The GM Corvette and the Apple Mac Pro Have Much in Common

Companies that claim they make the very best product of its kind but then waffle on selling low volume, premium, awe inspiring, likely very expensive high end products will implicitly lose credibility. That seems to be the discussion around the Mac Pro lately. Will Apple's next Mac Pro light the world on fire? Or just be a case of slash and burn?



Last week, I pointed to a good article about the charisma of the Mac Pro. In case you missed it, here it is again. The argument was that, independent of profits and market share, certain companies need a flagship product, kind of like the "halo cars" built by car companies. GM doesn't make enormous money on the Corvette*, but it's a car of dreams and drives technology into the other products. The same for Chrysler and the Viper, Lexus and the LFA, Honda and the NSX, and so on. If a company is incapable of building the very best and the fastest, then the rest of the product line is suspect.

The other side of the coin is what influential professionals say about your expertise as a company. Early this week, Josh Lowensohn at CNET wrote a thought provoking article about that. "Why Apple's secrecy is frustrating Mac Pro customers." He quoted an Apple OS beta tester who did want to be named:

"For creative professionals, 10.6.8 was the last true powerful operating system from Apple ... 10.7 and 10.8 are like Microsoft's Windows Vista -- bloated, buggy blingware. They are focused so heavily on the consumer that they made the machines terribly inefficient for those using them eight to 10 hours a day."

I don't quote this lightly -- or with malice. I know that Apple increasingly wants to make its Macs appealing to the everyday customer, not the UNIX professional. And it isn't likely that the average Apple customer in an Apple retail store has, tucked in his or her jacket, a printout from Datamation or InfoWorld.

Image Credit: General Motors

Even so, when we read Car & Driver, we get a feel for who the players are. They race. They build super "halo" cars. They flaunt their expertise. They push to the edge. And with Apple, a company that says it only makes the very best, the claim rings hollow for influential industry professionals who see Apple simplifying their products to the point where they can't be used effectively. It would be like BMW abandoning all the M-series cars and driving down market only to the 1-series.

That, in turn, from what I've seen elsewhere, is bringing professionals to the idea of abandoning Apple's legacy of quality and moving to Linux if Apple doesn't provide a first-class Mac Pro. I've already gotten an earful from a senior MUG person how Apple has dumbed down its OS X Server product. It's not just about simplification and broad appeal. It's about that plus perceptions that you also know how to and love to build the very best for the top end too. But there has to be a champion or two in the company to do that.

Anyway, you can read all about it in the link above and judge for yourself.

Tech News Debris

Mike Elgan, writing for Cult of Android, explains why there's a huge problem with mobile wireless, why he's never going to sign another carrier contract and why Google has a special incentive to solve the problem. "How Google Could Solve Mobile’s Biggest Problem."

Horace Dediu has put together another amazing analysis of Android use. Apparently, the phenomenal growth of Android is only outside the U.S. "The iPhone is growing considerably faster in the U.S. than Android. "Mr. Dediu explains why in "Where are the Android users?" This may be part of the story explaining why so much Internet activity, especially shopping, is attributed to iOS.

Samsung has not been kind to Windows 8. "Samsung executive and IDC analyst agree: Windows 8 needs serious help." Meanwhile, here's some data on Surface sales to put into context compared to the Apple iPad. "Microsoft’s Surface Tablet Is Said to Fall Short of Predictions." I wonder what Microsoft will do about all this.

I write a lot about Google Glass because I personally think it's going to be an exciting product. Some readers, however, have expressed concern because they already wear prescription lenses. Now there's hope: "Google Glass Will Get Prescription Lenses." Of course, some writers have already explored the creepy things you may be able to do with Google Glass. "5 Socially Unacceptable Things You're Going To Do With Google Glass." Note: the author didn't make it clear whether or not user photos will be a feature of Google Glass. I'm checking...

Here's an analysis of how Apple's Passbook has fared so far and how the competition is sizing up. "iPhone Passbook: Six months on and it still disappoints." Even so, the author concludes, "Passbook may have got off to a slow start but it's going to be a marathon ahead, not a sprint."

As you know, I am not a big fan of all the negative writing about Apple because I don't think it represents solid, technical analysis. Rather, it's just a way to use Apple's name sensationally to make money. However, if you want to get a feel for how a good writer sizes up Apple's plight, I can recommend "The 'iPhone 5S' problem," by Rene Ritchie at iMore . And then move to the other side and see how CNET's Shara Tibken sizes up Samsung's challenge. "Beyond the Galaxy S4 hype: What now, Samsung?" It's getting tougher and tougher to compete with massive technology developments and leapfrog the competition. It's now like a game show, "Who do You Trust?"

Finally, for dessert, here's some tech candy about the complexities of offering video content to customers. "Why You Can Watch 'NCIS' on Your iPad, but Not 'Big Bang Theory'". It makes your head hurt, but it explains a few things about broadcast rights and the advertising forces at work. Good stuff from Peter Kafka at All Things D.


* Of course, I must confess in advance that I don't think the Corvette is the very, very best of the super cars. (However, if anyone wants to gift me a C7, I'll take it.)  I use it solely as an example of a big American company that sells a lot of quality cars to average customers, but remains committed to a low volume, high end halo car.