Apple’s languishing Macintosh: Is a massive re-invention near?

“Apple’s Mac lineup is stale, and that is putting it mildly,” Mark Reschke writes for T-GAAP. “The Mac Pro is now a staggering 2 1/2 years into its lifecycle without a single upgrade. The MacBook Air has seen almost no changes, save for incremental processor updates since 2010. The iMac form factor has not changed since the fall of 2012. The newly minted MacBook and MacBook Pro’s have seen only slight incremental upgrades this past year, and the Mac mini is a mere afterthought. What’s going on?”

“Apple’s Mac lineup has become a cash cow with little invention, but that may be about to change,” Reschke writes. “There has been increased chatter of Apple moving to use its exclusive Liquidmetal license in MacBook chassis, which would likely usher in all-new form factors for Apple’s laptops. Liquidmetal is lightweight and incredible strong and rigid. The metal technology would set Apple’s laptop apart from all others in the industry.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Let’s hope the “it’s always darkest before the dawn theory” plays out for the indomitable Macintosh!

66 Comments

  1. “Is a massive re-invention near?”
    If it means moving the operating system to something resembling iOS—-PLEASE NO!
    If it means obsessing over thin-ness, cutesy looks, and either a move toward iOS AND “fashionable” looks—– PLEASE NO!

    If it means a return to the Mac we knew which was logical, easy to use, powerful, friendly then I am all for it in spades!

    Remember what made Apple: phones are wonderful, but the foundation of the company, (not to mention that the Mac is where iOS software comes from) is the Mac.

    1. There is a reason they developed Swift. There is a reason they are spending so.much in ARM.
      There is a.massive change in the cards and Intel is not in them. There is a reason Intel signaled.they are.marginalizing x86 development going forward. They know whats up.

  2. Apple, please understand that most sane people don’t wear their laptop as a fashion accessory.

    Apple, please understand that most professional users don’t care if their computer is a rectangular box, as long as they can insert the PCIe card of their choice.

    Apple, please realize that you could own the personal computer market space with a simple, well-built design that allows users to upgrade memory, SSDs and GPUs.

    Apple, please fire the fashion designers and let the computer designers do their thing.

    1. As long as Jony Brit has any say, every new Mac is going to be made from ever thinner “aluminium” because he thinks it’s so aesthetically pure. Making products ever thinner might be good for the ecology and cost margins but it gets to a point where they need to stop that slimming diet and focus on other things.

      The Mac Pro should not be designed by some fashion designer who likes Corgis because they’re so adorable. You need a mean pitbull lover to build Mac Pros and believe me, an ugly rectangular box is perfect as long as it’s got powerful hardware inside.

      1. “Making products ever thinner might be good for the ecology and cost margins but it gets to a point where they need to stop that slimming diet and focus on other things.”

        Hopefully Apple isn’t thinking about the environment when making desktops/laptops thinner, because that’s first-order thinking: Reduce environmental impact *now*.

        Second-order would be to consider what happens several years later, if components start failing or can’t keep up with the latest software, and then you can’t just replace soldered components (RAM, storage) with new or larger capacity ones, so users are forced to skip the second “R” in “reduce, reuse, recycle” and goes straight to recycle/disposal.

    2. Most people do not in any way want to be some sort of computer mechanic and upgrade their hardware. That time has come and gone. Only a narrow niche of techies wants to fiddle with their hardware.

      1. Whenever someone complains about the “closed” nature of Macs, I always ask: “have you ever pulled an engine?” Invariably the answer is either “yes” or “Absolutely, me and my cousin pulled one last weekend!” 100% of the time these are PC clone fans. Mac heads don’t pull engines. Am I right?

        1. “Don’t” or “can’t” doesn’t meant “don’t want”

          Think about all of the innovation Apple is missing out on because the tech community can’t experiment with Apple hardware.

          How can Apple think they have satisfied the market when the benchmark is set by them?

          IMHO, Apple should enable innovation in the computer industry by providing hardware allowing pro’s to operate beyond the norm and the hobbiest to explore new possibilities in computing.

          1. Well, earlier this month…

            1) I serviced my first iMac. This was a relative’s who was reporting that it was getting very sluggish (minutes to boot, etc). So it was time for HDD –> SSD & max out the RAM. Even after I did the upgrades, I thought that this 2009 (Core2Duo) felt slow, but its user is happy reports and says that it feels “like a brand new machine”. Total cost = 1/3rd that of a new machine.

            2) I also had one of the drives in the RAID0 array fail in my Mac Pro, necessitating a hardware replacement there. They were a year beyond warranty and get flogged, so I knew that this was a “maintenance” item. The pair of replacement Enterprise Class drives were around $500 … that represents roughly a $7,000 cost avoidance of how much an equivalent capability “Trash Can” would cost to replace my current MP setup.

            Point being to all of this — the current Macintosh product lines (every damn one of them) does need a major reinvention, in no small part because the current design aesthetic utterly lacks accommodation for maintainability, which makes them an increasingly bad value for customers.

            Sure, sure … we can claim that with the vision of the “Cloud”, one won’t need local hardware anymore, but that vision is bogus when it comes to any use case which actually requires real horsepower.

            And as it currently stands, the largest Cloud plan that Apple sells is only 1TB, which at $10/month means $120/year. Considering that I’m currently using 6TB drives for my Time Machine backups (and they’re full again), assuming that Apple did offer larger plans today, we’re probably looking at $50/month (or more), which is $600/year — sorry, no sale. Insufficient value to the customer.

        2. I am afraid you are not right in my case, dialtone. I was put in charge of maintaining the family cars when I was 12 and I have been a backyard/driveway mechanic ever since. I have also messed around in the guts of PCs and Macs over the years.

          Every design decision is a compromise. Sometimes Apple errs on the side of thin and sexy rather than functional and practical. Apple has the resources to do much better in advancing their Mac lineup than they have demonstrated over the past few years.

          Perhaps this is the result of Apple preparing to make a revolutionary leap? We have all been there…if I wait another six months or a year, then the next big thing will be ready. But the schedule slips and the next big thing takes two or three years to materialize and you have left a stagnation gap of several years in which you failed to pursue incremental upgrades. When Apple makes a revolutionary leap, it usually takes the form of blending several advanced technologies, and problems with any one of those technologies, or with manufacturing and assembly, could result in a long delay. In the meantime, if you have deferred the incremental design/performance upgrades in anticipation of the next big thing, you are left shipping old designs. Your only options at that point are either to keep waiting and ride it out, or implement a few emergency design tweaks to give the appearance of progress, like a processor bump.

          I tend to think that the computer as we have come to know it – desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone – is nearing its evolutionary end. We have already reduced these devices close to their essential minimum – chassis, battery, display, storage, processing, sensors. For portable devices, the display and battery drive the size of the unit. The next phase of evolution will involve different human-machine interfaces than the keyboard, mouse, finger, or stylus, although those heritage interfaces will still be needed for quite some time.

          1. And to emphasize what KingMe! wrote..

            When one doesn’t have incremental roll-outs of these new capabilities, when the “leap” does come, you’re left with capability problems from the discontinuities.

            For example, recall back to when all of our peripherals were superseded by USB: if we didn’t have a way to “ease into” a transition, we were confronted with the dilemma of having to replace “N” peripherals at the same time as the desktop – – even though the net cost is roughly the same, you can’t spread out the expense over a few years, so the discontinuity creates a barrier to purchase & adoption.

            Similarly, when “big things” change, customers also have to wait until all of the software vendors rewrite their applications so that they’ll run on the new stuff — oh, and they expect to be paid too.

            In the meantime, I still have product to create … even if Apple were to announce a whole new OS and Hardware at this year’s WWDC, it will invariably be +18 months before the rest of the ecosystem has been updated so that I can even start to consider buying the new stuff to replace my current capability/workflow.

            …and when the “improvements” are stuff like the Trash Can, I’m obligated to go consider moving to Windows. Sucks to say that after 3+ decades of being an Apple customer, but VALUE is what it is all about.

          2. For most people Macs are a hobby. For the very small percentage who are professionals it’s how we make a living. Yes, you’re right Apple could do much better. And in the end, that’s all that matters.

        3. RAM and HDs don’t weigh nearly as much as engines do. I pulled and engine with my Dad when I was 17, because he made me. Never did it again. I have opened every Mac I ever had until I got this MacBook Air that I now wish I had gotten more RAM for. Never owned or want to touch a PC.

      2. ” Only a narrow niche of techies wants to fiddle with their hardware.”

        Yes, the ones who produce the applications and content for consumption devices on iOS. Don’t get me wrong, I have 3 iOS devices, and I use them every day, but I have no illusions that I can make a living on them, like I do on my Mac.

    3. Yes, I totally agree. Give me function over form any day when it comes to a Apple Mac Pro desktop solution. Leave the cool and thinner designs to the mobile arm of the company but make the desktop a hefty workhorse and then some. If they, Apple, came out with the most loaded and most advanced desktop, it would be a beautiful, beautiful thing. Also, if they would only allow their users, with the Mac Pro, to be able to change things out much easier (like the cheese-grater Pro) then that would be great too. Couple that with a 30-32 inch awesome 4K display (I would get three as I love my current three monitor setup) and I’d place my multi, multi-thousand dollar order immediately.

  3. Apple’s products hold together in a single design language. Currently it is aluminum everywhere. Once it was polycarbonate white plastic.

    It will not be aluminum forever.

    So what comes next?

    Liquidmetal is a good guess. Currently it is insanely expensive to produce, but the world’s most creative metallurgical minds have been laboring for well nigh 5 years on the problem.

    Key inventions have been ways of producing liquidmetal sheets that can be easily stamped and the removal of toxic beryllium from the recipe.

    If Apple goes to liquidmetal we can look at past transitions for tips. First will come the flagship products. Right now that’s the WATCH. Quickly following will be product after product.

    Key points:

    Watch this Fall’s watch. It’ll have been 2 years since it was debuted. It may well get the LQMT treatment, as its small and has large margins.

    If not this year then 2017, which is already being heralded as a major shift year.

    Finally, consider the CAR. The transition from aluminum will have happened by 2020. So the CAR’s main material will likely be the design language material Apple will shift to in the next few years. Could be liquidmetal for sure. Could be.

    1. True, case materials change — but that’s in some ways merely “Window Dressing” over the hardware guts inside, along with what capabilities the Software provides.

      As such, liquidmetal only makes sense if it is advantageous to Apple as a lower manufacturing cost, etc … otherwise, it is just more window dressing at a higher cost.

      A different question to ask regarding product would be if we still should be making semiconductors on Silicon wafters .. Gallium Arsenide and Gallium Nitride both exist in foundries, with the main difference being that they can more readily operate at frequencies above 5GB. Sure, they cost a lot more than Si, but if you want a performance leap, that’s a potential technology path … assuming, of course, that you have a new “Killer App” which needs more horsepower: that is what seems to be missing today, as this was what historically drove hardware replacement upgrade cycles.

  4. That is a headline straight out of Betteridge’s Law of Headlines. In other words, the answer to such a headline will always be NO.

    As for the changes with the Mac, the direction in which the Mac has been moving over the past several versions of the OS X seems to be doing well for Apple. The market share continues to increase, on top of positive growth rate, compared to the competition, that shows negative growth (lower sales). Apparently, despite the complains about the slot-less trash can Mac Pro, port-less MacBook and optical disc-less MacBook Pros and iMacs, more and more people are buying Macs and are happy with them.

    Let us not forget: Apple’s primary bread winner is the iPhone. As long as that is the case, Apple will likely continue to push Mac on the path of convergence with the iOS. If the iPhone is the gateway drug to the Apple eco-system for the non-initiated, the best way to get them to the Mac is if Mac is as similar to the iOS as it can possibly be made without completely obliterating the functionality.

    There are many here who cringe at such possibility but, like it or not, it looks like that is the direction of Mac.

    1. “…Let us not forget: Apple’s primary bread winner is the iPhone. As long as that is the case, Apple will likely continue to push Mac on the path of convergence with the iOS. If the iPhone is the gateway drug to the Apple eco-system for the non-initiated, the best way to get them to the Mac is if Mac is as similar to the iOS as it can possibly be made without completely obliterating the functionality.

      There are many here who cringe at such possibility but, like it or not, it looks like that is the direction of Mac…”

      exactly.

  5. The massive reinvention is underway and has been for some time now. It’s a process. It’s a combination of the iPad, the ever more sealed appliance-like nature of the MacOS machines, and the shift to cloud services, for storage.

    It’s difficult to see now, but we are being weaned off the Mac and on to the iPad.

    I figure 2020 many people who thought they’d never use an iPad professionally will be wondering if they’ll ever purchase a Mac again.

    By 2025 you’ll wake in the morning, wipe the drool off your iPad, check your calendar, read some news, pay some bills, move some work you did over the weekend onto your company’s cloud, send out a couple of emails, take a shower while listening to NPR ONE or FOX News, summon a driverless cab, sleep all the way to work, pass through security with an app on the iPad, then lay it down on your intelligent desk, which will (upon receiving your fingerprint), connect you to the company wifi and your 37″ curved monitor, trackpad and keyboard. where a familiar MacOS environment will present itself.

    And you will do what you do… code, edit video, whatever.

    And you’ll see all those old IT guys outside down on the street with signs that say, “Will hand out passwords for food.”

    And your buddy’s once 12 year old daughter, will be the company Technology Concierge, managing the organization’s internal and external cloud.

    Little bit by little bit, feel the nudge. This is what Apple and the rest of the industry has planned for us.

      1. No it’s not. For some, perhaps many, the will be true. But for people who use a computer for real work it has to be a Mac. Or a Wintel machine. I moved to Mac in 2002. At this rate my next Laptop will come from HP. I have to run Windows to support the apps I need. That works fine – it’s the Mac side that doesn’t work reliably, especially Mail and Apple’s obsession with secret deletion of mail it thinks is junk. Almost all my financial statements are marked as junk, and who knows what the are deleting behind the scenes…

        1. First off, there were those who swore that cars would never replace horse and buggies.

          Second, there is a way to tell the Mail app that any particular email is not junk. And you can always set a rule in the Mail app to handle email from a particular sender in a particular way, such as place in a special folder (called a mailbox). Then there’s always the possibility that it is your email provider and their junk mail filter that is doing something with your junk email. And as a final thought to your problem, the Mail app does not do “secret deletion” of what it thinks is your junk mail; it puts it in a junk mail folder. So I think it’s just a matter of knowing how to use the Mail app. Also, on a Mac you are not obligated to use the mail app; you can download many great third party options to use.

        2. “use a computer for real work”

          Jeez, that has been M$’s mantra for a long time. Don’t you get it, real work for most people can be done on most Macs. My 4 yr rMBP is kicking ass still and is way fast than any PC POS we have at my work.

          1. “Real work” is what, really? — it is work done by those who denigrate work done by those in disparate fields, or who consider their tools real and the others’ toys. I find it insulting, but I usually hold my tongue because I consider my financial status sufficient to insulate me from the shame of never having a chance of making the video editors’ hall of fame.

    1. No, it’s very obvious that Apple would prefer to push subscription-based thin client computing requiring iCloud at all times instead of continuing to offer personal computers that can do almost anything when untethered to the mainframe.

      Unfortunately for Apple, the closer it moves to an all-iOS world, the less likely it will be for me to remain an Apple customer. iOS cannot and will not replace my Mac. Not now and not in any foreseeable future. But as Cook is blinded by iPhone profits and the lure of subscription profit flows, he doesn’t realize that the death of the Mac would put a much bigger dent in Apple’s earnings over the long run than today’s Mac market share suggests.

      Let me propose this:
      If Apple announced tomorrow that it would spin off Apple Music or the entire Apple Watch business into separate companies, what do you think investors and customers would do? The answer is: nothing. They’d all shrug and move on as if nothing happened.

      If on the other hand Apple announced that it was spinning off the Mac business, it would be a cataclysmic event bigger than any other in recent tech history.

    2. I don’t know if it’s planned or just the way the industry is evolving.

      On a lighter note, how about the guy/gal who listens to NPR and Fox News? That guy/gal I want to have a beer with.

  6. How in the world does “liquid metal” play a role in the Mac Pro?

    Come on, guys, it means nothing. The Mac Pro needs to be a box users can turn into cluster, super computers. DOH!

    1. Apple would be well served to go back to the prior Mac Pro design as a starting point and simply shrink it to fit in a 3U form factor that could be rack mount or desktop.

      Toss the trashcan design into the trash.

      The only advancement I can see is deleting support for rotating media, since that can sit at the end of a Thunderbolt cable without significant loss of performance. And, NVMe SSDs fit nicely in those PCIe slots we need.

  7. I WOULD BUY A mid tower MAC

    priced between the crippled Mac Mini and the crippled Mac Pro

    (Barefeats shows a 6 YEAR OLD previous gen Mac Pro with an UPGRADED Video Card beating a CURRENT Cylinder Mac Pro 2-3 times in GPU tasks and a current Macbook Pro 5 times. This is absurd.
    http://barefeats.com/imac5k20.html

    NOTE the old mac is beating the cylinder even with an old subsystem and slow processors doing the background. Tests show a current HP rendering a video in 2 hrs which a cylinder Mac Pro takes 12 hrs at lower rez )

    This Mac i want will have:
    A Single Workstation Class Multicore processor, upgradable HD, RAM and Video (there’s NOT a SINGLE Mac today where the video can be upgraded!), Thunderbolt 3 (or equivalent), perhaps one or two spare slots

    I would BUY this Machine TODAY.

    EVEN IF IT LOOKED LIKE A F&@KING DELL.

    I LOVE Ive’s design looks BUT for Trucks if your machine for work tows one sixth your competitors looks matter squat.
    BOTH looks and power is best but I’ll opt for power first…

    (others also want a full upgraded ‘Classic Mac’ tower with slots).

    (note: Apple will spend near nothing on R&D on these as Hackintosh folks can build faster than cylinder machines in their basements)

    1. Don’t know about headlines, but if a politician is asked a multiple choice question, the answer is always ‘yes.’ Example: Reporter to politician, “Are you for, or against the encryption bill?” Politician to reporter, “Yes.” 🖖😀⌚️

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