Ap­ple off to a promis­ing start with re­vamped imac

Dan Moren be­lieves the imac Pro points to an ex­cit­ing fu­ture

Macworld - - Contents -

So, the imac Pro is ship­ping. Af­ter many years’ worth of fret­ting, Ap­ple once again has a pro-level desk­top that boasts the mod­ern tech­nol­ogy. And all is right with the world.

But is it? There’s no dis­put­ing that the imac

Pro is a ca­pa­ble ma­chine: with up to 18 cores, a

max­i­mum of 128GB of RAM, and a hefty video card, the bench­marks in­di­cate that this is a ma­chine that can take ev­ery­thing you throw at it.

And yet it’s not Ap­ple’s whole “pro” story. In an in­ter­view with se­lect out­lets back in April of this year, Ap­ple ex­ec­u­tive Phil Schiller had mul­ti­ple shoes to drop, in­clud­ing this morsel:

“With re­gards to the Mac Pro, we are in the process of what we call ‘com­pletely re­think­ing the Mac Pro.’ We’re work­ing on it. We have a team work­ing hard on it right now, and we want to ar­chi­tect it so that we can keep it fresh with reg­u­lar im­prove­ments, and we’re com­mit­ted to mak­ing it our high­est-end, high through­put desk­top sys­tem, de­signed for our de­mand­ing pro cus­tomers.”

In other words, pro Mac users have a lot to look for­ward to in 2018 and be­yond.

One size doesn’t fit all

Let’s just put it out there: Im­pres­sive as it is, the imac Pro isn’t for ev­ery­body. In that same in­ter­view, Schiller called the imac “our most pop­u­lar desk­top with pros,” though that’s a bit disin­gen­u­ous if you con­sider that the Mac Pro, at that point, had not been up­dated in close to four years. The imac, mean­while, had rolled on to be­come bet­ter and bet­ter, so if you were look­ing to buy a pro-level desk­top from Ap­ple, you only re­ally had one choice.

While the imac Pro’s per­for­mance is hard to dis­pute, those who do take is­sue with the ma­chine

point to what they see as its ma­jor weak­ness: a lack of in­ter­nal up­grade­abil­ity and ex­pand­abil­ity. When you con­fig­ure an imac Pro for pur­chase, you’re mostly stuck with any de­ci­sions you make at the time. Noth­ing, in­clud­ing the RAM, is userup­grade­able (at least not with­out void­ing a war­ranty), con­tin­u­ing the trend that’s been wellestab­lished across the Mac line over the past decade or so.

That’s where the hy­po­thet­i­cal Mac Pro comes in again. Schiller has said that “it is, by def­i­ni­tion, a mod­u­lar sys­tem,” which seems like a re­sponse to the big­gest crit­i­cism of that 2013 Mac Pro re­design. Ap­ple tried to an­tic­i­pate what pros wanted, merged

it with the com­pany’s own phi­los­o­phy about the hard­ware that it built, and the re­sult was pretty and im­pres­sive – but it kind of missed the mark for the in­tended au­di­ence.

It cer­tainly seems like Ap­ple’s not about to make the same mis­take twice.

Pros, not cons

The fact that Ap­ple has ded­i­cated so much at­ten­tion to pro-level cus­tomers – not just with the imac Pro but the re­cent re­vi­sions of the 5K imac, and the up­com­ing Mac Pro – should go a long way to as­suag­ing the con­cerns of power users. Af­ter all, it seems clear the com­pany does care about the pro­fes­sional mar­ket. But it’s this forth­com­ing mod­u­lar Mac Pro that’s go­ing to show us whether the com­pany cares about lis­ten­ing to its cus­tomers. The 2013 Mac Pro is poised to be the third-gen­er­a­tion ipod shuf­fle (the one with no but­tons) – el­e­gant, at­trac­tive, and an im­pres­sive achieve­ment aca­dem­i­cally, but ul­ti­mately not at all what peo­ple wanted.

Don’t buy into the fal­lacy, though: not ev­ery power user is buy­ing an imac just be­cause they can’t get a Pro. Some peo­ple seem to gen­uinely pre­fer the com­pact

form fac­tor, the sim­plic­ity and beauty of the built-in screen, and so on. It’s a mis­take think­ing all pros are cut from the same cloth.

But that goes both ways. Ap­ple too has hope­fully rec­og­nized that the imac Pro and the cylin­dri­cal

Mac Pro be­fore it weren’t a panacea to the ails of Mac users clam­our­ing for pro­fes­sional-level equip­ment. While the tide has cer­tainly swept to­wards com­put­ers that are more ap­pli­ance-like, with a min­i­mum of mov­ing parts and a lack of in­ter­nal ex­pan­sion, that’s not go­ing to ad­dress the needs of all pros. Ex­pan­sion and mod­u­lar­ity are, for a seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion, mis­sion crit­i­cal.

That doesn’t mean we’ll get a re­turn to the

Mac Pro of yes­ter­year, the hefty cheese grater with plenty of space un­der the hood. I think it’s clear that Ap­ple be­lieves that form fac­tor has sailed. With the up­com­ing Mac Pro, Ap­ple has set it­self a task that’s about de­liv­er­ing the ex­pan­sion ca­pa­bil­i­ties that a sec­tion of the pro mar­ket wants but stay­ing true to the kind of hard­ware that the com­pany would feel proud to de­liver.

The next Mac Pro prob­a­bly won’t look like its tower pre­de­ces­sor, but it will be a mod­u­lar sys­tem

Third-gen­er­a­tion ipod shuf­fle

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