- Reuters/Stephen Lam
Apple’s most vocal critics at the moment tend to be professional Mac users – those who edit videos, program, and do other heavy-duty tasks on their Macs.
Some of these users – a loud contingent – are complaining that they’re essentially being forced to buy the Mac Pro, a computer that hasn’t been updated since 2013, because it’s the only Apple desktop that fits their needs.
One recent example: Chris Adamson, who writes books and guides on how to write apps for Apple devices. He wrote a blog post on Tuesday, titled “Capitulation,” discussing his decision to pay thousands of dollars for the thousand-day-old Mac Pro.
And Apple defenders like John Gruber think Adamson made a reasonable decision.
In 2013, Apple launched a high-end, $3,000 Mac Pro. It replaced an older tower model to which users could add more RAM, newer video cards, and better components. The 2013 Mac Pro turned heads with a sleek, curvy design, but the good looks came at the expense of customization – unlike earlier models, the 2013 Mac Pro does not allow users to upgrade the system by swapping in newer components, other than extra memory.
- Flickr/LoKan Sardari
To make matter worse, Apple hasn’t updated the model since 2013, leaving Mac Pro users in a tough spot.
They need the expensive “pro” model for performance, but the only version of the machine that Apple currently offers is running 4-year-old chips.
“I think my needs, for development and especially for video work (Motion and Wirecast, mainly) are best served by the Mac Pro. Even the pathetic, 3-year-old Mac Pro, because what I want is lots of cores, silent operation, and expandability of RAM and storage, something the iMac and MacBook Pro can’t offer.
“I’d been catching up financially for a while, and finally had a $4,000-$5,000 budget to work with. What made finally pull the trigger, ironically, was [Apple CEO] Tim Cook’s ham-fisted, half-assed claim that desktop Macs remain strategically important to Apple.”
He’s not the only computing professional suddenly faced with the undesirable choice of purchasing an essentially obsolete desktop or an Apple all-in-one that doesn’t meet their needs.
A lack of focus
When Apple launched the Mac Pro in 2013, Apple’s head of marketing, Phil Schiller, famously introduced the computer with the line “can’t innovate anymore, my ass.”
But since then, the model, lovingly nicknamed the “Trash Can,” has not received a single revision – even just to update the chips inside it to keep it current.
“‘What the hell happened with the Mac Pro?’ is the most interesting question about Apple today,” Gruber wrote on Tuesday in response to a different Apple fan’s complaint.
Gruber, one of the most tapped-in Apple bloggers, writes about the Mac Pro:
“Something clearly went way wrong with this product. I’m not convinced the basic idea for the design is unsound – the idea is that expansion would come in the form of external peripherals, rather than things you install inside the box. I still think that’s probably the future of ‘expandable’ computing.
“If Apple had updated the Mac Pro on a roughly annual basis, we wouldn’t be calling this a disaster. I’m sure there would still be people who would wish that Apple had stuck with the traditional tower form factor, but we wouldn’t all be saying ‘What the f—?'”
According to Gruber, Apple seems poised to redesign the pro-level computer because it hasn’t updated it and because the price is the same as it was in 2013 – starting at $3,000 – suggesting Apple hasn’t yet abandoned the line.
But regardless, Apple’s strategy is putting pro users in a tough spot.
“Whatever the explanation is, this situation is an unmitigated disaster,” Gruber wrote.
The Mac Pro is one of Apple’s lowest-volume products, but it remains strategically important, especially for the armies of Apple developers who want professional workstations to develop apps for iPhones and iPads. Apple requires software for its smartphones to be built on its laptops and desktops.
The Mac Pro is assembled in Texas, a decision that was made as a way to score political points. But Bloomberg reported in December that discussions inside Apple about the next-generation Mac Pro included some employees suggesting moving production back to Asia.
Regardless of what Apple does with its pro lineup – some suggest Cook’s recent leaked comments mean the new highest-end Mac is the iMac – some of Apple’s longest and most dedicated evangelists are becoming unhappy.
Those evangelists are likely to slowly simmer until Apple launches new Mac desktops. What Apple eventually launches will determine whether their anger boils over.