Maybe There’s Room in Apple’s Lineup for a New Mac Model

2019 Mac Pro

Why is the 2019 Mac Pro so expensive? It’s because it offers special hardware that certain kinds of pro users need. But not the prosumer or power hungry user. See: “Opinion: The Mac Pro isn’t overpriced, it offers something nothing else does.

Which raises the question. Is there room in Apple’s lineup for a Mac that’s plain all out fast, nothing held back, for just the power user who has the money to spend on a really fast, but general purpose system? How well would such a Mac sell? Given the enthusiasm for the 2019 Mac Pro’s elegance and focused power, maybe pretty well.

Apple's 2019 Mac Pro
Same case, same fans, different internals.

But the 2019 Mac Pro had to come first to set the stage.

What would this new Mac look like? The current Mac mini platform is too small. The thermodynamics wouldn’t work. Perhaps a Mac Pro mini?

Stripped of the exotic hardware for video pros, but using the current Mac Pro case and fans, there’s plenty of design freedom for a really fast but affordable headless Mac. For, say, US$3,000 entry point. I think that’s a real opportunity for Apple.

The Week’s News Debris

• The Holy Grail of 5G is to pull high-speed internet right out of the air and dispense with wired, co-axial cable broadband. Is that realistic? At ars technica , Rob Pegoraro sizes up the possibilities. “Can 5G replace everybody’s home broadband?

When it comes to the possibility of home broadband competition, we want to believe. And in the case of 5G mobile broadband, wireless carriers want us to believe, too. But whether or not technological and commercial realities will reward that faith remains unclear. As with 5G smartphones, the basic challenge here sits at the intersection of the electromagnetic spectrum and telecom infrastructure economics.

• One sign that secure coding is enormously complex is that one promising fix introduces new vulnerabilities. That isn’t always so, but it can happen. And that kind of event exposes the kind of holistic testing that secure coding demands. Case in point: “…Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Protection actually gets tracking protection.

While ITP has been somewhat effective, making Safari users more opaque and less valuable in the behavioral ad targeting ecosystem than cookie-laden Chrome users, it still has gaps. Recently, Google security researchers found a way to use ITP for the very thing it was created to stop and passed their findings on to Apple, to the potential detriment of their [Google’s] future ad revenue.

It take a village to arrive at really secure code.

• There are some significant changes in macOS 10.5.2. Enough to look at the list in some detail. The Eclectic Light Company has a nice rundown. “What has changed in Catalina 10.15.2?

In a companion article, it’s noted that XProtect version 2109 is for Catalina 10.15.2 only. Notable:

So far, there is no sign of this update being delivered to earlier versions of macOS, which is unusual. This wasn’t bundled with the Security Updates for Mojave or High Sierra, nor has it yet been pushed as a standalone security update for those systems.

Something to keep an eye on.

• Quartz surfaces an uncomfortable notion. Capitalism is based on growth. But we appear to be reaching the limits of our finite planet. How can the two be reconciled? This article explores the conflict. “Can Apple keep growing without extracting anything more from the earth?

Apple already has steered billions of dollars into environmental efforts. But technology constraints, cost constraints, and the imperative to shore up its high standing with investors, mean the dream—of good old luxury consumerism but without the environmental consequences—is incredibly far from being a reality, especially bearing in mind that techniques for recycling some of the materials Apple uses haven’t yet been invented.

It’s easy to, offhandedly, completely exempt Apple from our environmental concerns, so this one is good food for thought.

• Finally, a question: “Why are so many AI systems named after Muppets?

One of the biggest trends in AI recently has been the creation of machine learning models that can generate the written word with unprecedented fluidity. These programs are game-changers, potentially supercharging computers’ ability to parse and produce language.

But something that’s gone largely unnoticed is a secondary trend — a shadow to the first — and that is: a surprising number of these tools are named after Muppets.

This article at The Verge explains why. Not mentioned. The need to make these creations feel less threatening. Maybe.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article(s) of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

16 thoughts on “Maybe There’s Room in Apple’s Lineup for a New Mac Model

  • John:

    Two of your selections stand out, in my opinion, Cassie Werber’s piece on Quartz at Work on Apple and renewable energy, and the piece on AI nomenclature, however time and space permit discussion of only one, namely that of renewables.

    Ms Werber posits an inherent conflict, if not contradiction, between the imperative of capitalism for growth vs sustainability or going ‘green’ and respecting the constraints of limited resources. I suggest that her proposed dilemma is less about capitalism per se than it is about free, open and competitive markets; these are not necessarily synonymous, particularly, as now, during a globally impactful tariff/trade war.

    This is not how she presents it, but there are three distinct issues inherent in the article; renewable energy, recycling of energy intensive resources, and models of sustainable growth both from an environmental and economic perspective. All three of these are weighty subjects, which only the foolish would attempt to shoehorn into a comment, so here goes.

    The tech giants provide an opportunity not simply to break from fossil fuel energy dependence, but to test new models of profit-making and sustainability (more on the latter below). Regarding fossil fuels, unlike the fossil fuel giants and big iron production plants of yore, there is neither the self-interest nor the functional dependence on fossil fuels for big tech. This is the first time that a convergence of two new industries, big tech and clean/renewable energy, have provided both an incentive (climate change and an activist consumer base) and a pathway (affordable and scalable clean/renewable energy production capacity) to make a clean (no pun intended) and sustainable break from fossil fuel dependent energy consumption for both operations and production. Little wonder then that Apple, a software, services and hardware manufacturing company should adopt this as the low hanging fruit and swiftly move to near-total completion in its supply chain. There remains real opportunity for the tech giants to compete on the most efficient, sustainable, and therefore competitive models for total renewable/clean energy use, to the benefit of other sectors to emulate, with modifications as needed, in near term. This will grow the clean energy sector and provide new employment opportunities, just as did our migration from whale oil to electricity.

    Regarding recyclables, Apple’s Lisa Jackson et al adopting 14 energy-intense materials to begin their commitment to 100% recyclables is smart, in that these will not only have the greatest environmental impact, thus providing the greatest environmental relief per product, but will provide a proof of concept that can then be extended other materials, both extant and future. The greatest challenge I see with attempting to reach 100% recyclable use of materials, particularly rare earths, is thermodynamic – entropy. There will always be some loss, so you never recoup 100%. It’s rather like the quest for the perpetual motion machine. I do not pretend to be an engineer, but it seems that there will inevitably have to be a topping up of materials in high demand, however good the recycling technology, unless there is to be a substantial expenditure of another energy/material resource to get closer to 100%. It will be interesting to see how Apple tackle this problem of entropy. In any case, we should not expect the achievement of 100% recycling of these materials to mean that all future extraction of raw materials will be eliminated, merely, and hopefully, substantially reduced.

    As for the third topic of models for sustainable growth, this is perhaps best reserved for another time, but one element is relevant here, provided that the laboratory in which these companies experiment is one of a truly free, open and competitive market, where companies are not adversely affected by protected and asymmetrical practices in production, labour and subsidies amongst competitors; namely, a redefinition of resources, products and investment. Specifically, this is about data, and whether they are to be regarded as a resource to be extracted from the user base, a product that can be bought, sold or traded between data brokers, or redefined as an investment toward company development and growth from the user base, who then have an investment interest in that company, and in whose growth and profits they share. Data are the new crude oil, and the user base who provide those data are more like the landowners where those deposits lie than they are like the crude itself, and should not only have a say in how their data are used, which data and by whom, but receive a dividend, monetary or otherwise, from its use. This is a complex topic, best suited for another time, but suffice it to say, treating data as a resource and a product in whose use the user is regarded as an investor and a co-beneficiary is a game changer with respect to the calculus of resource use and profit distribution, which will prove to be a game-changing paradigm shift that, too, will have an environmental and social impact, especially in low resource settings that are usually the most at-risk for the adverse effects of environmental degradation and climate change.

    Cheers.

  • Suppose Apple produced a compact desktop Mac with user-upgradable RAM and several thunderbolt 3/USB C ports for adding fast storage and an eGPU? They could call it the “mini Mac” or something.

  • As usual, a great collection of news-adjacent pieces. Thanks’s John. (Ding)

    Not another call for a Mac Pro Mini ! Just swallow your pride and buy a base model Mac Pro. You don’t need more than 8 cores for writing and podcasting and you can upgrade the rest at your leisure. So it’s a few shekels more in 2019 money, but that’s how Apple does business now… instead of introducing this year’s technology at last year’s price, Cook’s Apple has a new business model – charge more because we can.

    I understand it’s embarrassing to have an iMac Pro with your beautiful 49″ display beside the iMac Pro display that’s 10x the quality, even if it has more power than you need and lots of ports.

    As for privacy, that boat has sailed. Ultra Wideband giving position to within centimetres means Apple has jumped the shark. Ultra Wideband is not for you dear user’s it’s for the people that track you around their malls, stores and airports. Privacy has fallen the way of Do No Evil… it was a great gimmick, but you didn’t seriously think we could resist did you? Where are the calls for an option to disable Ultra Wideband on our Phones?? Crickets…

    The latest and greatest use I’ve heard for 5G is levying a carbon tax based on the miles people drive. No it wouldn’t be simpler to put a carbon tax on gas as it is sold, where would they get all your most personal driving and location data to on-sell based on the only internet business model that seems to work?

    No doubt AIs are named after muppets due to the mental age of those designing them, not to mention making them seem innocuous.

  • Amen to that. Even if I weren’t retired I probably wouldn’t have bought the current Mac Pro, although I owned previous generations. My current Mac is a 2012 quad-i7 Mini with lots of memory and upgraded with SSD. Today’s Mini is expensive and not upgradeable. Sad.

    What I would buy in a heartbeat is a Mac Mini Pro. Maybe with specs similar to iMac Pro but (a)upgradeable and (b)no screen ‘cos I like dual monitor setups.

  • There is no need to complicate things. Apple should make two things: a standalone Mac with the same power as the current iMac (not iMac Pro, which is much more expensive, consumes much more energy and is not needed by most users) with standalone 27-inch Thunderbolt 3 display; and Mac tablet. All with Intel x86 inside for compatibility with the rest of the world (95% Windows market share).

    And while at it, they should make also wired keyboard and mouse. Batteries are obnoxious for the environment, a pain to recharge and useless after several years stored. Besides the fire danger (imagine the ones stored in the garage or in museums).

    All-in-one computers should be forbidden by law, because they are a significant environmental aggression. CPU may last seven years until Apple macOS stops supporting it (another thing that should not be allowed), but displays may lasts for more than 20 years. Soldered CPU, RAM or SSD should not be allowed, as well as proprietary connectors or blocking using the ones from other sellers. Easy access to such parts should be compulsory.

    1. I partially agree with you. When the iMac was first introduced by Steve Jobs when he returned to Apple, it was billed as the ultimate consumer desktop computer: easy to setup and easy to use. Plug in one cable and you’re good to go. I still strongly believe there is room for the iMac in the lineup but as a consumer desktop as was originally envisioned.

      As far as pro desktop Macs go, I agree (and after thinking about it a little bit more) that Apple probably should make a mid-range, mid-tower with the guts of a 5K iMac but upgradeable RAM, SSD, GPU and support for up to 128GB RAM and sell it alongside the new Mac Pro.

      As for the Mac tablet. That’s wishful thinking. Apple’s been pretty adamant for the last 10 years that macOS is not coming to tablets.

    2. All-in-one computers should be forbidden by law, because they are a significant environmental aggression
      Seriously? Wouldn’t that outlaw laptops? They’re the very definition of an all in one computer. all in ones (and not just the iMac) take up less space. Granted they tend to “expire” before the screen does. But again, so do laptops.

      1. Of course not. Of course, I meant desktops. As I am not against batteries in mobile phones for obvious reasons. BTW, add wireless charging as yet another waste of energy. Except, again, of course, when wired charging is not possible for some reason. It is just common sense; the less common of the senses…

  • Not sure the Mac Pro stripped of its exotic hardware would be much cheaper since the exotic hardware does not come as standard. Sure, designing compatibility with MPX modules may have a cost, but MPX modules are just a clever way of using PCIe, power and video connectors at once. Getting rid of that feature is unlikely to save thousands of dollars…

  • People have been talking about a mid range headless Mac for years now. Is there a market? I think there would be. Do I expect Apple to make one? No, not based on their history.

    1. The solution for the headless Mac is right in people’s faces. All Apple needs to do is take the guts of the iMac / iMac Pro and put them into the trash-can Mac and re-engineer to inlcude user-upgradeable SSD storage & RAM.

      1. The iMac is easily the best value in the current Mac lineup. That’s probably going to be my next Mac after my current Mac Pro 5,1, unless this elusive prosumer headless Mac comes and offers modular storage (ideally with some space for multiple SSDs, possibly even SATA ones for very large storage needs) and user-upgradable graphic cards using a regular PCIe slot. This is very unlikely to happen in a trash can for factor, and would also imply that AMD restarts releasing graphic cards with a Mac EFI to keep the Apple native experience. How likely?

      2. I think the likelihood for a headless Mac that you described is low to zero. But you are right, the iMac and to an extent, the iMac Pro, are great values. On a side note, I think both of those computers are due for an update if not a redesign.

    2. This hasn’t happened and will never happen because a significant proportion of the people who will buy this mythical machine are serious hobbyist-tinkerers who will try all sorts of mods and expansions, will then require a disproportionate amount of tech support and genius time when the inevitable cock-ups occur, and complain online very loudly at every little tech mishap and tech support and warranty ‘injustice’ that they encounter.

      Higher support costs plus reputational damage. Sorry, Apple will never go for that.

      1. It isn’t inconceivable that Apple would produce another $3K modular desktop like the 2008 Mac Pro, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.