Year of the Mac Pro?
Today the Macintosh is 35 years old. Rather than a retrospective, I'm more interested today in the future of the Macintosh as my most trafficked blog post I've written is an upgrade guide the classic Mac Pro which are now 13-7 years of age depending on the model. In mid-2018, Apple announced that the Mac Pro would be revamped in 2019 and yet many Mac loyalists were irked that at the WWDC Apple didn't announce a Mac Pro. It was never going to be a one-more-thing, as it's very unlike Apple to announce a schedule for a future product.
Apple's desktop line up is far more crowded than it's been in some time, with the revamped Mac Mini, iMac, iMac Pro, and Mac Pro (which is half decade without an update). The Apple mainstay has a been at two or three computer company per formfactor, squarely divided between desktop and laptop (and briefly servers and eMacs) since roughly 2005 for desktops (Mac Mini), and 2008 for laptops (MacBook Air). The formula has been (outside of the illfated G4 Cube):
Classic Era (2000 - 2005)
- Entry Level - (iMac/iBook)
- Professional - (PowerBook / PowerMac)
Intel Era Line Up (2006-2016ish)
- Budget/Small form factor - (Mac Mini/MacBook Air)
- Mid-level - (MacBook / iMac)
- Profesional - (MacBook Pro / Mac Pro)
Current Era (2017ish - Current?)
- Budget - (Mac Mini, MacBook Air, iMac 21 Standard Definition, MacBook?)
- Mid-level - (MacBook? MacBook Air? / MacBook Pro 13 / iMac 4k/5k)
- Profesional - (MacBook Pro Touchbar / Mac Pro / iMac Pro)
Any iteration of the Mac Pro is going to confuse the Mac line-up further. The MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, MacBook are all within $100 of each other at for base models and 1.4 pounds, 1 hour of battery life and 1 inch of screen size. The Pro is clear-cut as the performer and the MacBook as the traveler and the Air as the bridge... for some reason. It'd only really take adding a second port (perhaps Thunderbolt) to the MacBook to negate the under performing Air.
The iMac Pro is undoubtedly a powerful machine but at a king's ransom, starting at $5,000. If a Mac Pro lands with anything resembling a dedicated PCIe slot, user serviceable RAM and CPUs, I can't imagine anyone opting for an iMac Pro and especially if starts at the still very expensive $3000 entry point as previous Mac Pros have. The iMac Pro is powerful but also, at it's price-point with non-upgradable GPU, and terrible user serviceability, hardly a compelling buy. Then there's the Mac Mini, if the Mac Pro keeps its current G4 Cube influenced hostile-to-power-users design, then anyone who can survive on more modest CPU and 64 GB of RAM is likely to eat the cost of a Thunderbolt PCIe case (or do the same with an iMac 5k). Based on my interactions with the Mac power users of this planet, we're all after the same thing: PCIe, User serviceable RAM, and upgradable CPUs and storage. This really should be Apple's most straightforward release year-over-year, the form factor of the classic Mac Pro is perfectly fine. Dust it off, update the ports from FireWire/USB2.0 to Thunderbolt and USB 3.x, slap in a modern motherboard with the latest specs and call it a day. Ideally, Apple would sunset the iMac Pro as a nice experiment in industrial design. As much as Apple dislikes user-control, the one segment where the users know better than Apple is professional work, see the fiascos of Final Cut Pro X and the Mac Pro 2013 which lead to the deep pockets of Hollywood abandoning Apple for the likes of PCs and AVID. The iMac's DNA never has been to be performance monster, although it evolved from entry level to a nice mid-level computer, sporting a beautiful integrated display. If the Mac Pro is modular, than the iMac Pro becomes the next G4 Cube.
Recently though, with the reintroduction of the MacBook Air, Apple has shown a willingness to confuse the Mac line up with no clear price point. This should be a bad thing but it isn't for the Mac Pro. So where does that leave us? I'm mildly hopeful. Just mildly.
Edit 01/29/19: NYTimes writes A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be ‘Assembled in U.S.A.’, which blames Mac Pro production yields on a lack of a certain screw. The idiocy here is the over-engineering and probably a healthy dose of hostility to user serviceablity, to echo myself Right To Repair Law Should Be The Rally Call Every Mac / iPhone User.