’m disappointed. I’m ready to upgrade laptop and want to use it for video and now my storage won’t be able to connect. That said, I have to take a step back and look at the business from Apple’s perspective. As Phil Schiller said during the presentation, only “single digit” numbers of their users use the ExpressCard34 slot. At least 90% of people were paying for a feature they didn’t use.

It’s not like the SD card slot is useless. There are a couple of Sony HDV models that optionally record to SD cards; the new JVC FCP-specific camera records XDCAM EX to a SD card and most digital still cameras work with SD cards (including a Canon 5D Mk II).

It won’t be as convenient for SxS users either, but USB adapters, although probably slower, are available as they have been for the old P2 form factor when CardBus was dropped.

I think it’s important to know that, while I’m convinced Apple are serious about Pro Apps long term, that division does not control the hardware direction of the company. There is still a model MacBook Pro that has everything (well except an eSATA connector natively) that a pro video or audio person would need. It’s bigger and more expensive than I’d prefer for most of my needs, but if my primary application for the laptop was digital video, then the 17″ meets the need as well, or better, than the 15″.

Frankly, my experience with the ExpressCard34 slot has hardly been stellar: cards unmount with the slightest bump.

So, I’m personally disappointed that Apple haven’t tailored the perfect laptop for me personally. Boo hoo. Life is full of compromises and I’ll either limit myself to digital ingest via FW or SD card or I’ll compromise and go for the 17″. I’d probably appreciate being able to play 1080 video full screen at last! That’s not possible on either of the other models.

As for QuickTime X – like OS X pronounced “ten” not “x” – we still don’t know anything more than when I wrote about QuickTime X about a year ago after the last WWDC. Sure, we’ve seen a new interface and we’re told it’s “all new” underneath (again – QT 7 was all new also). What we don’t know is if it supports all the non-video features of QT or if it’s an optimized video player targeting the <video> tag in HTML 5. (I’m not a developer and if I was I’d be under NDA on the subject, fwiw.)

It’s clear Apple’s goals for QT are now much more modest than the complete Rich Media Architecture that QT 3 introduced but hasn’t received much development since QT 5. Practically speaking, that also makes sense for Apple (and will annoy many QT-loyal developers) as Flash/Silverlight currently dominate the interactive space. But with faster and faster Javascript (note how much that was mentioned today), HTML 5 and a QT that was open to both and supported the <video> tag, that might be enough to replace most of what QT 3 introduced.

A while back I conjectured that Apple’s answer to Flash was QT/HTML 5 Canvas element/Javascript. Of course, my good friend James Gardiner pushed back, given Flash’s current dominance, how could Apple get traction against Flash?

Well, we now have Apple and Google actively pushing the HTML5/Javascript combination with the <video> element. (While what format the video element must support hasn’t been finalized MP4/H.264 is almost certainly to be one format with support for the significantly inferior quality Ogg codecs, which are open source, included in some browsers.) Two of the biggest companies pushing open standards against another two big companies with their own competing proprietary standards. But still, Flash is very entrenched.

Except there are 40 million active Internet users who see every Flash site as a black blob (iPhone and iTouch users according to figures from today’s keynote). Use Flash and alienate these mobile users (which account for 65% of mobile browser usage). Add in 20-30 million OS X desktop users who have a very poor experience with Flash, but who will get great performance with Javascript/QT X, also hating Flash.

If you were building a site, what would you use? Can you afford to alienate 40 million potential users? If you can, go ahead and use Flash or Silverlight. The rest of us aren’t able to be so arrogant.