Hewlett-Packard Seeks to Exploit Apple’s Inattention to Technical Professionals

| Analysis

Whether Apple intends to send the message or not, it appears to technical professionals that Apple isn’t catering to the technical professionals the way it has in the past. This has created opportunity in that market that Hewlett-Packard is consciously exploiting.

The Best Surprise is No Surprise

Apple keeps secrets for good reason. The PC market remains very competitive, and there are several companies who have been emulating Apple’s designs and coveting Apple’s image and success in the notebook market. Apple has a history of developing breakthrough designs that leave the competition gasping. But they’ve been catching up.

HP ZBook.

HP ZBook. 120 sent to NASA’s space station. Runs Linux.

That said, the enterprise and technical markets do need some occasional care and feeding when it comes to professional, mission critical equipment. Just as Apple’s product cycle can get out of sync with Intel’s, technical professionals engaged in design, research and computation need to depend on a long-term vision from their favorite computer supplier.

Over the past few years, signs of inattention to these markets have emerged from Cupertino. All this has been documented elsewhere, so I won’t rehash it in detail except to point to the long-awaited 2013 Mac Pro, Apple’s grand opening fanfare and then its subsequent abandonment: 1,000+ days of silence. The demise of apple.com/science and the absent attention to the eventually terminated, obsolete Thunderbolt display and the end of support for Aperture sent unmistakable messages that weren’t explained or remedied by new initiatives.

Hewlett-Packard Has Noticed

HP has had its ups and downs in recent years, but it remains a strong engineering company that caters to technical professionals. HP has a storied tradition in everything for technical professionals from handheld calculators to measurement and instrumentation to UNIX workstations to supercomputers.

Along the way, I have become aware of certain initiatives by Hewlett-Packard and have engaged the company in conversation about its initiatives. Perhaps the most visible sign so far was my long odyssey, looking for a new display for my Mac Pro culminating in a review of HP’s magnificent Z34c 34-inch display. See: “The Display You’ve Always Wanted For Your Mac: HP Z34c.

HP Z34c display.

HP’s amazing Z34c curved display. (3440 x 1440)

Further discussions have resulted in an affirmation that HP both recognizes the opportunity created by Apple and is eager to exploit it. My HP representative provided some insight. Note that the following statement may seem like market-speak, but that’s not the point. The point is that HP is hereby punctuating its interest in catering to technical professionals who feel abandoned by Apple, rightly or wrongly.

HP’s Z Family of professional workstation-class products is focused on meeting the needs of the world’s most demanding users. HP has a heritage of engineering excellence, and has been delighting customers with workstations innovations for more than 35 years.

Today, HP Z Desktop Workstations, ZBook Mobile Workstations, and Z Displays are used to design everything from running shoes and racecars to animated characters and deep-sea submersibles, as well as to manage research labs, mission-critical IT environments and billions of dollars of tradable securities. HP Z products are designed to meet the needs of some of the most compute-intensive industries, including animation, film/video editing, graphic design, CAD, architecture, photography, high-definition video, manufacturing, finance, healthcare, scientific imaging and oil and gas exploration.

At the beginning of the century, four key players manufactured traditional workstations: Silicon Graphics, Sun, IBM and HP. Today, HP is the only surviving and thriving workstation vendor of those four. In just a few short years, HP went from a distant second in the market to No. 1 in workstation shipments worldwide.

In support of this initiative, HP has developed, if you will, a reverse switcher site, called Mac to Z. Looking at that page’s comparison chart to a Mac Pro, it’s clear why a workstation like this has technical appeal.

HP Z workstation

Imagine 36 cores and 2 TB of RAM.

Next page: computing religion and the Mac’s future.

5 Comments Add a comment

  1. I just went out to the HP site and configured a Z laptop the way I would a MacBook Pro. It was a bit less in price, by no more than a couple of hundred though. BUT it was a better unit than Apple sells now. I could get a basic unit that I could work with for a couple of years foir a LOT less. Mind you I got it with FreeDOS rather than Win10 which helped the price a bit. I’d nuke and pave it with Linux anyway. But the point is Apple had better knock my socks off. The competition is making a VERY solid case for switching.

    That is ASSUMING they actually release a new MBP this year. I’m still not getting much buzz about that. Yes a lot of sites are speculating but no hardware photo leaks. No notes from anonymous Apple staff about vacation blackout periods. No rumors from FedEx about big shipments from Apple sitting in warehouses. No leaks of preparations or reservations for venues. Other then sites saying “Yes they always have a Mac event in October” it’s been nothing. Nothing hard. Nothing even squishy but believable. Sites are still nursing the “thinner with an OLED function key row” stories from months ago. The silence is deafening.

    Today is the 6th. Factor in a 2 week heads up about an upcoming event and that puts you in mid to latter half of the month. The window is closing for the Christmas rush.

    As my dad would say they need to S or get off the P.

  2. MarcusNewton

    The HP workstations are nice options. For me, I like how many different configurations options there are to choose from. Unlike the 1000 day old Mac Pro, I can pick something middle of the road and still add and upgrade things later.

    Sure the two graphics cards included in the Mac Pro were a good deal at the time it was released, but now a single Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 is more powerful then two D500s. (Based on the D500 having 2.2 teraflops each for a combined 4.4 teraflops, and the solo Nvidia 1080 having 8.2 teraflops floating-point performance). Also, a single GeForce 1080 has a retail price of $599.

    Yes, I know there is a difference between gaming graphics cards and workstation graphics cards, but the 1080 is so powerful it is easily a poor-mans workstation card. I could take a basic HP 440 workstation with a 1080 graphics card and be totally happy with my budget $1,600 workstation instead of a $2,999 Mac Pro I cannot upgrade and has a single internal hard drive.

    On the other hand, I think Apple knows that my distaste for Windows will keep me from buying a PC workstation no matter how much I may drool over the options, customization choices, and easily swappable PC hardware. I have tried Blender on Linux, and it works really well, but there is just not enough of other things for me to switch full time.

    Even though I am hopeful that Apple will fall in love with Macs again, and release a Mac Pro that can compete against the HP workstations, I also fear that minimalism and gimmicks will overrun anything actually useful. I have this reoccurring nightmare that the next Mac Pro double-downs on compactness, and ends up looking like a rounded Sony Playstation.

  3. MarcusNewton
    I use my MacBook for writing, some art, and editing YouTube Videos.
    For me Linux with OpenOffice, Blender, and Gimp would do most of what I want. Switch to DropBox over iCloud and I’d have nearly everything I need. No, it wouldn’t be as seamlessly integrated as the macOS/iOS ecosystem. There would be a bit of kludgyness. But full function with a bit of awkwardness at a huge savings is tempting.

  4. DaveNull

    I’ve been using primarily Macs since the IIci, so I’m not exactly one to switch platforms lightly. But I just made the jump from a MacBook Pro to a PC mobile workstation (albeit a ThinkPad, not a ZBook).

    These days, Apple makes computers for the masses: *Most* of their users don’t care if the computer has an ethernet port; *most* of them don’t care if there are more than two USB ports; *most* of them don’t care that the RAM is soldered on and the battery glued in; and *most* of them don’t care (or know) that their computer throttles when the CPU cores are pegged.

    And that’s fine. Different users have different needs. What’s disappointing is that despite its vast financial resources, Apple no longer makes a professional computer for those of us who *do* care about these things. Plenty of companies make “halo” products that aren’t meant to sold to the majority of their customers, but the richest company in the world doesn’t. (Okay, you got me. I forgot about $10K Apple Watches.)

    Fortunately, I’m finding both Windows and Ubuntu to be more viable alternatives than they once were. I’ll continue to buy Apple’s iToys, because they still make the best gadgets. But as far as I’m concerned, Apple no longer makes the best tools for getting work done. So long, Macintosh, and thanks for the memories.

  5. The MacBook has one USB-C port for connectivity and power. The target demographic for that computer is fine with the speed of wireless, the iWork Suite, mail and calendar and the Safari browser. For the user base portability is the important feature.

    The professional user, however, needs speed (Ethernet, memory, CPU, GPU) , access to large amount of external storage and the flexibility of connecting to a large existing base of peripherals — professional audio gear, video and photography gear, displays. These peripherals are expensive and often support older standards — USB, FireWire, HDMI, DVI, VGA.

    For a professional the most important feature is flexibility. They expect a professional machine to have ports. They don’t want to carry a stack of adapters to add back lost functionality.

    To use a MacBook as a professional computer I would need a USB-C adapter for HDMI, and VGA and DVI. I would need to connect several external storage devices including thunderbolt, FireWire and USB. For high speed acces to network attached storage I would rather have Ethernet than wireless.

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