Robert X. Cringely responding to reports of “new Macs” and “radical” changes, theorizes on Apple killing the Mac Pro and instead doing this:
I expect Apple to move to a modular architecture where the building blocks for high performance computers are generally Mac Minis. Start with a new Mini or with a Thunderbolt iMac and expand both storage and processing by adding a stack of up to five more Thunderbolt-connected Minis. A maxed-out system would have six I7 processors with 24 cores, 24 gigabytes of DDR RAM (expandable to 96 GB!) and at least six terabytes of storage. And at $6000, it would be half the price of an equivalently tricked-out Mac Pro.
The geek in me is all sorts of excited about such a prospect. Nothing says cool like daisy chaining a bunch of Macs to make a fully supported (by Apple) home grown super computer — people have been doing this for years with Mac Pros.
Sorry, had to wipe drool off my chin.
While the geek in me would love to see such a scenario — as Cringely lays out — would such a play be in Apple’s best interest, or even “fit” with Apple’s philosophy on computing?
I think it is safe to say that Apple has an outward goal of making their lineup of products as simple as possible. So the argument, as Cringely states it, for such a move would be that eliminating the Mac Pro makes things all the more ‘simple’ for buyers. But does it?
I think not.
As it is the Mac Pro is the least confusing product — the most straight forward — that Apple sells. It is the high-end-price-is-no-object-geek-badge-of-bad-ass-ness-computer.
That is: no consumer is ever torn between buying a Mac Pro and any other computer Apple sells. High-end buyers buy them and they already know that’s what they need/want. Even I know that a Mac Pro is vast overkill for everything that I do — even if I could do it all at once. The average consumer knows by price alone that such a computer is not for them.
So by eliminating the Mac Pro and adding in the ability to chain Mac minis into mini-super computers — you would now be adding a layer of complexity to a process Apple has spent the better part of 10 years honing: the setup.
Whether you buy a $699 Mac mini or a $10,000+ Mac Pro, the setup will always be the same: plug in the monitor/mouse/keyboard and plug everything into the wall, press the power button. For there you get one of the most highly polished and thought through setup procedures in computing.
Could you imagine how messed up the streamlined Apple setup process would be if you wanted to setup two, three, ten Mac minis — so that they were working together — as one? I think no matter how hard Apple would try such a process would be a nightmare for both the user and Apple.
Not to mention: what does one do when the system isn’t working? Take the entire setup to the Apple store? Sure taking in a Mac Pro is a chore, but taking in a series of interconnected computers and their related power adapters?
That’s down right “un-Apple”.
Then you have to take into account whether such a move would even make sense for Apple as a company. I am not certain, but I would guess the margin on the Mac Pro is much higher than on the Mac mini, especially when you start talking RAM upgrades.
Even if that isn’t true, even if the Mac mini is a higher margin machine, is it worth not having a computer that you can dangle in front of every geeks face as the Mac Pro?
If Apple ditched the Mac Pro, what then would Pixar use? What would they say is the machine that you should use if you are:
- A pro-photographer?
- Graphic design studio?
The same iMac you bought your Mom?
There would no longer be a the machine, now it would be the machines — and how many of you think that such an array would be feasible for the normal pro in the above list to setup stress free?
As much as we want such a neat setup, how many actually believe that Apple could carry over the “Mac experience” to such a setup?
But Macs Are Fast
Yes, the iMac is lightening fast. Yes, so is every other Mac. But they aren’t Mac Pro fast and that’s the problem.
Even if Apple had such an idea in their head — why not keep the Mac Pro and allow users to chain them together, natively, out of the box, right now? If you think chaining Mac minis together would be sweet, imagine even the idea of doing the same with Mac Pros?
Crap, drool, again.
I just don’t see Apple doing this. The complexity of such a system is something that Apple is quickly moving away from. I have no doubt that they are not happy with the Mac Pro as it currently stands, but the answer isn’t killing it — the answer is just making a touch smaller and faster.
Apple isn’t about to try and teach/support users on chaining Macs together, no matter how much they want to drop the Mac Pro from the line up.