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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