Apple’s Mac Pro Plans

Apple has unveiled plans for its new Mac Pro. The company did so in a meeting with five journalists and bloggers. You can read John Gruber’s account and see what went down.

The whole thing seemed improvised, from the various articles I’ve read. It’s almost as if Apple recently realized that their desktop Mac line-up is an embarrassment and decided to start planning to fix it. Nothing in the transcript of the meeting suggests that they’ve been working on this for any length of time. There is a mention of thermal issues, due to having two GPUs (video cards), but Apple surely knew about this problem at least two years ago, if not more.

The only thing that I can think is that Apple was ready to abandon the Mac Pro, but given the publicity around this moribund computer in recent months, realized that, even if they lose money on a new model, they need to have one. It’s like a concept car, in a way (though concept cars aren’t sold); it’s the hallmark of the company’s ability to innovate (my ass!).

The fact that Apple said they’re working on a new Mac Pro, but that it won’t be released this year, also suggests this is a new project. How long does it take to design a computer? If Apple throws resources at the project, they could certainly get something done sooner. There are only that many form factors that a computer can have, and, while making it look cool is certainly on their minds, they can decide on the shape of the body then work on the innards.

Another thing to bear in mind is that Apple has always been a company where a handful of senior executives micro-manage each product. The company doesn’t have any more senior executives than in the past, but they’re managing more products. In addition to the Mac, there’s the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, services, Apple Music, and one product that most people don’t think about: the new Apple campus. It seems difficult for Apple’s top team to be worrying about their new campus and still have enough time to take on a new product design. Remember that when Apple releases a new product such as an iPhone or iPad, they’re already working in its successor. Why didn’t they do this for the Mac Pro?

So the good news is that the biggest computer company in the world has announced they’ll come out with a new flagship computer at some point in the future. That doesn’t say very much. I was interested to hear that there will be pro models of the iMac down the road, but, again, how long can it take to design them?

Apple tried to reassure, and, on the surface, they may have done that. But the clock is ticking, and people will expect results. When Tim Cook said, at the 2013 WWDC, that there would be a new Mac Pro before the end of the year, that computer only shipped in limited quantities in the last days of the year.

Apple has dropped the ball on the desktop, and they’re playing catch-up. This doesn’t bode well for the future.