The Mac Experience and the Mac Pro Experience

There has been a lot of talk about the “future” of the Mac Pro — Apple’s beefiest Mac. I owned the first version of the Mac Pro, when Apple made the transition to Intel chipsets and I loved that computer. Now — as I think about my computing setup and where the different systems sit — I can’t help but think that the Mac Pro offers a decidedly un-Mac-like experience for users.

Before you start emailing me, let me explain how I see the “Mac experience”, because only one half of that experience is software driven.

The Mac Experience

Here’s how I see the current Mac experience from the non-software half:

  • As few wires as possible.
  • Sits on your desk, because it is gorgeous looking.
  • Quiet.
  • Truly designed to not be touched by the user. (Caveats have been made for RAM access and the like, but for the most part these are “sealed” systems.)
  • As small as possible.

There are surely more things that make up the Mac experience from a hardware perspective, but these offer us a good, simple, starting point.

The Mac Pro Experience

If you go through the above list of attributes you will notice that by and in large the Mac Pro goes against most of them.

  • It begs for more wires to make use of the vast amount of ports.
  • While gorgeously designed, no one in their right mind is putting it on top of their desk — it’s huge.
  • Depending on what you are doing it can sound like a sedate ceiling fan or a 747 taking off.
  • The entire side panel is easily — easily — removed allowing the user access to most all inner components of the machine. It was designed to be expanded upon from the hard drives and RAM to the PCI slots.
  • It may well be as small as it can be, but it still ain’t small.

All of this is really the most undesirable part of Mac Pro ownership to me. I never could play video games on it, because the sound drowned out the TV in the next room — with the door closed. There was always a mess of cords surrounding it. I was always on the hunt for more RAM to add, swapping hard drives and various other things that I never think twice about with my MacBook Air.

In reading the new Steve Jobs biography I can’t help but think that the Mac Pro is decidedly the computer that he likes the very least. I know he used/had one, but that doesn’t mean that he did so because it was his favorite machine — given an unlimited budget, I’d have five.

As I think about everything that Apple stands for with its design and goals, I can’t help but suspect that the MacBook Air is the epitome of the Mac experience as Apple sees it. Small, quick, sleek, low-price, sealed.

The MacBook Air and the Mac Pro are polar opposites: one a marvel of engineering — the other a marvel of brute strength.

I don’t think the Mac Pro is going anywhere, but I also don’t think it is something that Jony Ive’s team has spent much time thinking about.

Originally posted for members on: November 8, 2011
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