Apple’s Mac Pro conundrum

Want a Mac Pro? Michael Simon, writing for Macworld, lays out the basic problem:

In the first six months of 2016 we’ve seen new models of both the iPhone and iPad Pro, but the lone Mac to get any love is the newest member of the family. In April, the year-old MacBook received the kind of update MacBook Pro users have been waiting some 14 months for, with improved specs across the board: Speedier Skylake processors and graphics, an extra hour of battery life, faster SSD drives, and a new Rose Gold color option.

It’s worse on the desktop. While the iMac was refreshed in October 2015 to bring more pixels and processing power, the lowly Mac mini hasn’t had an upgrade since October 2014. And the Mac Pro has never been updated. The models on sale today have the exact same specs as the very first ones that rolled off the Texas assembly line back in December 2013. And if you’re looking for a display to go with it, good luck finding one made by Apple.

This feels like a pivot, a slow change to the base business model. Apple Inc. is not the same business it was when the iPhone was first rolled out. The publicly traded nature of the company requires larger investments, a focus on business elements that will move the needle at an ever widening scale.

My gut tells me a new MacBook Pro is in the works, the demand is palpable. But I’m not at all certain about a new Mac Pro.

One interesting aspect of this is pricing. When Apple first released the Mac Pro, the entry level model was $2,999, and the upgraded model (6-core instead of 4-core, more VRAM, upgraded GPU, more RAM) was $3,999. Those same models still sell for the same price, even though those models are now almost 3 years old and that technology is no longer best in class.

This is a problem for customers who want a best in class machine. Their options are limited if they want to stay with the Mac. I can only imagine that the revenue from Mac Pro sales does not move the needle much. My hope is that Apple will see this as part of the ecosystem and not as a standalone business.

Keep the Mac Pro’s coming, keep them best in class. Your developers will appreciate the refresh, having a machine that makes their code build so much faster. Your film-making customers will appreciate the faster renders. Your brand will appreciate the trickle-down loyalty a new Mac Pro will engender.

In short, don’t think of the Mac Pro as a business unit, think of it as a vital necessity in keeping the ecosystem vibrant.