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The Mac Pro: Right Bet, Wrong Horse

Written by

Mark Wolinski

I originally wrote this piece in mid-2017, I still think it’s relevant.

Introduced in 2013 with the click-bater comment, “Can’t innovate anymore, my ass,” the 2013 Mac Pro was previewed. It’s all black, aluminum cylinder design was stunning to look at, plus the power professional users would need for years to…well, okay, maybe not years to come.

The problem, it turns out is that the design makes it nearly impossible for Apple to give it regular upgrades, much less end users who can’t throw away computers every year to get upgrades. So, Apple is throwing in the towel and redesigning the Mac Pro from the ground up to be more upgradable. So instead of Apple having to stay ahead of the upgrade cycle, users can upgrade their machines more frequently. Apple just needs to provide a good enough machine for professionals to use who’ll upgrade them as they need it.

It’s interesting because the Mac Pro shares some characteristics with another failed Apple machine, the Mac Cube.

The Mac Pro had a central ventilation system that was designed to cool the machine by pulled hot air out of the top of the machine (remember, hot air rises), much the same way the Mac Cube did.

Unfortunately, the Mac Cube had it’s own set of problems and eventually was cancelled by Steve Jobs himself during a conference call with investors. But boy, was it stunning to look at in it’s day.

The Mac Pro was a gamble, sorry, was a scramble by the company to come up with something to appease the professional market while wanting to make the machine lust worthy. It worked on the second part, but not so much on the first part.

Apple made the right bet on the wrong horse.

The Mac Pro had a lot going for it. An innovative design that would look great on your desktop.

Except professionals mostly don’t work in environments were they care about showcasing their computer on their desktop. At best, it’s probably hidden behind massive displays or under the desk in the corner.

But who cares about how computers look? Consumers!

The Mac Pro should have been the new generation of the Mac Mini. Those are the machines that sit on desktops. They are also used as media machines sitting in the living room.

Certainly not the same size, but if the Mac Pro was half the size, it would have been an amazing replacement for the Mac Mini. You didn’t need all of the ports that the Pro had and certainly not all of the horsepower built into it.

It was certainly doable. Look at this photo of the inside of the Macbook introduced last year.

That’s the whole computer, smaller then an iPhone Plus.

The problem is, you can’t innovate on your least expensive computer. I would have hoped a year or so of production would have allowed Apple to then introduced a smaller, consumer friendly version of the Mac Pro. Hell, an even smaller version of it for the Apple TV would have been nice.

That computer, I think would have lived on and been extremely popular.

Unfortunately, the Mac Pro now gets relegated to the status of the Mac Cube and the Twentieth Anniversary Mac. Innovative products that failed in the marketplace.

Big bets sometimes have big failures. It doesn’t mean you stop trying to make these leaps in design because they eventually may eventually become something more successful in the right market. The Twentieth Anniversary Mac would inspire the iMac in some ways. The Mac Cube certainly inspired the Mac Pro.

Maybe we’ll see a system that the Mac Pro inspires become a home run. We’ll have to wait and see.

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