Saturday, June 16, 2012

Does Apple really care about the pros?

***This is a Mac fanboy article. If you are offended by things of an Apple nature, please look away now. Thank you.***

The recent keynote by Apple at the WWDC in San Francisco last week saw a slew of announcements, detailing new Macs and updated software. One thing that was obviously missing was a replacement for the ageing Mac Pro line (which has remained unchanged for almost two years). Shortly after, Apple quietly introduced new Mac Pros with minor speed bumps and not much else. The forums were filled with rants by hundreds of Mac users who were stunned by such a hollow and insignificant update.

The Mac Pro has always been the powerhouse machine used by creative professionals working in graphics, video and music. More expensive than the consumer iMacs, they have always been regarded as the kit to go to when extra grunt and stamina was needed for high-level graphics-intensive work.

Now, it seems, the pros are being left behind.

Compared to PC offerings, the top level Macs no longer match performance and speed for a comparable price. True, Macs have always been pricier, but it's becoming more and more difficult to justify paying a premium for what is a much older machine. The only thing going for the Mac is the user friendly and more stable Mac OS, but even that's just not good enough on its own.

Since the appearance of the 'new' Mac Pros, Apple have backtracked a bit and are no longer calling them new, and Tim Cook (Steve Jobs' replacement as Apple's CEO) as well as Apple spokespeople have assured users that Pro users are important to the company and that new Mac Pros are in the works (although not for another year).

I can't help but sympathise with the frustrated Mac community. They are a largely faithful bunch and invest time, money and energy into sticking with Apple, even when they feel largely ignored.  I too, was hoping for new Pros, only because I'm hoping that we may be in the position at work to invest in new kit. The way things are at the moment, I wouldn't want to invest in outdated hardware, even if it is from Apple.

Apple's relationship with professionals seems to have soured over the last few years or so. The high-end motion graphics suite 'Shake' was dropped. The Xserve server line was discontinued. Final Cut Pro's latest version appalled hardened editors, driving them back to Avid and Adobe. The insane focus on satisfying consumer's desires for iPods, iPhones and iPads. This might not sound much, but to pros it's a big deal.

Apple's latest Macbook Pros are sleek, sexy and – for notebooks – pretty fast. They've got the latest bits of fiddly hardware and widgets that give them plenty of oomph. And, of course, they do have the word 'Pro' in the title. So does that mean Apple means it when they say they haven't forgotten the pros?
RIP Mac Pro

Not exactly – I think they are thinking of the pros, but not in the way the pros would like them to. I think they're thinking of something pretty radical. Apple has always been about pushing forward onto the next thing. They were the company that ditched floppy drives in place of optical drives. They embraced USB while the PC manufacturers dragged their feet. They've begun to eliminate optical drives now. Okay, maybe Apple wasn't the first to do these things, but because of the influence Apple has, these decisions have sent ripples across the PC industry.

Apple may well have something huge up their sleeve. They're just not ready for it yet. Correction – we're not ready.

It took several years to convince us that floppies were outdated, clunky tech. Now, they have been consigned to history. Us poor punters need time to adjust to an ever-changing and unfamiliar technological world.

I suspect high-end desktops will be going the way of the floppy too, and Apple will be dragging the pros kicking and screaming into the next evolutionary stage of the computer.

Do I have any idea what they might be thinking? Well, I could guess. Cloud-based computing, perhaps. Imagine having a pro desktop at your fingertips wherever you are. No need for a laptop. Just a tablet (or Über-tablet). How that would work using high-end applications like Final Cut Pro, I don't know but I'm sure the Apple guys are working on it.

It makes me uncomfortable because it's daring and unfamiliar and scary – and most pros wouldn't like it either, but the people at Apple know they're right.

And they don't give a damn what we think.