Each Apple MacBook is different from every other

Mashable: ‘Inside Apple’s Perfectionism Machine’
[Via Daring Fireball]

Terrific behind-the-scenes piece by Lance Ulanoff, with extensive interviews with Phil Schiller and John Ternus (VP of Mac and iPad engineering):

As the cloud looms larger, will the hardware we use still matter? Schiller rejects this notion.

“No. 1, the importance and value of great hardware has not diminished in any way,” he said. “Across the board, our goal is to make the best in the categories we choose to compete in. It’s what we’re doing and it’s reflected in customers choosing our products over anyone else’s. So I do think people are showing with their choice that they do value quality and beauty of the hardware and that is not diminishing.”

“I have never heard anyone say, ‘Because I like to keep my stuff in the cloud, I will take a cheap piece of hardware and I want it to be ugly.’ All things being equal, of course, nobody wants that,” Schiller said.

It’s a blockbuster piece, truly a must-read. Here’s a bit with Ternus on fit-and-finish:

In fact, Apple is apparently taking the time to custom-fit all sorts of pieces in the MacBook through a process it calls “binning.” Since there can be minuscule variances that might make, for instance, the Force Touch trackpad not a perfect fit for the body or the super-thin Retina display not exactly a match for the top of the case, Apple finds matching parts from the production line. Even the thickness of the stainless steel Apple Logo, which replaced the backlit logo on previous MacBook models, can vary by a micron or so, meaning Apple needs to find a top with the right cutout depth. […]

The result is that every MacBook is, in a way, special and imperceptibly different. I joked that every MacBook is like a Cabbage Patch Kid. “Every one is unique,” I said. Ternus finished the thought: “all in an effort to make them the same.”

It’s an almost unprecedented attention to detail. And with each successive generation of Mac, Apple is getting better at it.


Now this is interesting. Apple makes each Macbook, not based on every part being the same, as usually done for mass production. Because of minute differences in each part, this mass production process – where each part is simply taken from a bin – would mean that the tolerances for the whole thing would be too large for Apple.

So, what it does is view the inside of each MacBook as a unique volume to fill up, using previously binned parts of slightly different sizes that can be placed together to fill the interior properly.

So a logo that is lightly too big is matched with a case that fits it specifically. This means that Apple can get the mismatches down further than anyone else.

That extra effort means that their build quality s unmatched. It also makes each MacBook unique.

Image: Mikael Miettinen

3 thoughts on “Each Apple MacBook is different from every other

  1. I think you might be reading a bit too much into the somewhat romantic comments made by Terns, but I am sure that is entirely intentional on his part.

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