About the Stories That Apple Hates Pros

November 28th, 2012

The conventional wisdom, such as it is these days, has it that Apple no longer craves professional content creators, such as audio engineers, video editors and others who traditionally buy Mac Pros, Final Cut Pro and the Logic Studio audio production suite. There’s even a published report from Europe suggesting that the Logic programming team has been cut back to just two software engineers, and the next audio app from the company will be designed to run on an iPad.

Now it’s also true that The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple, who is amazingly plugged in to things happening inside Apple, and is just about always correct with his conclusions, states: “There’s no truth to this rumor.”

Despite the questionable report about the downsizing of the Logic Studio team, I suppose there’s still reason to be concerned. The Mac Pro hasn’t been updated since 2010, except for a minor processor configuration change a few months ago. Since the late 2009 refresh, the iMac has become a far more powerful computer, and, to some, is a worthy replacement for the Mac Pro. This is particularly true since Apple added Thunderbolt ports to the mix. But Thunderbolt accessories are expensive, and not very plentiful. One hoped for solution was to buy an external breakout box to replace internal PCI slots and possibly high-speed drive assemblies.

I suppose for many professional users, the iMac might be an appropriate replacement. Each generation gets more and more powerful, and the 2012 model, with optional Fusion drive (combining most of the performance of a solid state drive with the capacity of a regular hard drive) has the potential of being a very powerful beast. But many professional users still require 12-core Xeon processors, two internal optical drives, four internal hard drives or SSDs, and internal PCI peripherals. You can also outfit a Mac Pro with twice as much RAM as an iMac, and that does make a significant difference for some users.

So is it possible that Apple really wants to lose those customers? Certainly if an office has a handful of Mac Pros, they might have dozens, hundreds or thousands of regular Macs that might also be dumped if the company moves to Windows. I can’t see why Apple would risk such a loss.

But there appears to be hope. Some of the rumor sites are suggesting that a forthcoming Mountain Lion update, version 10.8.3, actually has support for a new ATI Radeon 7000, high performance graphic cards that seem tailor-made for a computing workstation, such as the Mac Pro. Tim Cook has previously promised a big Mac Pro upgrade for 2013. It doesn’t matter what form it takes, but that would seem to mean that professional Mac users will be able to take advantage of the latest Intel Xeon chips and graphic cards, Thunderbolt ports, and all the rest by next June, in time for the WWDC. Apple might even keep those optical drives around, since there appears to be no real reason to remove them on a price-no-object computer where the emphasis on weight and miniaturization is a secondary issue.

That doesn’t mean the Mac Pro isn’t bloated, and that Apple can’t give the thing a diet. Try lugging them around an office, or from office to location and back again, and you’ll see what a chore that becomes after a while, unless you really want to build those biceps and pecs.

Indeed, I have no doubt that it’s possible to substantially reduce the size of the Mac Pro and keep the weight in the 20 pound class without sacrificing expandability or cooling capability. In the old days, the legendary Mac IIx, the most powerful and expandable Mac in its time, weighed just 24 pounds, and that was over 20 years ago. Surely Apple can do far better now.

Now about Final Cut Pro X: It’s true it got a bad rap when it came out bereft of important features video editors required for their workflows. Since then, Apple has released several updates that restored many of the lost features and added others. So it’s hard to say it is slimmed down or dumbed down, despite the more accessible user interface. At $299.99 for the digital download, it is quite affordable for a much larger audience that includes students and so-called “prosumers.” The key question is whether a significant portion of existing Final Cut Pro users, who have avoided the upgrade until now, will reconsider as the feature set is enhanced.

Apple didn’t make the job easier by temporarily removing the previous version from sale and not clearly explaining that the new FCP represented the introduction of a new editing platform, and that it would take time to flesh out the features so upgraders wouldn’t lose anything. That PR debacle likely sent dissatisfied customers to other video platforms, though nothing stopped them from using the previous version of FCP, since it appears to still work with current OS X versions.

And before you suggest that Apple doesn’t care about business or professional users, look at the enterprise (and government) adoption rates for the iPhone and the iPad. As more and more companies let customers bring their own devices, Macs are also being accepted by businesses in greater and greater numbers. It’s absurd to think Apple doesn’t want to expand this important customer base.

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15 Responses to “About the Stories That Apple Hates Pros”

  1. Nick Porter says:

    You forget Apple has100 billion in the bank a tiny amount of that would ensure the mac pros were kept at the leading
    edge! If they didn’t have the manpower in house thy could subcontract to hardware company that is strong in workstations and small servers [Linux} but has no consumer market.After all they farm out assembly.
    One can only conclude they have no real interest in pro hardware.
    A wise person would choose Windows if running Adobe software confident that competition will ensure a choice of cutting edge hardware.
    If you rely on Apple pro software then you are reliant on Apples goodwill and the evidence suggests there is little.

    • @Nick Porter, I’m sorry you didn’t notice where I reminded you that Tim Cook has already committed to a Mac Pro revision in 2013, and that many pros can get great performance from a loaded iMac.

      Adobe still earns loads of money from Mac users.


  2. Don108 says:

    I’m thinking/hoping that Cook may go a step further. There are different sizes of Apple laptops, iMacs, and tablets, why not two tower sizes for the Pro? One for the super pros who need several internal drives, extreme speed, lots of processors, and even multiple GPU cards, one for the pro/semi-pro who needs more than an iMac or laptop but less than the super Pro? This would follow the current design of Apple products.

  3. gjs says:

    I agree that Apple doesn’t hate pros. And I take Tim Cook at his word re. the new Mac Pro.

    The interesting question to me is: For a company that has found great success in simplifying the hardware and operating systems, how do the needs of pros fit in? Will the new Mac Pro be as user-customizable as the last generation? Will future OS versions allow for user add-ons like Applescript?

    I don’t see how Apple continues to allow the openness many pro users have enjoyed and, at the same time, stay committed to security and simplicity for the masses that has brought them enormous profits.

  4. Mark says:

    While I believe Tim Cook’s assurances about new Mac Pro, my reservations concern OS X. How is a true personal computer supposed to fit into this ‘Post PC’ era?

    I do commercial photography, 3D illustration and manage a few small websites. So I need multiple processors (the more the better) a big monitor with true colour accuracy and no reflections and I need an OS that allows efficient management of enormous numbers of files. A Mac Pro running Snow Leopard and connected to a 30-inch Cinema Display meets all those needs brilliantly.

    But after spending 6 months in Lion I downgraded back to Snow Leopard because Lion slowed me down. For example, lines of greyed out sidebar icons – yes my filing needs lots of shortcuts – meant having to repeatedly stop and read each one. That’s not efficient. I can’t stress the importance of filing enough when doing websites and 3D, yet Apple greyed out the icons at the very time they were most essential.

    This is NOT to say Lion / Mountain Lion is obstructive or illogical to everyone. Far from it. I guess the point I’m making is that Snow Leopard did manage to cater for everyone, in a way that Lion and Mountain Lion are not. The Microsoft Surface is copping some very bad reviews for trying to impose too much of a PC into a tablet. I’m concerned that OS X has suffered a little bit by trying to impose too much of tablet into a PC.

    So, while the hardware features of a new Mac Pro might be impressive, the thing that could put me off upgrading is the operating system.

  5. John says:

    Apple, in recent years, has done a number of things that indicate a growing apathy towards the pro crowd:
    Xserves killed with almost no warning.
    Years between MacPro updates.
    Everything has to be purchased through the Mac App store. What if your organization is standalone and your macs don’t have access to the internet?
    Final Cut Pro PR debacle, but more than that, Final Cut Pro X doesn’t deal well with Blu-Ray or non-digital formats, such as tape. We have 40+ years of non-digital movie footage, and millions of hours of tape.
    Final Cut Server. Awesome product and as near as I can tell, the only one of its kind. Does so much more than just movie clips. I finally got it through the bureaucracy and purchased my system. $300K worth of computing equipment and software to run Final Cut Server. FCS was cancelled the day after the boxes arrived. No word from Apple that it would be cancelled. No word from Apple about a replacement product or a recommended product to migrate to. Just “A small amount of the functionality is built into Final Cut Pro X. That should do.”

    • @John, The Mac Pro usually gets annual updates. Only in the last couple of years has this changed, and an update is promised for next year. I see no reason to disbelieve Tim Cook.

      And, no, everything doesn’t have to be purchased via the Mac App Store. Many of the same titles are also available from a publisher’s site or not in the App Store at all. However, digital distribution these days for most software is a given. You have to adjust.


  6. John says:

    Not to debate too awfully much, but that makes my point. Pro machines got annual updates until a few years ago. Now it’s been 4 years. I have no reason to disbelieve Tim Cook either, but for workstation class machines, that’s a long wait. In the pro world, time is money. If a new machine reduces time waiting on the machine by 40 hours in a year, a yearly update pays for itself.
    And it is true there are lots of software titles that don’t require the MacApp store, but Mac OS X isn’t one of them. Neither is Final Cut Pro, Compressor or Motion.
    To a consumer, that means nothing. To a pro, that means having to fight with an IT department that doesn’t like Macs to begin with and convince them to relinquish their coveted control over exactly what software is allowed and open up the firewall to the Mac App Store.
    Understand, I’m a long time Apple nut. I predate the Mac Vs. PC argument and was an apple geek when it was Apple vs. Commodore. I’m the guy at the company who does fight with the IT department. And Apple is taking away my ammo: Final Cut Server, Xgrid, Xserve, Xserve RAID, yearly MacPro upgrades, built-in smart card authentication
    There’s precious little left which can’t be done on a Windoze box. Which makes it hard to justify being different in a cookie-cutter world.

  7. john says:

    I stand corrected.
    Well, actually, I sit corrected.

  8. T Kuechle says:

    I rarely wait for my computer to finish a task, unless its a big animation rendering out at HD resolution. Such tasks should actually be done on a render farm or cloud computing anyways since doing so doesn’t hold up my computer from getting other work, or play, done.

    As for CPU/RAM/BUS speed increases, I prefer stability to over clocking or minor (these days) speed bumps, although more processors are nice for some tasks. I wait for significant jumps in RAM/CPU/BUS speeds. That is why I still have my 2008 MacPro. Sure the other machines are faster, but I can only type so fast.

  9. Shameer Mulji says:

    Actually, Gene, if you look again at Tim Cook’s quote, he never said new Mac Pros were coming next year. What he said that Apple is releasing something exciting for the Pro market next year. It might be a Mac Pro, it might be something else.

  10. Usergnome says:

    I would dearly love to know what goes thru their minds when they discuss Pro apps and hardware. Do they giggle hysterically and say, “Wait – let’s not let them do blue ray.” And the other guy says, “I know. Let’s take out all the slots, he,he,he!” And the third guy says, “Let’s kill the best NLE and replace it with a diagramless crossword with encrypted clues!” (Yes, I’ve used FCPX. Why would a Pro app make it so hard to finish with a production, say goodbye, and move on to the next?)

    The only thing I know about the new “Pro” hardware is that it won’t actually be Pro hardware. But it WILL require that you replace all your peripherals.

    I really think there is some kind of twisted corporate sadism involved. Why is this so hard? Take the old, beautifully designed and engineered case, and put modern stuff in it: new I/O (2 Thunderbolt ports, 6 USB 3.0), new CPU’s, a Blu-Ray superdrive, 4 full-size slots, big power supply, lot’s of RAM slots and a big SSD boot drive.) What is so hard about that? Subcontract it to ACER if need be, but just do it.

    We bought Macs when no one else would. Remember, it’s good to have friends in Hollywood and Manhattan.

    And oh, BTW, could we get an xserve back please? One stuffed full of GPU’s and SSD’s? If necessary, create a separate enterprise hardware division that publishes a reliable product roadmap and understands that large organizations, or even small ones that buy a lot of hardware, need to be able to plan ahead. Dig around in your corporate couch for the small fraction of your billions it would take to do this.

    No – I don’t really expect any of that to happen.

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