Recently, I took a philosophical tour of the idea that Apple might well want to discontinue some products that we’ve become fond of. The pros and cons. One reader asked what the pros would be to sending the Mac Pro into extinction. I’ll try to answer that question.
In response to: “The Pros and Cons of Legacy Apple Products Going Extinct,” reader BradMacPro wrote:
So what is the “pro” to Apple discontinuing the Mac Pro? I only see “con”s.
We know the cons. I’ve written about them extensively. But, I think it’s worthwhile to look at the pros from a surmise of Apple’s perspectives.
However, before I do that, I want to preface my remarks with the notion that Apple may well have a new Mac Pro in the works. The company has taken enormous heat for allowing the 2013 Mac Pro to linger on without an update. And there’s been much discussion of how Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft are hungry to take the creative and technical professional business away from Apple. Will Apple allow that? If I were to guess, however, I’d say that Apple is planning to discontinue the Mac Pro line. My hope is that I’m wrong.
Without repeating the arguments for the defendants (us), let’s consider why Apple would, perhaps, like to abandon the Mac Pro.
Arguments for the Plaintiff
1. Rethinking the Mac Pro is painful. Apple would have to take a bit of a step backwards. Certain functionality and expandability would have to return to make the professionals happy. Apple likes to always move foreward with style and avoid embarrassment. Imagine the howls over a 2017 Mac Pro with nothing but six USB-C ports.
2. Catering to the Pros? The pros make their living with their computers. They have needs. Technical professionals expect Apple to appear at their favored conferences, mix with them, listen to and respond to their needs. Unfortunately, “design by Ive” often trumps geeky technical needs from individuals, even widely respected ones. That Apple will tell you what you need doesn’t go over well in some circles.
3. Sales by desire, not checkboxes. Technical professionals aren’t impressed by feel-good advertising. They like to have sales reps who are technically deep and who have enough clout to help solve their problems. But those field sales people must be exceptional: both politically astute and technical. They are rare. For the mothership to dwell on industry accepted, technical details that make or break a product for the scientist or engineer is an alien idea. Apple prefers to excite the average consumer with how cool a product is and deal with consumers in a more controlled way in the retail stores.
4. ROI. Apple relentlessly leaves low profit products behind. The Mac Pro accounts for, I’m guessing, a percent of Apple’s total Mac sales. And yet, there’s an entire factory dedicated ot it in Austin. Do the sales justify the investment in time, continued expertise, and human resources? Is the creative/technical professional market greatly lucrative? Not by the scale of iPhone sales.
5. Enterprise Depth. Apple has never been deep with enterprise technologies. Over the years, Apple has gotten away from the Xserve and XsreveRAID, Apple.com/science, server technologies and many of the geeky UNIX features of macOS that made it beloved in professional circles. Apple recognizes that there are companies with vast expertise in the enterprise it can never compete with: Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Microsoft. Better to partner in key areas, as with IBM, than go toe-to-toe.
6. Mobility. The world has gone mobile. iPhones can be backed up to the cloud. It’s so easy. A Mac Pro, and its OS, need serious expansion and corresponding backup capabilities. That’s a harder job. Apple’s inattention to Time Machine reflects a lack of spirit when it comes to robust backups. But perhaps the planning for APFS meant that Time Machine wasn’t worth investing in. I might be projecting.
7. Displays and desktops. Apple is out of the display business. It’s currently somewhat of an uncomfortable presentation in the Apple retal stores when a discontinued Thunderbolt display (from 2011) must be placed next to a 2013 Mac Pro. But, then again, a 2017 Mac Pro would, of course, be paired with an LG UltraFine 5K display. If Apple promotes LG as the big screen companion for the MacBook Pros, then it would follow they’d be happy with the same Mac Pro pairing in their stores. Still, the black cylinder remains an ugly duckling, out of sync with the jazz of the retail stores and not of much interest to the consumer crowd.
So those are the reasons I think Apple might be thinking about letting the Mac Pro line go extinct. Of course, there are many more reasons not to, but that’s a different article.