Apple will be releasing a revamped, modular Mac Pro in 2018 and later this year will be releasing a new iMac. The announcement was made an an uncharacteristically low key, invite-only press event at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.
A select handful of tech journalists were summoned to discuss the Apple roadmap and the future of its desktop computer products. The meeting was very unusual in it’s almost theatrical low-key mood. Apple has always announced new products at well-hyped, well-covered events, live-blogged around the world.
According to a report in Mashable by Lance Ulanoff, at the meeting Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of worldwide marketing, said “We’re in the process of completely rethinking the Mac Pro.”
Apple has been accused by more than one media industry professional of abandoning its high-end pro customers. The Mac Pro, the Apple high-end workstation and server, hasn’t received a significant update for four years.
Mashable’s Ulanoff pressed Apple’s Schiller on how far along Apple was in the Mac Pro redesign process. Schiller, of course, refused to be specific, but Ulanoff surmises the new Mac Pro will be available in 2018, with a new iMac available sometime later this year. According to Ulanoff, the new Mac Pro will be a modular design.
Schiller was quoted as saying: “The Mac has an important, long future at Apple. Apple cares deeply about the Mac. We have every intention to keep going and investing in the Mac. It’s important to us, it’s important to our customers, including Mac Pro users, all Pro users, including Mac Pro. And if we’ve had a pause in upgrades and updates on that, we’re sorry for that, what happened with the Mac Pro and we’re gonna come out with something great to replace it.”
Ulanoff questioned Schiller on other Apple products, asking whether the company would move to adopt touchscreen technology on any of its future desktop products. The question elicited a clear “No” from Schiller.
Delivering on the Apple promise
The Mac Pro had been aimed at that field of Apple users whose creative auteurship was not just a job, but a calling, and at companies demanding the best possible OSX workflow. In 2013, Apple redesigned the computer. It was beautiful (black and cylindrical), powerful, and noiseless, but it was a bit of a bridge too far, even for Apple devotees. And with the iMac growing ever more powerful, many were reluctant to make the jump to the Mac Pro.
Despite Apple’s creator-friendly branding and roots, it’s easy to see how the company might not devote its full resources to improving its pro workstation line. The iPhone is one of the best-selling products in the history of products, while the Mac Pro accounts for a very tiny fraction – a “single digit percentage”, said Schiller – of Apple’s revenue.
Apple’s relationship with its professional users started to go a bit sour before it started to go cold on the Mac Pro.
In 2011, Final Cut Pro, a nonlinear editor which had begun elbowing Adobe and Avid out of the way, was infamously updated to Final Cut Pro X. The new version was completely rewritten from the ground up. The name “Final Cut” was one of the few things retained from the original. The update puzzled some, enraged others. In some ways, it seemed a pivot toward a prosumer market – a kind of “iMovie Pro” (meanwhile, iMovie, a nice little editor in its own right, has become a kind of “iMovie Junior”, something you might use to edit video if you had no desire at all to edit video).
The Final Cut Pro X debacle (let’s just call it a debacle) laid the groundwork for a mistrust that only grew with the company’s lackluster Mac Pro strategy. While the iMac is still a popular and powerful computer, in the past few years, creatives have had to dip their toes in the waters of the competiton and some have found the water not as cold as they had feared. And the competition has worked hard to attract and keep those converts.
Will Apple be able to win back those Mac users who’ve moved on? Will a new, rethought Mac Pro become the iPhone of desktops and open a new frontier for the creative auteur? Or is Schller’s apology too little, too late?