You Won't be Able to Afford Apple's New Mac Pro

An Inconvenient Mac Pro Truth

One of the arguments that had been used over the last year to lobby for a new, omigod fast Mac Pro from Apple was the parallel concept of a halo car. Previously, I had seen the terrific discussion by John Siracusa and thought it was a perfect argument for how Apple should proceed.

The crucial notion is that a top-of-the-line Mac Pro isn't a mass market product. Instead, like the GM Corvette or the Lexus LFA, it's designed to be a flagship product that represents the best that a company can do. It is its own marketing tool. See, for example, "The GM Corvette and the Apple Mac Pro Have Much in Common."

Not only will the new Mac Pro certify that Apple knows know to assemble the very best technologies, but it will also inspire us and give us something to dream about. That was my reaction expressed in "Apple’s New Mac Pro: Suitably Stunning and Staggering."

Just as some dream (at least I do) about being able to own a Lamborghini Aventador, we'll also dream about owning a new Mac Pro. And Apple is giving us plenty of time to embrace and solidify that dream before the price is revealed.

The Aventador. Image Credit: Lamborghini

This week, E. Werner Reschke at T-GAAP, started pondering the potential price of some configurations of the new Mac Pro. He argued, in his "Mac Pro Pricing" article, that not only must there be a willingness to buy, but the ability to buy. We all have the willingness in spades, I'm sure, but where I disagree is in his hypothesis that individuals must also have the ability to pay.

My opinion is that many might be engaging in a little bit of wish fulfillment for the past few weeks. As we know, this Mac Pro is designed for a special class of customers: scientists, researchers, plus "video editors, musicians, photographers, and graphic designers," according to Apple's Phil Schiller. In general, this is a class of professionals where the company pays for the computer, not individuals out of their own pocket. Amongst these are the corporate and government individuals who have been threatening for the last year to wrap up their workflow and defect to Linux on high end PC hardware. Apple wants to retain that group.

When you combine the ideas of a low volume, flagship product that is not paid for, in general, by individuals, it's hard not to arrive at the conclusion that this 7.5 teraflop black beauty isn't going to be as affordable as we may have hoped. It's the price we'll pay for the dream instantiated by Apple.

Mr. Reschke, with whom I correspond from time to time, and bless him, suggested a starting price of US$1799 and an advanced model at $2599. That is to keep it in line with previous Mac Pro models with the idea that current Mac Pro customers will want to be able to replace an aging machine. However, times have changed since the original Mac Pro and PowerMac G5 before it were conceived.  The powerful new iMacs of today can generally do what any individual needs to do.

I disagree here with Mr. Reschke on the pricing part. I don't think there wil be any model of the new Mac Pro that starts below $2,899. Of course, at this early stage, without a teardown and bill of materials, it's impossible to estimate an introductory price. However, until we know more, I'm thinking that this Mac is going to be just a little more expensive than most individuals would like, as much as I dread the thought.

The other thing that will happen is that there will be a lot of sour grapes expressed. Vocal customers will complain that this new Mac Pro is way too expensive for their taste, that they can put togther a vastly cheaper PC with off the shelf parts that is almost as good, and that Apple is surely doomed. Ironically, that'll be a sure sign that Apple hit the mark correctly.

Like that Lamborghini some keep dreaming about, many will feel a little annoyed that this black beauty isn't easily affordable for individuals. I'm thinking we'll just need to brace ourselves for the worst and hope for the best.

On to the week's interesting tech news.


Tech News Debris for the Week of June 24

Movies on rotating plastic aren't completely dead. For various practical reasons, many customers like to either own the movie or find it convenient to rent it from, say, Blockbuster, Netflix or Redbox. People who live in rural areas and are stuck with slow DSL lines are among them, but there's likely a Blockbuster nearby or a Redbox in the grocery store. Of course, Apple has to be aware of these demographics as it continues to develop its interest in home TV. "NPD: More People Watch Discs Than SVOD."

You might have missed this terrific discussion by Andrew Cunningham at ars about the new MacBook Air's 802.11ac Wi-Fi speeds. Additional credence was added because he consulted with Anand Shimpi. "OS X is holding back the 2013 MacBook Air’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi speeds." My guess is that it will be worked out soon: Apple is already collecting diagnostic data.

iOS 7 Image credit: Apple

You just know iOS 7 is going to be popular when, according to Jonny Evans, "...developers are already experiencing more traffic from users of the as yet unreleased iOS 7 than they do the two year-old iOS 5." Here's the remarkable story. "Apple's unreleased iOS 7 usage already on the rise." The mass market's desire for something new, fresh and better trumps the individual taste of columnists. Yet those very same people remain mystified by Apple's success.

I couldn't miss a chance to mention Rocco Pendola's reaction, at The Street , to last week's Particle Debris.

Apple is a company that uses sound principles of design to appeal to customers. In contrast, some other companies throw things at the wall, thinking that if some aspect of a partner's product is successful, then a variant will be too. It's not something we see from Apple. Here's the sad news for HTC. "Study: More than 90% of U.S. smartphone owners have no interest in Facebook Home."

Along those very same lines, Jonny Evans ponders the reaction Google is having to the expected new Apple products in the fall. It's an illuminating comparison of the two companies. This is must reading for Particle Debris regulars. "Opinion: Google starts its Android photocopiers as Apple preps for Fall."

Techopedia has been compiling a list of Apple experts to follow on Twitter. They're just getting started, and the list may leave out some important names, but if you're wondering which Apple experts you might follow on Twitter, here's a starting point. Click on the name to go to each author's Twitter page.

Finally, Apple's Passbook appears to be steadily growing in popularity. Here's a Passbook state-of-the-union article. "Why Apple's Passbook is growing on retailers."


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event of the week combined with a summary of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.