You Won’t be Able to Afford Apple’s New Mac Pro

| Particle Debris

An Inconvenient Mac Pro Truth

One of the arguments that had been used over the last year to lobby for a new, omigod fast Mac Pro from Apple was the parallel concept of a halo car. Previously, I had seen the terrific discussion by John Siracusa and thought it was a perfect argument for how Apple should proceed.

The crucial notion is that a top-of-the-line Mac Pro isn't a mass market product. Instead, like the GM Corvette or the Lexus LFA, it's designed to be a flagship product that represents the best that a company can do. It is its own marketing tool. See, for example, "The GM Corvette and the Apple Mac Pro Have Much in Common."

Not only will the new Mac Pro certify that Apple knows know to assemble the very best technologies, but it will also inspire us and give us something to dream about. That was my reaction expressed in "Apple’s New Mac Pro: Suitably Stunning and Staggering."

Just as some dream (at least I do) about being able to own a Lamborghini Aventador, we'll also dream about owning a new Mac Pro. And Apple is giving us plenty of time to embrace and solidify that dream before the price is revealed.

The Aventador. Image Credit: Lamborghini

This week, E. Werner Reschke at T-GAAP, started pondering the potential price of some configurations of the new Mac Pro. He argued, in his "Mac Pro Pricing" article, that not only must there be a willingness to buy, but the ability to buy. We all have the willingness in spades, I'm sure, but where I disagree is in his hypothesis that individuals must also have the ability to pay.

My opinion is that many might be engaging in a little bit of wish fulfillment for the past few weeks. As we know, this Mac Pro is designed for a special class of customers: scientists, researchers, plus "video editors, musicians, photographers, and graphic designers," according to Apple's Phil Schiller. In general, this is a class of professionals where the company pays for the computer, not individuals out of their own pocket. Amongst these are the corporate and government individuals who have been threatening for the last year to wrap up their workflow and defect to Linux on high end PC hardware. Apple wants to retain that group.

When you combine the ideas of a low volume, flagship product that is not paid for, in general, by individuals, it's hard not to arrive at the conclusion that this 7.5 teraflop black beauty isn't going to be as affordable as we may have hoped. It's the price we'll pay for the dream instantiated by Apple.

Mr. Reschke, with whom I correspond from time to time, and bless him, suggested a starting price of US$1799 and an advanced model at $2599. That is to keep it in line with previous Mac Pro models with the idea that current Mac Pro customers will want to be able to replace an aging machine. However, times have changed since the original Mac Pro and PowerMac G5 before it were conceived.  The powerful new iMacs of today can generally do what any individual needs to do.

I disagree here with Mr. Reschke on the pricing part. I don't think there wil be any model of the new Mac Pro that starts below $2,899. Of course, at this early stage, without a teardown and bill of materials, it's impossible to estimate an introductory price. However, until we know more, I'm thinking that this Mac is going to be just a little more expensive than most individuals would like, as much as I dread the thought.

The other thing that will happen is that there will be a lot of sour grapes expressed. Vocal customers will complain that this new Mac Pro is way too expensive for their taste, that they can put togther a vastly cheaper PC with off the shelf parts that is almost as good, and that Apple is surely doomed. Ironically, that'll be a sure sign that Apple hit the mark correctly.

Like that Lamborghini some keep dreaming about, many will feel a little annoyed that this black beauty isn't easily affordable for individuals. I'm thinking we'll just need to brace ourselves for the worst and hope for the best.

On to the week's interesting tech news.

____________________________________________

Tech News Debris for the Week of June 24

Movies on rotating plastic aren't completely dead. For various practical reasons, many customers like to either own the movie or find it convenient to rent it from, say, Blockbuster, Netflix or Redbox. People who live in rural areas and are stuck with slow DSL lines are among them, but there's likely a Blockbuster nearby or a Redbox in the grocery store. Of course, Apple has to be aware of these demographics as it continues to develop its interest in home TV. "NPD: More People Watch Discs Than SVOD."

You might have missed this terrific discussion by Andrew Cunningham at ars about the new MacBook Air's 802.11ac Wi-Fi speeds. Additional credence was added because he consulted with Anand Shimpi. "OS X is holding back the 2013 MacBook Air’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi speeds." My guess is that it will be worked out soon: Apple is already collecting diagnostic data.

iOS 7 Image credit: Apple

You just know iOS 7 is going to be popular when, according to Jonny Evans, "...developers are already experiencing more traffic from users of the as yet unreleased iOS 7 than they do the two year-old iOS 5." Here's the remarkable story. "Apple's unreleased iOS 7 usage already on the rise." The mass market's desire for something new, fresh and better trumps the individual taste of columnists. Yet those very same people remain mystified by Apple's success.

I couldn't miss a chance to mention Rocco Pendola's reaction, at The Street , to last week's Particle Debris.

Apple is a company that uses sound principles of design to appeal to customers. In contrast, some other companies throw things at the wall, thinking that if some aspect of a partner's product is successful, then a variant will be too. It's not something we see from Apple. Here's the sad news for HTC. "Study: More than 90% of U.S. smartphone owners have no interest in Facebook Home."

Along those very same lines, Jonny Evans ponders the reaction Google is having to the expected new Apple products in the fall. It's an illuminating comparison of the two companies. This is must reading for Particle Debris regulars. "Opinion: Google starts its Android photocopiers as Apple preps for Fall."

Techopedia has been compiling a list of Apple experts to follow on Twitter. They're just getting started, and the list may leave out some important names, but if you're wondering which Apple experts you might follow on Twitter, here's a starting point. Click on the name to go to each author's Twitter page.

Finally, Apple's Passbook appears to be steadily growing in popularity. Here's a Passbook state-of-the-union article. "Why Apple's Passbook is growing on retailers."

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Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event of the week combined with a summary of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.

Comments

palenoue

“that they can put togther a vastly cheaper PC with off the shelf parts that is almost as good,”

I know many people who have done that once or twice through the years.  Every single one of them have had weeks, if not months, of tech problems, headaches, raging fury, or deep depression as their money-saving DIY computers refused to function properly.  Several actually had to spend $400-$800 more than a comparable Mac to get things working right.  Of course they always say “I never have any problems with my system” as if those weeks/months were completely erased from their memory.

Orytek Verprop

Even my 2009 Mac Pro costed about 6000 dollars new. When you select a 12 core with the highest mhz processors and a decent amount of ram, it will cost a lot. I will be pleased if I can get one of the new higher end Mac Pros for the same.

CudaBoy

Likening a Mac Pro to an Aventador is exactly what is wrong with Apple. Of what exact practicality is an Aventador? That elitist baloney is indirectly why the stock is going down to reality. There is no hocus pocus inside a computer (or a smartphone for that matter) - dare I say ancient SCSI still drives the internals??
So, now I get to plunk down double the hard earned for no Blu-Ray, and forget about my Firewire drives, internal PCI drives, on and on. And, it will look so purdy with it’s gack hanging out like an ER patient.
  Does anyone remember the Plymouth Road Runner? It had no frills, a vinyl bench seat and only 2 engines - either standard 383, or optional HEMI. At $2700 it was a runaway sales success and Car of the Year twice. Why? Bang for the Buck. You can have your Aventador; after it runs out of gas I’ll pick you up in my Road Runner.

eolake

John,
I think you’re right. I wrote to Adam Engst last week, it’ll be 4-5 grand for a medium configuration, plus the display (and if you want the 4k display, that’s about the same again).

It’s clear that they have spared nothing, and like with Google high-end Chromebook, the new Mac Pro made as much for the company’s image as to make any money. (Though I think it’s even more so for the Chromebook. Who needs such a machine which has the raw power to edit a feature movie, but then only has a web browser and no hard disk?)

We can hope they won’t go overboard. It’d be nice to get one for under 4k incl everything.

But then as you also say, the iMac has come up in the world, it’s no longer a entry-level computer, it’s a pro machine (I’ve blogged this on eReaderJoy.com). I know a TV- and video pro who only uses a laptop and an iMac, and he’s happy as clambakes.

I know that, left still is only a bit of techno-lust, innit? It’s nice to feel you get the top of the line of something.

skipaq

That is a downer, John! I was planning to sit one next to an equally amazing new 4K 50” TV from Apple in the living room. The thing does have HDMI; so I began to dream big. smile

d'monder

The problem won’t be price.  The problem will be availability.

No credible information here… just a gut feeling this will sell out immediately in pre-orders, with production delays pushing the backlog into multiple months.

It’ll be a great Mac, if you can get one. smile

Doug Petrosky

What’s the problem?

This system is designed for people who make money using their computer and if history is any indicator, when it ships it will be price competitive with computers made by HP, and Dell. It will have more limited internal expansion but it will actually be more functional in a workspace, not just something you are trying to hide an muffle so it doesn’t bother you work.

It will probably have a sub 2K version with 6 cores and the lower end FirePower GPU’s and there will be a beefed up version that costs much more. How much this costs will only be news if it costs so much more than similar PC power that Pro’s choose not to purchase it, and that is just not going to happen.

xmattingly

I disagree. I think the price will drop slightly. Not quite enough to squeeze into iMac territory, but certainly less than the current $2500 entry price. Sure, the top of the line machines are supposed to have the most advanced parts, but:

1. there are going to be fewer parts
2. Weight & volume has drastically decreased, so Apple will get a substantial benefit with shipping costs.
3. State of the art components for ANY hardware in Apple’s lineup historically has not translated to a higher price. In recent times, in some cases the price has gone down. The Macbook Air for example…

While I’m predicting the price for the box will be the same or less, it’s inevitable that extra cost will come from add-on’s. Cutting edge PCI-e SSD upgrades will not come cheap… I’m sure the RAM is going to be pretty pricey for a while… Thunderbolt cables & adapters are notoriously expensive. Etc, etc.

Aftermac

John, I think you’re price point is spot-on. My personal prediction for the entry level model is $2999.00. I think there is an outside chance it could be as low as $2499.00, but I wouldn’t count on it.

I’m due any year now to get an early model “cheese grater” Mac Pro to replace my G5, and I imagine I’ll have a Mac Tube in 5-7 years.

Lee Dronick

Hopefully they won’t be too dear, not that it matters to me. I want one, I could buy one, but I don’t need one and won’t get one. Unless my beagles, who prospect in the back yard, hit pay dirt.

bbbo

Hmm, interesting.
I have felt that this was going to sort of surprise everyone with a unexpected low price point. (current pro price area or cheaper). But maybe I have it backwards.
I suppose demand is so backed up, pro users will jump regardless. But at the end of the day, it’s a lot of power, but it’s also quite a stripped down unit. You have to add everything you want onto it. (TB2 chassis etc)

Rick 1

Phil Schiller appears to mention “graphic designers”, not “graphics designers”. Get direct quotes correct when it doesn’t really matter and we’ll know we can trust you when you quote someone saying something subtle or controversial.

Christian Meermann

I think it all comes down how aggressively Apple wants push the new into the market. If they want to sell many of them they will make it surprisingly affordable. They could have introduced the iPad for a much higher price back then, but they wanted to get it into as many hands as possible.
But I guess we will have to wait and see.

estern53

If tis going to be 3K for a bottom of the line model, no one will buy it except Doctors and Lawyers. I have so many pro clients who switched to iMacs it would be suicide to charge that much when your not even getting a Display. The new mac Pro is just a supped up mac mini and I am hoping a base model comes in at $1500.

KurtG

I think you are spot on, John.  Fully loaded Mac Pro’s have always been quite pricey - and if you add a new monitor it will cost a lot more.  It’s my business machine and brings in substantial income - so even 10K is quite reasonable.  All that said it really is a small market - but I am thrilled.

John Martellaro

Reader Rick 1 is correct. I fixed the wording.

xmattingly

KurtG, you’re out of your mind if you think 10k for a modern desktop computer would be a reasonable price.

Let’s not lose our heads about a theoretical price hike. Apple still wants to sell these things, and if they’ve put time and resources into developing what they term a next generation desktop, it’s certainly not with the intent of having it collect dust in the showroom. If they did actually decide to raise the price, average consumers will either turn to iMacs, Macbook Pro’s, or cheaper PC’s, and Apple will have effectively killed the new Mac Pro out of the gate by making it too expensive. They know better than that.

Another factor that hasn’t been mentioned is the weak desktop market on the PC side. Doesn’t it stand to reason that if Apple has a cutting edge, miniaturized super computer at a competitive price, they can cut even deeper into the PC sales? Certainly not by a large percentage, but substantially enough to claim ownership of the higher-margin desktop market.

Jamie

Am I the only one that remembers paying $8,000 for a pre-G3 power Mac, and several thousand more for peripherals (SCSI!! Scanner, printer, et. al.)? At the time, the Mac was aimed almost exclusively at these so-called pro-users, and a system with all the trimmings could easily pass the $10,000 mark (in early 1990s dollars, that was a lot more money back then).

It wasn’t until the original iMac, really, that you could put a top of the line Mac into a non-pro setting affordably - the generation that thinks Apple stuff is expensive now missed out on the *real* gold-plated era. wink If the new Mac Pro comes in under five grand, I’ll consider it a bargain.

anovelli

This is a win/win for Apple. The demand has been cut into a bit with the big iMacs and powerful laptops, but regardless of the price, I think one of two things will happen: either the price is high enough that the status factor starts kicking in, and creative pros will pony up anyway (then imagine similar sales as past models); or, if it’s below $3K the race will be on and it will outsell every MacPro and similar pro-sumer tower ever made - by multiples. I mean, if this thing is within a grand of a MBP who wouldn’t want one?

And, if Apple comes up with some company branded external conversion hub to match design wise for $100-150 it will absolutely kill.

KurtG

You could be right xmattingly.  All depends on the income the Mac Pro generates.  However the 10K price includes raid peripherals and monitor - and if there is a good 4K one out there, the price could be significantly more than 10K.

Good point Jamie, I think my original 22 inch Apple Cinema Display (ADC) was upwards of $4000.  Ouch!

iVoid

I’d kind of hope that Apple would realize that they can’t price it the same as the old MacPro since they aren’t giving their customers all they had been.

Since you have no internal storage expansion, you have to buy a thunderbolt array.

Since you have no PCI slots, you’d have to buy an expansion chassis for those.

It’s basically a very fast Mac Mini with more expansion options.

All that said, I know Apple will still charge a premium for it. But one can dream.

estern53

the difference real difference between this mac Pro and the previous models is the a la carte idea that you bring your own drives and expansion is messy. you are basically just buying a CPU and nothing else. Also the iMacs with quad core i7s run just as fast as current Xeon chips. The only reason i own a Mac Pro and always have is for the ergonomics of having 4 or 5 HDs in the unit which made it cheap to upgrade. if i get a new one I’ll need to reinvest in cases and my desk will be cluttered. a mac mini with 16GB and a hybrid drive w i7 quad is an excellent photoshop computer for 1K depends o what your using your macPro for but CPU speed is becoming irrelevant with hi speed SSD drives.

paikinho

The Apple IIe was about $3600. One of the reasons I chose the Atari 800. The Lisa was something like 10k. A next cube was more than 5K.
My first Pentium Pro system cost $2,800 and at the time it was a great deal.

I’m not sure that something with a starting price of $2500-3500 is really all that insanely out of whack for what one is getting. Plus it is in 2013 dollars… not 1980 dollars or 1997 dollars.

Sure I could build something cheaper, bigger, more power hungry in an uglier box. But probably not that much cheaper….. at best a little cheaper. But after building 120 or so boxes on my own, I prefer to just buy something that is nice and tight already. I would buy one of the new Mac Pro’s, but it might just be beyond what I really need right now. Maybe in a few years, my life will change and I will need/want one.

Seems like perspective is needed in some of these things. The price is likely to be low from a historical perspective.

xmattingly

KurtG: I was referring to the rock-bottom base price, as opposed to any add-on’s anyone might include; which I think is the crux of this article.

It goes without saying that anyone who would buy into this update, especially early adopters, are DEFINITELY going to get hit in the pocket with non-Apple extras. Firewire adapters… Thunderbolt enclosures (especially for anyone using PCI devices)... you name it.

Jamie, I’ve been a witness to the changing paradigm of computer equipment over the past 15 or so years, myself. My first Mac was a Performa, and probably cost me around $2800. The monitor that I got alone was something like $500, and it that was a cheap, used 15” CRT. All said and told, my first foray into computing probably cost me a little over $5000. Many things do get commoditized and cheaper over the years, though… let’s not forget that for example, a 90’s laser printer probably couldn’t be had for less than $5000, now decent ones can be had for a few hundred.

ctopher

I disagree on the Mac Pro price. It will not be at a premium, it will be the same as a similar kit from other manufacturers. Just like their laptops and iMacs. People say there’s a price premium, but price out everything they have and they are relative bargains. (You may want to make a choice that Apple doesn’t make, and that’s a legitimate gripe, but Apple prices its stuff competitively.)

I also disagree that the Mac Pro will be their aspirational model. All of Apple is aspirational, at least that’s how Apple has behaved in the past.

@eastern53 while the 4th generation quad-core i7 is as fast as a Xeon, you cannot put more than one i7 in a system. That’s the difference. If you’re tasks are single thread and GPU in nature then these are not the droids your looking for. If your tasks are highly parallel in nature where throwing more cores and more memory at the problem will increase your productivity, then this is the machine for you.

@Rick 1 when your comments are on topic and positive, it makes it easier to consider your argument.

wab95

John:

Interesting reads, here, although I haven’t had time to go through even half of them.

First, on the Mac Pro pricing, I think there are possibly more opinions than potential price points, at this stage.

I concur with your point that for professionals (scientists, etc), the pro line of computers, whether MacBook Pros or Mac Pros, are not purchased out of pocket. All of my computers, including my current MBP Retina fully loaded, Core i7 and top-end everything, including its 0.75 TB SSD, is paid on my grants. Some of my team members are already throwing hints about the Mac Pro, particularly for our population modelling of infection transmission and our genomics work. I’ll probably purchase one on upcoming grants (assuming we get new grant monies), even though it is more likely to sit in colleagues’ offices in London or Baltimore than it is in my own in the field. Under these conditions, the issue isn’t cost but performance, and increasingly, integration with other devices and services. Most of my colleagues in the West have made the switch to Apple for their computing needs; those in low-income, resource poor settings still use MS solutions (including the old Windows-based phones and PDAs, in some cases).

These power-users are all about finding that competitive edge with the most compelling solutions, and seldom about the upfront capital cost, whether for computers or PCR machines, unless they are on a low budget. They want, and request, state-of-the-art. Crunching through your results faster than your competitors and getting to publication bestows a competitive advantage and begets future grants. Buying into yesterday’s tech is clearly pound-foolish without the benefit of being penny-wise. No sooner do I purchase these out-dated machines for my teams overseas in low-income settings than they are left behind of future updates and upgrade options; never mind performance.

The top end machines will be purchased by professionals as work tools and investments in their business’ future. What that does to the lower-end configurations is, in my view, uncertain; but the law of supply and demand would suggest that, if demand is sufficiently high, and production keeps pace, then costs should decrease. Personal use consumers, present company included if I want one of these at home, might simply have to wait a bit for a lower cost, mid-level machine.

As for your picks, a stand-out for me was Johnny Evans’ piece on Google. While some might argue that his assessment is overly harsh, on one thing I do agree wholeheartedly; Google (and for that matter, any tech company) is not our friend, but the contrast in how Google handles and uses our data vs Apple is telling about the ethos of either company, and highlights which one I would rather patronise as a client. As to his term ‘symbiotic parasite’, this is an inherent contradiction. A symbiote is not a parasite, and neither is a parasitism symbiosis. I would argue instead that Google’s behaviour relative to its competitors has been ambush and opportunistic predation.

I’m heartened that Passbook is gaining traction, particularly amongst airlines, although I am not seeing this so much amongst the international carriers I use. BA have their own app, and as for the likes of Qatar, Emirates, and Turkish - carriers wiling to fly where I need to go - not yet. Hope springs eternal.

jameskatt

The current Mac Pro is an expensive machine.  It costs less than comparable computers from Dell and HP. But it is still expensive - after all it is a PROFESSIONAL computer.

The current Mac Pro costs from $2499 to $9199.
The new Mac Pro is expected to be in the same price range.

Complain as you must, but the Mac Pro is for those who can afford it - just like every Macintosh.  After all, you can get a PC laptop for $500 or less.  Yet all Macbooks are over $1000.

jameskatt

My first Mac was the 1984 original 128K Mac.  It cost $3000.  With the Apple printer, it cost $3500.

In the scheme of things, the new Mac Pro is less expensive than the original 1984 Mac.

It is a professional machine. 

It costs less than a professional camera system.

It costs much less than a professional video camera system - where a single lens would cost more than the Mac Pro.

It even costs less than a professional hard disk RAID and backups - which can easily cost more than $10,000.

The cost is all relative.

But for a professional machine, it is well worth it and relatively inexpensive.

xmattingly

jameskatt, cost may sometimes be relative, but your analogies aren’t quite right: you’re comparing a mass market product to specialized equipment. Sure pro camera equipment is very expensive, but what’s the potential for something like that - or a RAID server, etc. - to wind up in the hands of an average consumer, vs. a pro desktop? Those are specific-usage items, so very little. So the justification on price really isn’t Mac Pro vs. other pro equipment, but really more about economy of scale.

Brian Cox

Actually, jameskatt is actually quite right in his comparison. The Mac Pro is most certainly professional equipment. In the current computer climate, desktops themselves are fast becoming (or already have become, it depends on your point of view) gear aimed at professionals or niche markets. You can make the arguments for gaming PC’s and the like, but the reality is that the tablet or the low-cost laptop are quickly becoming the mass market products.
When it comes to any product, mass market or pro/niche, cost is all relative. Apple is aiming for the very high end with this offering. Pros and enthusiasts with the coin to spare will certainly spring for this, while the mass-market consumers and budget-conscious SOHO users will be perfectly content with iPads and Mac Minis (or iMacs).
Anyone who is looking at buying one of these beasts will scarcely even blink. The demographic this is targeting isn’t really asking “How much will this cost?” They are asking “How soon can I get my hands on this?” It comes down to the old adage [regarding the price] “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”
Sorry, I come across really snotty and harsh in posts. My tne isn’t meant to be condescending, just matter of fact.

Kevin A

I don’t think of my Mac Pro as a lamborghini. It’s a working machine.
If you have to use the vehicle analogy, my current Mac Pro to me is more like a truck; able to handle long hauls and heavy loads, meet deadlines reliably, resist doughnut crumbs and look comfortable with a few dents or boot scuffs. I wouldn’t buy such a vehicle for personal use, I’d buy a nice fuel efficient mid-range family car or hatchback. But for working, I need a truck, or in this case, a Mac Pro.

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