Apple’s Darker Days

It’s a bit hard to remember (literally, in my cause, as I was still forming memories) but the 1990s were dark days for Apple. A succession of CEOs were unable to reverse the ailing company’s fortunes and lackluster hardware and software. How bad was it? Bad enough that Intel was directly purchasing ads in MacWorld to entice users to jump ship.

(From the January 1994 issue of Macworld, preserved via the Internet Archive.)

No New Mac Pro in 2018

Rather surprisingly, Apple had TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino back to Apple for a story that just released today. The title of the article is “Apple’s 2019 Mac Pro will be shaped by workflows“, with the key detail being confirmation that the new modular Mac Pro replacement for the 2013 model won’t be coming until 2019. If you need pro hardware, you have to either wait or buy an iMac Pro.

This is disappointing, though perhaps not surprising, and will surely stoke the conspiracy theories that Apple really wants to get rid of the Mac Pro and is trying to push everyone to the iMac instead. But the tone of Panzarino’s article and what it touches on with Apple’s pro scene in general suggest much more that Apple is undergoing a big reinvention within its walls; that after years of neglecting a segment of its consumers, Apple has elected to basically rebuild from the ground up.

In [the April 2017 roundtable], Apple SVP Phil Schiller acknowledged that pro customers including developers were hungry for evidence that Apple was paying attention to their needs.

“We recognize that they want to hear more from us. And so we want to communicate better with them. We want them to understand the importance they have for us, we want them to understand that we’re investing in new Macs — not only new MacBook Pros and iMacs but Mac Pros for them, we want them to know we are going to work on a display for a modular system,” Schiller said.

Now, it’s a year later and Apple has created a team inside the building that houses its pro products group. It’s called the Pro Workflow Team and they haven’t talked about it publicly before today. The group is under John Ternus and works closely with the engineering organization.

Apple creating a pro team is big news, especially since it’s generally been the case that Apple moves around personnel from hardware and software projects as needed. The description of the Pro Workflow Team suggests to me this is a dedicated group, and bringing in a wide variety of pros to test this hardware is a good idea, given that one of the complaints with Apple’s current hardware is less its power and more its lack of flexibility.

Ternus promises the new Mac Pro will be tuned to current pro needs with an eye towards where tech is heading in the future, which is simultaneously promising and worrisome. There are plenty of people out there who just want the return of the “cheesegrater” Mac Pro, a paradigm of “big tower with expansion slots” where RAM, hard drives, and graphics cards were simple swaps, and even CPU upgrades didn’t require a lot of effort (I’ve done it myself.) The fact that Apple hasn’t shipped a product like that, and the talk in Panzarino’s article about Thunderbolt-connected eGPUs and iOS peripherals, suggests that’s not what they have in mind.