OWC’s Larry O’Connor: Apple’s new Mac Pro is both disappointing and exciting

“For 24 years, Larry O’Connor has led the company he founded, Other World Computing (OWC), in Woodstock, Illinois to legendary status for its technology-related products and support for Apple devices,” John Martellaro reports for The Mac Observer. “The company’s customers have enjoyed first class service and products: everything from simple storage to RAID, RAM upgrades, batteries, upgrade kits and, lately, iPad and iPhone accessories.”

“TMO has told the OWC story previously, but this time we had a particular interest in president Larry O’Connor’s reaction to Apple’s WWDC announcement of the new Mac Pro,” Martellaro reports. “Here are the hottest questions that were on on our mind in a recent Skype chat with him.”

Larry O’Connor: There’s a lot of capability in this new Mac Pro compared to the current machines, once you get passed the idea of not having a PCIe slot. I think it’s going to offer great opportunities to expand externally. Even so, it’s hard to grasp the idea: nothing extra goes inside… We’re going to have some good stuff to match up with this machine. It’s an exciting design. It deserves some exciting accessory products with good looks and exceptional function.

Much more in the full interview here.


  1. He can’t be too “disappointed,” as a retailer. He sells products right now that add PCIe slots over Thunderbolt. He probably has the best selection of Thunderbolt products of any retailer.

    Hasn’t it been longer than 24 years? I bought stuff (catalog mail-order) from Other World Computing for my Apple IIgs. Initially, they catered to Apple II owners.

    OWC is the BEST online Apple-related store, and that includes the online Apple Store.

    1. I thought they were the best, too… Right up until I bought four of their “generic” DIMMs for my new MDD G4, and they sent two mismatched pairs.

      I started having trouble with the machine, and I wasn’t sure if it was the machine or the RAM. Before I dealt with Apple warranty service and shipping the machine back, I wanted to trade the two pairs of mismatched DIMMs for a set of four matched DIMMs to cover that base. I expected and offered to pay the shipping both directions, but the only way they would do it is if I paid a hefty restocking fee.

      I explained to the rep that I’d been doing business with OWC for years, and had purchased tens of thousands of dollars in upgrades for personal, family, and customer machines, and that I wasn’t asking much. I got no consideration. None. I explained that the only way I’d pay a restocking fee was if it was to return the RAM so I could discontinue our business relationship and order the RAM elsewhere. Still no consideration; instead, the rep said that the decision was up to me. Fine. I paid the restocking fee, returned the RAM, ordered replacement DIMMs from Newegg, and I’ve never spent another dollar with OWC.

      I’d been a loyal OWC customer since the mid-nineties when I looked forward to their ad in every week’s MacWeek to show up in my mailbox, and it was all over for a stupid order. I’d guess their $50 restocking fee has cost them in the neighborhood of ten or fifteen grand in sales over the years.

      1. Wow. While I guess you can hold OWC accountable for employing such a jerk, perhaps he snuck his nastiness past their HR team. I think I would have tried his manager or a different customer service rep before giving up such a great vendor relationship. Seems a little like shooting yourself in the foot.

        1. I glossed over a few details in my account. Obviously, it’s been a long time, but my recollection is that after the initial refusal to waive the restocking fee, I asked for the issue to be escalated, and was denied by a manager.

          I think it was company policy that was to blame, not a poor hire or an employee having a bad day.

          I don’t take dumping a relationship lightly, so I think I may have even called back once hoping for perhaps a more lenient rep, to no avail. I cut my losses and moved on.

          Clearly, every company is going to make some mistakes – especially one that’s the size of OWC, and has been in business as long as they have. Obviously, they’re not horrible or they wouldn’t still be in business. On the other hand, there are plenty of other companies that do what they do, even if they don’t cater to Mac users.

          They made their decision, and I made mine. As I like to say sometimes, it is what it is.

      2. Excellent story. I would do one more thing: Put this in a letter to O’Connor. You might have been talking to a hungover $10-an-hour employee. I once got fed up with a string of defective designs for spray-paint-can triggers marketed by Rustoleum. I wrote them a long letter. They sent me $35 to more than cover the cost of the bad triggers — and two new triggers that I am still using. I have spent thousands of dollars with that company over the years.

      3. I stopped doing business with OWC years ago after I ordered a CPU upgrade card that showed In Stock, they charged my credit card and showed it as shipped. Then 2 weeks later the status changed to back-ordered. After another week I called to find out how long it will be back-ordered and was told that the card is no longer produced. When I mentioned that it was In Stock when I ordered, they said a big order came in from someone else and they gave them all the cards in stock. They were just going to let it sit as back-ordered and keep my money. I had to fight for another week to get my money refunded.

    1. Reminds me of Dell putting serial and parallel ports on their laptops until around 2006 or so.

      The net effect was a laptop that weight was twice that of a MacBook Pro (weighs, because I still have it as a backup).

      Backward compatibility internally is, well, backward.

      1. I’m forced to deal with windozer machines at work, ugh.

        I think the reason that many business’s laptops still had and some still have all the crappy serial and parallel ports is because lots of businesses suck at upgrading. If your dealing with a 90s point of sale system, it’ll be all parallel and serial, and a typical system for z big store runs about a million dollars. So it won’t be replaced.

        But anyway this new Mac Pro is gonna be great. Can’t wait.

        Why does the headline say he thought it was dissapointing? He clearly didn’t say that

        1. Yes he did say that:

          Larry O’Connor: “I wasn’t personally there, but we had people onsite. I did, of course, watch the rollout. First impressions were that it’s both interesting and a little disappointing, in that what’s missing. And interesting in the external opportunities. We’re looking at that. There was some disappointment that there weren’t at least a couple of PCIe slots inside that machine. Thunderbolt is great, but still below the levels of a 16X PCIe slot.”

      2. Never look back … it’s the “passed”.

        That’s the great thing about Apple – when they decide something isn’t worth supporting anymore, they move on and leave it as road kill on the side of the road. They might consider changing their motto from “Think Different” to “Moving On”.

    2. Well that’s professionals for you. We know what works and we know what we like. Computers aren’t a hobby for us. And we have tons and tons of money invested. And it’s not always feasible or possible to just jump to the brand-new thing. The “industry” doesn’t change overnight you know. Old systems and formats are around for a long time. So even when you upgrade everything instantly you are still dealing with older things in the chain. And the brand-new thing isn’t always the best. At least not for all applications. And yes, even if it’s from Apple. But we’ll adapt or disintegrate. And the latter is not likely to happen.

      1. So, you’re not likely to throw out your older equipment because you bought something new. You’ll just make a gradual transition from the old to new. I’d say that as long as the new technology is faster than the old, then Apple is doing the right thing. I like the idea of Thunderbolt ports because they’re so versatile. As a consumer (not a professional) I’d give up a bit of speed for the flexibility of Thunderbolt ports. However, I certainly do understand the reason for professionals being somewhat leery of new tech when their livelihood depends on it.

    3. As opposed to the vaginal port? What do you propose as a replacement that is as low cost and functional as a PCIe port? A vaginal attachment?

    4. Indeed! It is such an irrational attachment to things that (a) work, (b) are cost-effective.

      As this article points out, those people who rely on the current 16x slots are in for a major slump in performance, from 64 to 20 gigabits per second.

      Similarly, those people who rely on the current four internal SATA bays are in for a ‘bag of hurt’ too: by my estimates, the “Thunderbolt Tax” is around $600 for the loss of those four internal bays (for those users who use them).

      And so on. The Tube is a hard machine to decide if it is a net gain or a net loss, because while it is better in some columns, it is worse in others…even despite the fact that the 2012 Mac Pro really was an ‘abandonware’ machine that lacked contemporary features (eg, SATA3, USB3), which makes 2012-vs-2013 comparison attempts essentially “rigged” by Apple.


      1. I would be highly skeptical if real world performance of PCI are 64 gb/s, although I do not doubt there is a drop in performance between internal PCI vs Thunderbolt I’m not willing to accept its that steep without some actual comparison data between the two on a real machine with a real card. For example Firewire 400 was faster than USB2 even tho USB2 claimed to be faster it was just the burst speed that was faster and for average use it was dramatically slower.

        There’s a ton of marketing hype surrounding technical specs.

    5. Chrissy, the issue is not about PCI versus Thunderbolt versus any other specific, legacy technology.

      As I’ve said before in this site, it’s about upgradeability and not expansion.

      Today you can take a three year old Mac Pro and put a top of the line graphics card into it and get 4.5 TFLOPS of compute power. True, that’s not 7.5 of the coming Mac Pro, which might ship this calendar year. But it is taking a 3+ year old machine and turning it into a current, state of the art machine.

      From all indications you will NOT be able to do that to the new Mac Pro. In three years you won’t be able to upgrade it to then current technology for $1,000 or less. You will need to buy an all new Mac Pro.

      The same goes for storage. You can buy a PCIe based SSD to stick into a four year old Mac Pro to get around the older SATA bottleneck. Those cards exist. Thus you can upgrade to storage that is just as fast as the coming Mac Pro. The new Mac Pro does not allow this kind of upgrade either.

      Professionals don’t buy a new Mac Pro every year. Researchers don’t either.

      As I said. It’s not about expansion, which is why you’d use TB2. It’s about upgrading and keeping your current Mac Pro, well, CURRENT.

      1. 1. Wait and see what the new MP is priced at – it will be very telling
        2. As GM said: we will adapt as history shows and there will be after market solutions.
        3. We don’t know enough about the final specs/options that will be offered…

    6. ChrissyOne, i can’t imagine why you still wear shoes. Why don’t you just have porters carry you everywhere you need to go? Shoes are so old fashioned.

        1. great, then you can watch your toes curl up when you realize that Thunderbolt is an order of magnitude slower than PCI 3.0.

          “But Thunderbolt is PCIe!!!”, you say. Correct: it is PCI with additional overhead of controllers and longer external wires, plus latency introduced by daisy chaining.

          The end result is huge: Thunderbolt 2 maxes out 20 gigabits per second; PCI express 3.0 offers 128 gigabits per second.

          Moreover, while PCI is a long-standing interface with deep industry support, Thunderbolt is currently a niche technology that has relatively few manufacturers supporting it, low sales volumes, and relatively high prices. While it eclipses USB or Firewire, Thunderbolt won’t serve 4k-capable GPUs.

          So all the Apple dittoheads that are convinced that Thunderbolt is the best and only way forward, because that’s what the Mac Pro offers, are clearly ignorant. TB doesn’t win for cost, performance, or options availability. We can only hope that changes, or else Apple will have to rethink its vision of what a productive workstation should be.

          In the meanwhile, OWC will make all the money that Apple apparently doesn’t want to make by offering all the features and accessories that Apple has decided it doesn’t want to offer on its flagship computer.

          1. Agreed, PCIe rocks, is much faster than Thunderbolt, is available now in the 2010-12 Mac Pros. Not taking advantage of all that expansion is just plain missing the opportunities for so many workflows. These upgrades can be done incrementally to make the 2010-2012 Mac Pro TCO that much better.

            Plus you have 4 internal drive bays, plus one more in the empty lower optical bay, 3 PCIe slots to work with, 128 GB of memory for Mavericks, a nice longer list of graphics card choices than we had even 3 months ago.

            This tank will last for many, Yes, many years to come for most workflows!

            WIll be tough to match value-wise when the new tube comes out

  2. Is today bad headline day at MDN? First the one about Tim Cook attending a conference/barbeque of billionaires, with a mere mention of his name and then a whole article about someone else, then OWC’s chair being disappointed and exited about a MacPro and no mention of disappointment, other than to say some people will miss PCIe. WTF?

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