Not Everyone Will Be Able to Afford the New iMac Pro, and That’s Okay

iMac Pro

The iMac Pro (and Mac Pro) will be priced out of range for most Mac enthusiasts, and that’s a Good Thing. Here’s the explanation.

iMac Pro - Apple
iMac Pro. Image credit: Apple

For a long, long time, Apple built Macs that were geared for two kinds of people. There has been and still is the everyday consumer who appreciates a quality desktop or portable, but doesn’t need a top-of-the-line system. Affordability and simplicity are paramount.

The second group was and is the technical professionals. These pro users needed more expandability and more power, but accepted a premium price. The thing is, however, that while those high-end Macs were used in the office, they were still generally affordable by most technical professionals for use at home as well.

Remember the famous 2 x 2 product matrix that Steve Jobs devised soon after he returned to Apple? I, and many others, who were working professionals could nevertheless afford the Power Mac G3, then G4. Even PowerMac G5. Here’s that matrix:

The 2 x 2 Mac Matrix of Steve Jobs
The 2 x 2 Mac Matrix of Steve Jobs in 1999. Image credit: Apple.

Meanwhile, companies like Sun, HP and SGI were selling really powerful UNIX workstaitons in the US$10,000 range. If you had one of those at work, you knew it’s power, but a “Pro” Mac at home was good enough.

Associated with this, I think, there was a little bit if hubris. The high end Macs were very sexy. To have one made the user feel as if they were at least dabbling in the middlin’ to high end of the home or office desktop workstation market because it was the best Apple had.

As time went on, these PowerMacs, PowerBooks, then Mac Pros and MacBook Pros continued their heritage as powerful, prestigious tools for all kinds of pro users, whether bought by the workplace or purchased out of personal funds. And so it went.

Flash Forward

On June 5, 2017, all that changed. Apple, in its WWDC keynote, telegraphed that it was listening to the technical and creative professionals. Apple reaffirmed, in a tangible way, its commitment to the Mac with updates to the MacBook and iMac line, but it went one step further.

Apple presented us with the iMac Pro which is scheduled to ship in December. This Mac, with Xeon CPUs, oodles of RAM (up to 128 GB) and Radeon Pro Vega graphics is not just a high-end Mac. It’s a serious, serious desktop supercomputer to drool over.

And, truth be told, most people who had been buying those high-end Mac desktops out of their own pocket won’t be able to afford the iMac Pro.

A Very Good Thing

And, no, it’s not over priced. Our Jeff Butts address that here: “No, the iMac Pro Apple Tax Isn’t a Real Thing.” One will have to pay pretty much the same to buy an equivalent computer from HP or Dell.

Think about it. For the first time, (well maybe the second time), Apple is focusing on a workstation to be easily purchased by developers, universities, government agencies, and corporations that most technical professionals would never think of owning for personal use and couldn’t afford if they did.

I claim this is a Good Thing. At least, Apple is pulling out the stops. Apple is delivering a very, very capable iMac Pro that will have scientists, researchers, engineers, architects, and designers pounding on their boss’s desk with approval paperwork.

The same thing will happen when Apple ships the next Mac Pro. Even though it won’t have a built-in display, it’s going to be very expensive as well. It may cost even more than the iMac Pro. No one knows right now.

What we do know is that Apple has re-discovered Mac religion and is willing to recapture the influencers and technical professionals who had given up on Apple or were threatening to leave the fold.

The fact that most technical professionals won’t be able to afford one of these Macs for use at home should provide us a great sense of relief and admiration for Apple. The company has given the pros something to crow about in the workplace where, after all, time is money. Recognizing that, the organization foots the bill.

As for the rest of us? A modern 5K iMac can do all that we need on the desktop. Even if we glance sideways and smile in admiration at the new, seriously pro-level Halo Macs that will remain well beyond our means.

That’s cause for celebration, not a claim of sour grapes.

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W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

John: Your analysis is spot on. When I first began my international research career, and to deploy for long stretches in the deep field, my Mac laptop was the only practical option for mobility and power. I’ve managed that for over 20 years with no problem, and whenever I have required more computational power, have relied on colleagues with access to more power resources back at their respective institutions to step in. And while I still don’t need a desktop, the iMac Pro has inspired sufficient interest (okay, lust) to seriously consider getting one for my home office. With additional… Read more »

Paul Goodwin

Not to mention its suitability to scientists

Paul Goodwin

– With Thunderbolt 3, USB3 and the SDXC slot, it’s infinitely expandable for archiving/storage.

– It’s easily transportable at 21.5 lb.

– RAM and SSD is upgradeable.

– Looks like an excellent pro machine for video and audio.

– hopefully the pro software business will commit


First of all the Apple Tax article was a farce unless you think Apple’s gross margins come from thin air. Plus, the component prices listed in the HP builds were also completely jacked up wrong – simply Google the parts and you’ll see, (as if anyone would “build” an HP to go against an iMac-a crazy analogy to start with) and thirdly you are using retail component pricing when if it was a mass produced unit the components would be much cheaper. In this article it fails to mention that the iMac “oeuvre” was that gumdrop NON professional friendly for… Read more »




+ John, Great article, and agree completely, especially your calling iMac Pros “Halo Macs.” I don’t think this can be underestimated. I may have said it before here, but just about every Chevrolet dealer has a Corvette front-and-center. But not everyone is buying Corvettes. The Corvette is Chevrolet’s Halo Car, just as the iMac Pro is Apple’s Halo mac, at least until we see what they have in store for the Mac Pro. (A high tide raises all boats in the harbor, as they say.) I may never be able to afford the iMac Pro, and to be honest, I… Read more »