Why now is the time to re­turn to desk­top Macs

2017 is the year of the desk­top, ar­gues Dan Moren

Macworld - - Contents -

The desk­top is back. Okay, sure, tech­ni­cally the desk­top never left. But over the last decade, we’ve in­creas­ingly fo­cused on mobile de­vices: tablets, smart­phones, even lap­top com­put­ers, which make up the bulk of Ap­ple’s – and prob­a­bly other PC mak­ers – sales.

But this year, one mes­sage you could have eas­ily taken away from Ap­ple’s WWDC key­note is that there’s still plenty of love for not just the Mac

plat­form, but the desk­top com­puter specif­i­cally. Hav­ing just pur­chased a new iMac of my own, I can per­son­ally vouch for it: some­times, there’s no re­place­ment for a desk­top.

The full desk­top press

There hasn’t been much talk since that key­note of Ap­ple’s com­mit­ment to the Mac. It’d be hard to argue against it, given that the com­pany not only an­nounced re­vi­sions to an ex­ist­ing desk­top Mac line – the iMac – as well as a new tier on top of that – the iMac Pro – but also clar­i­fied that the top of the line pro­fes­sional-level desk­top that it promised sev­eral months back was still in the off­ing. Put all that to­gether and it’s a whole lot of desk­top.

And that’s sur­pris­ing, be­cause over the last sev­eral years, Ap­ple’s Mac sales – like much of the PC mar­ket – have skewed heav­ily to­wards the por­ta­ble side. To put this even fur­ther in per­spec­tive, de­pend­ing on how you break it down – that is, if you con­sider the iMac Pro a sep­a­rate prod­uct from the iMac – Ap­ple will soon be selling more lines of desk­tops than lap­tops. (Thanks, not-dead-yet Mac mini!)

Granted, push­ing hard on the desk­top lines could also mean that Ap­ple sees a far bet­ter prospect for growth on the desk­top side than the lap­top side, which is heav­ily sat­u­rated. Ap­ple’s also long fo­cused on the con­sumer mar­ket, which has likely been drawn to lap­tops thanks to their ver­sa­til­ity and price. But the com­pany has started to make fo­rays to re­claim por­tions of the creative pro­fes­sional

mar­ket, such as its spot­light on VR developers dur­ing the WWDC key­note. It seems rea­son­able to spec­u­late that users of desk­top Macs tend to be pro­fes­sion­als, so it makes sense that Ap­ple would want to ap­peal to them.

Desk­top of the line

So why the sud­den resur­gence of in­ter­est in the desk­top? The most ob­vi­ous an­swer is per­for­mance. With­out hav­ing to engi­neer to as strict a tol­er­ance as porta­bles (and with­out hav­ing to worry about fac­tors like bat­tery life), you can eke much more horse­power out of a Mac. MacBook Pros are per­fectly re­spectable as far as per­for­mance goes, and porta­bil­ity is a ma­jor ben­e­fit for many

pro­fes­sion­als, but with the new iMacs – and with the prom­ise of the iMac Pro and Mac Pro – Ap­ple seems to fi­nally be pre­pared to de­liver on the idea that you don’t have to com­pro­mise per­for­mance on the desk­top.

Of course, that’s not the only ob­vi­ous an­swer. There are still some fea­tures you can get on a desk­top Mac that sim­ply aren’t an op­tion on a lap­top, much less a tablet or smart­phone. The largest dis­play on Ap­ple’s lap­tops are 15 inches these days – a far cry from the 21.5in ba­sic iMac, much less a 27in model. An ex­ter­nal dis­play is an op­tion, of course, but those come with their own trade-offs and lim­i­ta­tions.

I can’t help but think that pride is a part of the equa­tion as well. The iMac, of course, has a long pedi­gree. Its roots can be traced back pretty clearly to the orig­i­nal Mac­in­tosh back in 1984: the all-in­one desk­top that’s, more or less, Ap­ple’s flag­ship com­puter. The line it­self dates back to 1998 and it’s been through plenty of changes in that time, but it’s man­aged to per­sist over the last two decades. At this point it’s the old­est of Ap­ple’s Mac brands, by far, and that longevity and brand recog­ni­tion is worth some­thing.

Liv­ing the desk­top life

I had more than a few years when a MacBook was my only com­puter, but I’ve greatly ap­pre­ci­ated hav­ing an iMac over the last six years, so when it came time to bid the old one adieu, I was more than happy to re­place it with a newer desk­top model.

Part of that is, for me, less about tech­nol­ogy than it is about en­vi­ron­ment. While I can work any­where, for a lot of what I do, it helps to have a ded­i­cated place to sit down and ‘go’ to work. An iMac on a desk has proven to be just the right kind of set­ting for a lot of that work. (And yet, not all of it: as I re­al­ized re­cently, pretty much of all of the work I’ve done for my nov­els has been done on my MacBook Air. The con­text of porta­bil­ity res­onates much more with fiction-writ­ing for me.)

So the desk­top is far from dead. Ap­ple’s fo­cus on it means it’s still rel­e­vant for a lot of peo­ple – es­pe­cially developers and creative pro­fes­sion­als. Then again, in six or seven years – when­ever this desk­top in front of me gives up the ghost – we’ll see if it mer­its a re­place­ment with what­ever the desk­top state of the art is, or whether per­haps the world will have moved on.

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