Editorial: New Mac Pro highlights the gap Apple isn't filling

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 13
Apple now has a Mac for every type of user -- except for ones who want expandability more than they need a display or the power of the new Mac Pro.




It's a relief that we've got the new Mac Pro and so can finally stop talking about how Apple is ignoring a key market segment. For years, there's been this notion that Apple is doomed because it isn't addressing users who are therefore being driven to Windows. That's over.

Except that it isn't.

While we didn't and still don't buy into the idea that Apple is doomed because it chooses to not make a Mac for a certain market, we also don't think the range is complete yet. And when you look at the current lineup with that Mac Pro at the high end, the gap is startling.

Right now you can make a good case that Apple provides a clear Mac line. You can always lament the prices, but there is now a Mac for you whether you're a casual, occasional user or your job pushes technology to its limits ten times a day.

The way Apple shows its lineup, you'd think there was one for everyone.
The way Apple shows its lineup, you'd think there was one for everyone.


It's just that there is this big gap in the middle for users who need a little more power, a little expandability and no display. And it's a gap that would be filled by a tower or mini-tower Mac that sits between the iMac and the iMac Pro in price and performance.

Look at the lineup

If your work requires a Mac mini or a Mac Pro, you definitely know it. There's no ambiguity there, whereas there is some when you're trying to recognize whether you need an iMac or an iMac Pro.

Then, especially across the iMac Pro and now Mac Pro, there are far harder decisions to make about how many cores, how much RAM and so forth.

Those options are so varied that you can definitely configure an iMac to be close to a low-end iMac Pro. It's harder to say that about the difference between the iMac Pro and the Mac Pro coupled with, well, any monitor. Yet across this high end, the machines can get close enough to one another to make your buying decision difficult.

So the whole range is a lot muddier than Apple suggests. Instead of looking at every single one of the myriad build-to-order upgrade options, then, just take a look at the base entry prices for each model. When you do that, the gap is striking.

Missing link

The Mac mini starts at $799 and the next desktop Mac up is the iMac at $1,099. And at the other end of the scale, there's the iMac Pro which begins at $4,999, followed by the Mac Pro beginning at $5,999.

It's a marvellous machine, but the Mac mini has its limits
It's a marvellous machine, but the Mac mini has its limits


At the start of the range, there's a $300 price difference between the models. That's a good difference because it means you will probably tend to the cheaper one but you are likely to be able to stretch to the next if you decide you really need it.

Up at the top end, the difference is $1,000 and that's obviously much wider, but it again helps you make some price/performance decisions.

Yet in the middle, the gap between the iMac and the iMac Pro is $3,900.

Or just to drive this disparity home, look at it another way. From $0 to $999, Apple sells one desktop Mac. From $1,000 to $1,999, it sells one desktop Mac.

From $2,000 to $4,998, it sells none.

If this were just about how much money you'd like to give Apple, please, then you could configure different models. Or you could buy MacBooks in their various forms. The starting cost of those is $1,199 for the MacBook Air, $1,299 for the MacBook and also for the base MacBook Pro.

There are no desktop Macs or MacBooks with a base entry price between $1,300 and $4,998.

Filling the gap

Price is only a single measure, but Apple picks its price points and its entry specifications extremely carefully. Plus, with the price comes certain implications. Clearly, the more you're spending on a Mac, the more powerful a tool you're looking to get, for instance.

The iMac displays may be gorgeous but not everyone needs any full-time monitor at all
The iMac displays may be gorgeous but not everyone needs any full-time monitor at all


We can make more assumptions about users who'd benefit from a Mac in that enormous wasteland between the iMac and the iMac Pro. For example, they wouldn't be people who'd need the wallop of a Mac Pro, but they also wouldn't be ones for whom the Mac mini has enough punch.

Typically when you speak of what pro users need, you think of video makers because they are dealing with the most demanding of all tasks. Yet there are myriad jobs where you need power and don't care about video.

As demonstrated at WWDC, audio editors demand industry-leading low-latency, for instance, could use that power, but sometimes a monitor is practically just there to show that the Mac is on. Alternatively, with science or even statistical research, you probably don't even look at the Mac until it's finished working.

Consequently, it's a fair bet overall that if you're in this mid-range market, you don't need a monitor. A headless Mac, as the Mac Pro is, would be better for you than a regular iMac or iMac Pro.

If there's any other characteristic that identifies a demanding Mac user, too, it's how they have no single identifying characteristic. This is a market that is wildly fragmented and you know where this is going -- mid-range users need a modular Mac that they can customize to their work.

Enter the xMac

Enough people have spent enough time imagining what new Macs Apple could make that there is even a term for it. Depending on who you ask, it does different things and it costs different amounts, but the fictional two-decade old concept of the xMac is always the savior of whatever problem Apple appears to have at any given time.

For want of a better term, and we're really wanting to find one, we'd offer that an xMac could be a mini tower. It could be based on Intel's i9 processors instead of the more powerful and more costly Xeon. It could also have a range of GPU options and storage that is more easily upgradeable than in the Mac mini or iMac.

It could have a lot of things, but we're not here to build a fantasy Mac wishlist. We're just pointing out that there is a clear gap in the lineup.

And then why there could also be clear reasons why Apple isn't addressing it.

Apple knows who its customers are, and what they do

Apple does not make a Mac for you or us, it makes Macs for as many people as it possibly can. In that sense, the new Mac Pro is unusual because it is not going to sell in enormous numbers.

Other than that, though, the decisions over what Macs to make are legion -- and alongside all the technological ones, there are business issues to do with information Apple has that we never will.

Only Apple, for instance, knows how many Mac users ever upgrade their machines. We hear the clamor for modular, upgradeable Macs, but Apple actually knows how many users ever do anything with the facility.

The original and much-loved old Mac Pro
The original and much-loved old Mac Pro


We do know that it is a very small number. From the data AppleInsider collated during the days of the beloved old cheese-grater Mac Pro, we estimate that at its absolute highest, the figure was 5%.

That was before we had the more powerful Mac mini, and it was before the iMac Pro. On a pure price/performance calculation, at least some people who would previously have upgraded will now have chosen a higher-spec starting model instead.

Market forces

There is an argument -- it's specious, it's even ridiculous, but there are people making it -- that says Apple got the new Mac Pro wrong. In each case, the logic is that not everyone can afford it, therefore it isn't right for anybody.

That's like lambasting Tesla for making a high-end Roadster instead of an affordable motorbike. If you're going to criticize one product for just not being another product, you're beyond help.

And yet if we aren't going to say that Apple must or even should have a lower-cost, lower-spec Mac tower in the range, we are going to say that it could.




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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 133
    Absolutely spot on piece.  

    It IS an editorial, but some lines come across as a little defensive...  

    “...you’re beyond help...” might not be well received.   :)
    mike54runswithforkmaltzviclauyycdysamoria
  • Reply 2 of 133
    Apple wants to redefine what a computer is, what computing is, so the lack of an xMac is a strategic decision. That product feels too much of a traditional PC to me. I don’t think that product is on their roadmap at all - nor should it be. Leaving out that PC style computer forces themselves to think of new form factors and new concepts.
    The Mac Pro is a product they’d rather not have from a design and form factor perspective because it’s a classic lump of aluminum. But their positioning for ultra end-user allowed them to go wild with design again and accept the traditional PC form factor. The xMac however is exactly the target audience and type of computing they would not want to deal with. 

    What is ready for serious innovation to close that gap is the iMac form-factor. Detaching the screen from the computer, or at least making the computer ‘module’ replaceable, or sit under/behind the monitor, would be both better for the environment, cost to consumer and help  take design aesthetics to the next level, which for the current iMac lineup feels dated.
    edited June 13 dtb200noeloschasmrandominternetpersonnot_antonmacpluspluscaladanianlolliverbb-15cornchip
  • Reply 3 of 133
    noelosnoelos Posts: 103member
    Not going to happen. With all the BTO options now available, there actually is a pretty smooth gradation from low-end to high and a reasonable cross-over point from the iMac to iMac Pro.

    There’s also that nice 4-quadrant view of entry/pro and modular/all-in-one. Like it or not the Mac Mini is your modular option with external components fleshing out anything you can’t build to order. I would love if that also included a midrange display but I’m pretty sure it won’t. 

    The Mac range is in a better state than it has been for ages (particularly if they replace the MacBook Pro soon with something slightly more flexible). Expect incremental upgrades across rear of the line only for the next couple of years.
    chasmStrangeDaysmacpluspluslolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 133
    Why does anyone need expandability.  Apple knows what you need, better than you do.  Pay attention to what they give you, and you'll be just fine.

    Oh yeah, /s
    williamlondon80s_Apple_Guyrain22Carnage
  • Reply 5 of 133
    xp17xp17 Posts: 4member
    Modular PC or Mac is a big lie. In reality you can change graphic card or SSD. Thats all and this also you can do with Mac mini/ TB3. It's enough that Intel will change the size of the chip or chipset and you'll have to buy a new motherboard. After a few years you have to buy almost all new computer. Only the housing and power supply can be used.
    randominternetpersonStrangeDaysmacplusplusvirtualshiftstompylolliver
  • Reply 6 of 133
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,262member
    AI said:
    There is an argument -- it's specious, it's even ridiculous, but there are people making it -- that says Apple got the new Mac Pro wrong. In each case, the logic is that not everyone can afford it, therefore it isn't right for anybody.

    This is my biggest complaint about the new Mac Pro, and admittedly, it's not really about the Mac Pro or Apple.

    It's about the people whining 'What about MEEeeeeee!' It wouldn't seem like a whine if the complainers first, at least, got the above part right. That the Mac Pro was never meant to be right for the rest of us, or even a fraction of the rest of us.

    I just don't see Apple making an xMac. I think it would cut into mini sale big time. I do like the idea, and while I don't need such a Mac, I'd snap one up in a heartbeat. Like many users, having a Mac that lets me actually and easily swap out RAM, storage, contains at least two storage drives (swappable) and one discrete, swappable video card, would give me some user cred that I could brag about.

    Naturally there are other users (prosumers) who could make actual use of such a box and it's not my intention to denigrate them.

    I only skimmed the article (for the time being) and maybe this was addressed, but I think the mini only exists because there isn't an xMac. I like the idea (of course I do!) of user upgradeability. 

    Even the new MP may have a fly in that ointment – what will be the upgrade path for internal storage? The need has been hotly debated. Regardless, are we (LOL, as if!) limited to getting more internal storage via CTO or buying modules only from Apple? Early days, yes, so this may not be a consideration. There might be third-party solutions but then again if you can afford it in the first place, extra Apple bits won't be a problem.

    But I'd be down for some form of xMac (code named Smack Down). The Apple team has rested long enough! :smiley: 



  • Reply 7 of 133
    jdwjdw Posts: 742member
    A long-winded defense of the status quo intended to make Mac-loving readers feel ashamed for wanting more.

    How awful!
    williamlondonrain22
  • Reply 8 of 133
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,604administrator
    jdw said:
    A long-winded defense of the status quo intended to make Mac-loving readers feel ashamed for wanting more.

    How awful!
    Read the article for comprehension next time. That is 100% not the point.

    FTA: "If there's any other characteristic that identifies a demanding Mac user, too, it's how they have no single identifying characteristic. This is a market that is wildly fragmented and you know where this is going -- mid-range users need a modular Mac that they can customize to their work."
    edited June 13 gatorguywilliamlondonSanctum1972roundaboutnowmuthuk_vanalingamJWSCfastasleepbb-15watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 133
    Good thoughts and absolutely correct! Why couldn’t they just update and rebrand the previous generation Mac Pro to serve the middle? It’s sleek cylindrical design and small footprint is perfect for whatever you want to do; it is somewhat upgradable, and it doesn’t look like a cheese grater or any other tower available today. 😎
    virtualshiftcornchiplmgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 133
    Apple design their products based on the use/experience they're trying to cater, each Mac has a clear purpose, the price is secondary and largely psychologically driven. The Mac Mini, iMac and MacPro are all desktop computers - yet each deliver the concept in a unique way.

    Thus identifying a gap in the lineup isn't about looking at what comes after the dollar sign for each model's entry price. Instead it's about looking at what users aren't being satisfied. The price argument also falls over when fully mapping the BTO options - you'll find that not only are gaps few and small, but there is significant overlap across models.

    More simply, a person who wants a mac mini doesn't just switch to an iMac when their budget increases - the mac mini serves a purpose that the iMac can't (and vice versa.)

    But if all that is not enough to convince you, Apple once made the PowerMac G4 Cube - it sat right in the described void between iMacs and PowerMacs - and it fizzled badly, not because it was a bad computer, or poorly priced, but because it didn't deliver anything that the iMac or PowerMac didn't already do. Those who needed the PowerMac ignored it, and those who were trying to go economical chose the iMac.
    edited June 13 n2itivguyrandominternetpersonnot_antonStrangeDaysmacplusplusadamclolliverbb-15FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 133
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,070member
    noelos said:
    Not going to happen. With all the BTO options now available, there actually is a pretty smooth gradation from low-end to high and a reasonable cross-over point from the iMac to iMac Pro.

    There’s also that nice 4-quadrant view of entry/pro and modular/all-in-one. Like it or not the Mac Mini is your modular option with external components fleshing out anything you can’t build to order. I would love if that also included a midrange display but I’m pretty sure it won’t. 

    The Mac range is in a better state than it has been for ages (particularly if they replace the MacBook Pro soon with something slightly more flexible). Expect incremental upgrades across rear of the line only for the next couple of years.
    Yeah, the BTO options certainly allow buyers to option-up MacMini, iMac, and MacBook Pro based models to fill in a lot of what this article identifies as gaps in price-performance targets. The price deltas mentioned are in-fact filled with BTO configurations, except on the very low end, e.g. 0-$999. However, I do agree that Apple does not currently offer, and hasn't offered for a very long time, a mid-range internally expandable Mac that competes head-to-head with Windows towers and mini-towers. Even then, I suspect that the vast majority of Windows PC buyers never pop the lid on their towers and mini-towers after selecting the base set of components at the time of purchase. There are still post-purchase benefits of having internally modifiable and replaceable components from a repairability and upgradeability standpoint, but again, you're probably into a very small percentage of buyers who actually take advantage of this capability.

    Apple is doing its best where it needs to be doing its best at serving a broad base of customer's needs. There will always be niches that Apple goes after to bolster its public image and flex its muscles as a technology leader even when the numbers don't add up. However, there will always be some unfilled niches that Apple can afford to overlook because the ROI, financially and from a street cred standpoint, just don't make it worth their investment. Apple doesn't expect to have 100% market share, so why chase the law of diminishing returns in a strive for perfection when it is always unattainable?


    mwhitechasmStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 133
    SEJUSEJU Posts: 44member
    I have to admit that my judgment on the Mac Pro is suspended until I get all facts and specs in autumn, though first impression is great!

    For what it is worth I will never buy either a Mini nor an iMac, for my usage case they are not acceptable. I am currently a proud owner of a Mac Pro 5.1 12 3,46, which is still going strong.

    I might consider a new Mac Pro in a few years time, since I won’t buy first generation nor PCIe 3.0, ten years after it has been introduced. That is also why I never updated to the 2013 MP ... no update ...

    Nevertheless, the price for the base config of the 2019 MP appears too high for what you get and I am already afraid of Apple’s euro adjusted price !!! I suspect 2019 MP base config + Apple care = 7000,- to 8000,- euro
    runswithforkwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 133
    The best way to pitch this to Apple is from a sustainability point of view. When the computer or display dies, one half of an iMac is still a functional part (computer or monitor) - that becomes waste. Modular iMac? What if they made an expandable MacMini (ram and dedicated GPU expansion) but simply required a matching Apple monitor to be sold with it. It makes sense, since the downside of an Xmac sale for Apple is the loss of a monitor sale.
    edited June 13 chasm
  • Reply 14 of 133
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,255member
    I already said the exact same thing in an earlier article's comments.  That exact price range.  The answer IMHO is a what is basically an iMac without a screen in a mid-sized tower with BTO options from $2-4K.  Four slots, options in CPUs (not sure of i5 through i9 or even Xeon is feasible) and GPUs, both replaceable, user accessible RAM slots and a host of I/Os using the latest standards.  Optional Apple Keyboard with touch bar.  

    This would be for serious amateurs and self-employed professionals that cannot justify the new Mac Pro which again IMHO will not sell many entry-level versions since any pro working with a good budget will want that beast upgraded at least to a mid range at around $12,000 or more.  That's not a lot in the video, printing/graphics industries.

    The $2K I'd save over an entry-level Mac Pro would go on the new Sony 200-600mm G lens :)
    edited June 13 chasm-hh (2017)
  • Reply 15 of 133
    I love my iMac 5K, but it is not expandable at all, and extremely cumbersome to upgrade the whole machine.

    Apple should be offering a base model of the Mac Pro for $2999 and a 27" 5K display for $999.

    That is well within my budgetary range for a work Mac. And it would get me a lot more mileage than an of-the-shelf iMac will. I would be happy to put another $1000/year or so into the machine for upgrades for the next 5-10 years. So in 10 years, it would still be a beast with relatively modern components.

    ----

    The actual product delivered from Apple is perfectly fine for some people. It is not overpriced for what it offers. Not even close. Unfortunately it offers too much for most Pros.

    Sadly, I think this is the latest example of Apple's greedy pattern of pushing everyone toward spending more. They've had (some) success with delivering products that are way over what the market indicates they're willing to pay...and getting them to pay it anyway. Here they think they can convince (some) Pros to up their game, break their bank, and buy more than they need to get into expandability range.
    edited June 13 williamlondon
  • Reply 16 of 133
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,255member
    I love my iMac 5K, but it is not expandable at all, and extremely cumbersome to upgrade the whole machine.

    Apple should be offering a base model of the Mac Pro for $2999 and a 27" 5K display for $999.

    That is well within my budgetary range for a work Mac. And it would get me a lot more mileage than an of-the-shelf iMac will. I would be happy to put another $1000/year or so into the machine for upgrades for the next 5-10 years. So in 10 years, it would still be a beast with relatively modern components.
    I think the editorial is correct, not a lower priced Mac Pro, rather a new machine altogether that fits your needs (see my post above yours)
    edited June 13
  • Reply 17 of 133

    Apple design their products based on the use/experience they're trying to cater, each Mac has a clear purpose, the price is secondary and largely psychologically driven. The Mac Mini, iMac and MacPro are all desktop computers - yet each deliver the concept in a unique way.

    Thus identifying a gap in the lineup isn't about looking at what comes after the dollar sign for each model's entry price. Instead it's about looking at what users aren't being satisfied.
    That is simply not true when the gap is this big. The gap between my iMac 5K and the Mac Pro + XDR Display is outrageous.

    The iMac 5K:
    1. Is not expandable at all, beyond a modicum of RAM.
    2. Has no external 5K display to mate with (3rd party doesn't count, nor interest me).
    3. Is a substantial PITA to upgrade the whole machine, and completely limited to whatever/whenever Apple releases a new one.

    Just in terms of experience, the gap is gaping. In terms of price, I bought a $4,000 iMac, but would need to invest a minimum of $11k to get into the experience of "expandability and standalone Apple display".

    There are a hell of a lot of Pros who want to get into "expandability and standalone Apple displays" and can't go as high as 11k for an initial investment. Every $1000 increment is an entirely different market segment, and income level. You look at the range of prices between other Macs and they are all within the same ranges.
    edited June 13 gatorguy
  • Reply 18 of 133
    nchianchia Posts: 123member
    I have a Classic Mac Pro tower and I love the ability to put in more RAM, hard drives, SSDs, graphic cards, USB cards etc, etc.

    Guess how much of the upgrades I get from Apple?

    An xMac may make a lot of sense for some, but I dare say not for Apple!
    dtb200randominternetpersonwilliamlondonbb-15
  • Reply 19 of 133
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,032member
    MacPro said:
    I already said the exact same thing in an earlier article's comments.  That exact price range.  The answer IMHO is a what is basically an iMac without a screen in a mid-sized tower with BTO options from $2-4K.  Four slots, options in CPUs (not sure of i5 through i9 or even Xeon is feasible) and GPUs, both replaceable, user accessible RAM slots and a host of I/Os using the latest standards.  Optional Apple Keyboard with touch bar.  

    This would be for serious amateurs and self-employed professionals that cannot justify the new Mac Pro which again IMHO will not sell many entry-level versions since any pro working with a good budget will want that beast upgraded at least to a mid range at around $12,000 or more.  That's not a lot in the video, printing/graphics industries.

    The $2K I'd save over an entry-level Mac Pro would go on the new Sony 200-600mm G lens :)
    What's wrong with the base Mac Pro? Isn't that what you're asking for? Add your own monitor and you have a headless iMac Pro with the ability to grow. If you want fewer RAM slots, a non-Xeon processor, and still want internal expansion, then you'll need to pay for those features. I think the iMac Pro is a fantastic computer and it's still expandable, just not inside the enclosure, everything has to be added externally, which is also the way many things would be added to the Mac Pro.
    chasmstompyneutrino23
  • Reply 20 of 133
    dtb200dtb200 Posts: 39member
    I'm 100% no expert on this but can you 'daisy-chain' Mac Minis in some way to create an in-between solution?
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