TMO Daily Observations 2015-11-24: The Big Mac Pro Smackdown

| Daily Observations Podcast

Apple introduced the tube-shaped Mac Pro over two years ago, but never followed up with any updates or improvements. Bryan Chaffin and John Martellaro join Jeff Gamet to look at the state of the Mac Pro, what alternatives are available to pro-level users, and whether or not John Kheit got it right when he called the new Mac Pro a failure.

TMO Daily Observations 2015-11-24: The Big Mac Pro Smackdown

Nov. 24, 2015 — Download: MP3 Version (AAC Version Coming Soon)

TMO Daily Observations



Something else to consider - the Mac was formerly driven by features like iMovie, iPhoto, etc., needs that online tools and social media now handily address. There are indeed more consumers than pros, and anyone with the internet can access tools that are good enough. Still, professionals have to create those tools and content on something, so there is still a valid argument for supporting the pro user even if you disregard strictly number crunching based functionality, and you can’t run things like Xcode on a Wintel or Linux box natively in spite of how many cores they may boast. Nevertheless, the thought that Apple could even be a hot and successful consumer oriented company would have elicited fits of laughter back in the day.


PS - I would have thought my own statement was heresy at one time, but: if Apple wants to focus on iOS (and make no mistake, I love my iOS devices) and decides to spin off OS X to other manufacturer’s hardware rather than focus on the hardware themselves, at this point in time I’d be all over it. I can’t do without OS X, I could use more power. I can dream.


Hmm… You know, spinning off Mac/OS-X systemsinto a seperate company would really make a lot of sense. Free from Ive and the rerst of the Flatter-Thinner-Lighter crowd pushing iOS, they could go back to making high quality computers “for the rest of us”. Think of how many things a company focussed only on Mac/OS-X and the associated software could fix. Bring back a server. Have a real Pro workstation class system. It’s a very intriguing idea.


Given that their main source of revenue is related to iOS devices these days, it might make more sense than it used to, at the least. Again, I can dream. smile


I would like to point out that Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro are the long running top grossing apps in the App Store; which says to me that there is still a strong base of creative pros who use Macs.

I think the point about the majority of Apple’s revenue coming from iOS devices so they don’t care about Macs anymore is a fallacy.  Toyota’s main revenue is from the Camry, but they are perfectly able to produce all kinds of other cars, SUVs, and trucks for specific users.

My feelings about the Mac Pro (2013 model) is that it is the group cluster or node Mac Pro.  I imagine that the people at Pixar absolutely love the 2013 Mac Pro.  It can sit nearly silent on their desk; connect to the big super computer or server in the basement; and they can work on their individual piece of a much larger project with relative ease.  They don’t need tons of internal storage because everything is collectively stored on the server.

On the other hand, if you are a small business or independent creative pro, then the Mac Pro is missing a lot because they do not have a super-powerful server or render farm in their basement.  These creative pros are also doing the bulk of a project’s work, and not just working on some smaller piece.  For the independent creative pro everything needs to be there, or at least have the capability to be there, so they can customize their machines to fit their tasks.

I would agree that if I were to buy a pro level Apple computer today I would get a maxed out 5K iMac and not the 2013 Mac Pro.

Lastly, I think we need to stop blaming Apple for Adobe making inefficient software.  For a long time I bought Apple’s best hardware hoping it would make Adobe’s software better when I should have been demanding Adobe make better software. 

I have moved away from Adobe’s software to the independent developers (Pixelmator, Affinity, Sketch) and have been just shocked at how good the performance is compared to Adobe.  For example, Affinity Designer is at version 1.3, and it can smoke my copy of Illustrator CS6.  Sure I can name some plug-in or filter I would like to have, but overall I don’t miss Adobe.


Overall, there’s three real issues here.

The first is what productivity application are you going to use for your workflow.  Apple has been systematically deconstructing their ecosystem and in dong so is losing their product differentiation.  Being successful in product differentiation is what allows a supplier to avoid falling off of the mountain and into the race for the bottom via the narrow profit margins of commodity products. 

Second, on elements of data storage and adaptability, the key observation is *not* if the nMP is able to have some capability, but rather what the cost of having that capability is.  While not as good as a native internal PCIe card, Thunderbolt is good—but expensive, so it fails on its value proposition compared to the legacy:  it is an example where “new” wasn’t also better.  For a good design exercise, compare & contrast 16TB of bare drives for internal installation in a legacy Mac Pro versus a Thunderbolt based Pegasus R4. 

Third ... there’s always a “Halo” effect in products, and what the story is here is that those who buy the top of the line are also some of your best word-of-mouth evangelists…

...but with iOS now being ~80% of the company’s revenues, the result is that the Mac division as a whole is not only being neglected, but is also being cannibalized and stripped of its talent for the future.  In this regards, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with the panelists and suspect that the 2013 Mac Pro may very well be the end of the line.

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