Apple CEO Tim Cook’s awkward challenge to define the MacBook Pro

“Today’s market has pretty much settled on what technology belongs inside consumer electronics – there’s nothing easily implemented that is new and not yet present,” Ewan Spence writes for Forbes. “This has impacted countless product lines from every manufacturer, but I want to look through this lens at Apple’s laptop range.”

“In previous years it was relatively easy to see where the spilt was. The MacBook was good enough, and the MacBook Pro had all the extra technology that would allow you to make best use of the computer for those in demanding roles,” Spence writes. “Then features started creeping downwards.”

“When Tim Cook stood up at the recent shareholders meeting to say ‘you will see us do more in the pro area’ I want to know what he thinks the Pro area actually is,” Spence writes. “I want Apple to genuinely answer the question of what a ‘pro’ machine stands for in 2017 and then deliver on that vision. I’m not satisfied with Cook’s Emperor’s New Clothes approach of stating that the area is important without actually saying what the area is.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: This type of doubt that all thinking Mac professionals currently have was avoidable by simply updating the Mac Pro annually and by having Jony Ive or his staff design a new Apple 5K Display, even it had to be sold at breakeven or even at a loss. Companies derive benefits beyond bottom line cash. Perception matters – especially when it come to customer retention.

SEE ALSO:
Lazy Apple. It’s not hard to imagine Steve Jobs asking, ‘What have you been doing for the last four years?’ – December 9, 2016

36 Comments

      1. self-fulfilling prophecy. People aren’t going to pay top dollar for hardware that is 2 generations old, especially when Apple has made practically zero effort to market Macs in the last 5 years.

    1. First: Psychologically & Practically, reevaluate “lighter is better.”

      Second: Look at a “Pro Laptop” like Dell’s Workstation Laptops and realized there are serious benefits to those for serious Pro users.

      A. 2nd battery, is possible in more than one way?

      B. A hard drive for safety and security. Either the max DRAM on every MacBook Pro.

      C. Easily replaced video cards since they seem to fail more often that we like.

      D. Extra ports we need so we don’t carry so many dongles.

      1. Sorry for typing too fast and not correcting my typing.

        A 2nd removable hard drive that is not hanging off the side of the Mac Book Pro is prefereable, though it could be very small in the future, almost like an SD card size device.

        Either Max out the DRAM for a given CPU or make it user replaceable.

        Pro means something: “Professional” What does that mean? I have software on my MacBook Pro that costs 4-5 times what the MacBook Pro cost. That’s what it means.

        It also means I don’t buy a MacBook Pro based on its “low cost.”

  1. He seems to be having a lot of awkward moments lately. Didn’t get a bonus. Seems like a few shareholders finally realized the customer based is a bit pissed. Devices aren’t refreshed regularly to maintain competitiveness. No real innovation has come to fruition in the form a new product of substance – the watch and the AirPods excepted. People on blogs are just overall pissed at Apple Management. Even MDN calls out Eddy Cue for not being able to get a streaming tv service – wait – is that what Apple Music is supposed to be morphing into now? Sounds like it could end up the clustered mess that is the iTunes store now. Yeah, it does sound like Tim is having some awkward moments at a time when his pay diminished. Maybe he should take some time to focus and decide if he wants to be social warrior or CEO. And, yes, I know the apple wasn’t always perfectly sweet under Jobs. But the fact is, Jobs let it be known when he tasted bitter and he owned it. Tim just rolls with the flow as long as the check is deposited in his account. VERY different personalities and it shows. And yes I know Apple is a secret company. But how many years can it keep everything secret without releasing much substance – and flubbing on much of that – and still maintain its devoted customer base. I’ve begun diversifying my purchases to other companies. I still have a central core of Apple products but the services that Apple seems to be putting forward now as a prime revenue generator of the future are exactly what I’m moving to other companies to not be locked into hardware that isn’t refreshed often enough or is released unfinished or is released but shipped months later. In short, I’m increasing my options and hedging. What does that say about Apple? I own every Apple item in the Apple Store except three items and I haven’t bought an item other than AirPods and a phone in over a year. That says a lot – the products are lasting (good thing) and/or there is not enough advantage in the stuff in the store to account for an upgrade. iPads…. I have three. Tim should be feeling awkward as Apple customers are yawning.

    1. “I’ve begun diversifying my purchases to other companies.”
      Smartest thing in your post. What I’ve been telling people for years… if what Apple does or doesn’t do is giving you an ulcer, bite the bullet, take the pain and move on. Apple’s mobile centric solution suits many many millions of people just fine. It does NOT suit everyone, especially those looking for MacOS versions of the top desktop hardware coming from competitors. Instead of continuing to wait for Apple’s focus to return to the desktop form factor (not going to happen, PostPC, remember?) just get one of those devices running Windows 10. It’s not HORRIBLE and whatever pain you get from the OS is offset GREATLY by having the ability to get whatever graphics card you want slotted right into the system. Or power supply. Or CPU.

      1. Careful what you wish for, WA. The critical mass of Mac users may be lost sooner than you’d like to admit, and then all Apple will be able to offer is a glorified netbook that can do email and web apps. Yippee. Without Apple making serious investment in Mac hardware and ecosystem, why wouldn’t 3rd party Mac program developers leave right behind the power users? They are making dramatically more money selling Windows versions of their software, ask any of them. How many software developers are exclusively on the Mac today? Fewer every year. They can’t survive because Cook hasn’t released any truly class leading Mac hardware in 4 years or more.

        The situation is more dire than Apple realizes. Cook’s actions clearly show he has no clue how badly he’s screwed over Mac customers. He doesn’t even know there’s a problem.

        and yes, Sierra is now almost as bloated and in many ways as unintuitive as Windows 10. Just without the huge library of compatible programs to run on it. Why would it be any other way when software development in Cupertino is all about iOS first.

  2. Using the frequently referenced Jobs truck metaphor as a directional flag, defining the heavy lifting chores reasonably defines the lines between the server/workstation/laptop/tablet/phone class devices.

    Then, it’s just a math problem … every year, sell around 250 million phones at this average selling price/margin, 15 million laptops at some other average selling price/margin, 4.8 million iMacs, and 200,000 pro machines.

    1. Not disputing your post but I note : besides unit sales though are REVENUES and PROFiTS.

      Macs are the second highest hardware money maker at Apple.
      They make more than iPads. 7 billion vs 5 billion last quarter in spite of neglect.

      Macs make more than Apple Watch, Beats, iPod, Apple TV, accessories etc COMBINED (all these items are under Other Products category in the Apple financials).

      If Apple was justified in neglecting or abandoning Macs (because of low sales) then shouldn’t they ALSO abandon ALL the other hardware products as they all make less than Mac.

      Comparing ANYTHING to iPhone is a DISTORTION as iPhone is the MOST PROFITABLE PRODUCT IN THE WORLD, it makes more than all the cars of Ford Combined, it makes more than Google etc.
      If products were neglected or abandoned because they make less than iPhone then EVERY PRODUCT in the world is doomed.

      What I’m saying that in spite of unit numbers etc compared to iPhone might suggest Macs are a very important financially (as well as strategically in the eco system) to Apple.

  3. We all have to accept hat Tim Cook is a bottom line worshipper, and has no technical prowess to predict the direction their products are going, which again really requires deep technical knowledge as his predecessor apparently had. Cook could not have ever predicted (and strongly insisted) the demise of Adobe Flash or the obsolescence of optical drive etc, and actually applied that prediction to their products. He would not have been able to “re-create” a brand new market for tablets, which were initially created by MS 10 years before Apple did. The only difference was Apple offered it as a package with myriad of mobile iOS apps that became available since introduction of iPhone, then the tablets suddenly became useful products almost like a brand new market. It was this kind of thinking that was making Apple an exciting company. Sadly no longer. Apple reduced itself to a phone company and top brass constantly using calculator than brain.

    1. pretty much so.

      it appears that the upper echelon of mr. apple are way too comfortable in their deluaionary bubble. granted they are making money hand over fist, but that seems to be their only yardstick for success.

      “what’s wrong with those people out there? we are making more money that ever before. what are they complaining about? what more could they possibly want”

      well boys how about considering the notion that you would be making even more money if you would tend to your FULL product line and renew and refresh frequently.

      leaving desktop macs to languish is just letting others harvest the income from a line of products for which there is still a large demand, and will continue to be.

      remember when you boys used to own the education market? getting macs into the schools and building a user base right there? not no more,

      my wife is part of a nationwide educational assessment program. she lugs 3 heavy cases of 10 machines each to each school she visits and they are NOT macintosh machines. this goes on nationwide guess how many apple laptops not purchased that represents.

      get on the damn stick and produce the full suite of great products again and the money will pour in, you will feel like mickey mouse in the sorcerers apprentice as the brooms bring in all that green. best of both worlds !

      1. that was supposed to be delusionary. but auto correct came up with something else entirely – it spells worse than i do.

        well…. sometimes anyhow.

      2. Reads like “Apple thinks making money is great. It’s not all that great. But if they do these things, they’ll make money and be great!”

        “get on the damn stick and produce the full suite of great products again and the money will pour in”
        Because the money is TOTALLY not pouring in. Or I could join you…

        Apple’s worth 733 BILLION? Not impressed… because I know numbers that are WAY better than 733 BILLION. Like, umm… 900 BILLION, Apple would be worth 900 billion if they took my advice. I’ve been the CEO of 3 900 billion dollar businesses in the last 10 years, so I know what I’m talking about.

        1. my dear wrong way,

          do i detect a note of sarcasm? or distain perhaps? at your ill conceived notion that i have somehow set myself up as the supreme arbiter of how mr. apple can/should succeed ?

          then consider this…. what i suggest is what apple get back to doing what used to do…. remember the good old days when before the plunge and the the 7 for one stock split that apple stock was in the $700 per share range ? – and how did they manage that ? by firing on all cylinders on their full range of products.

          it was a winning and – most importantly – broad based approach.

          nowadays, apple has surpassed that earlier stock valuation, in relative terms. but in the process have become primarily dependent upon a single product line and have accordingly been labeled, by wall street and others, as a one product company – a phone company, at that –

          that is a mighty precarious fulcrum upon which to balance their corporate future. – even if it is incredibly lucrative for the time being.

          remember the lesson of mr. microsoft and their dependance upon windows as their cash cow, and how they misfired on lord knows how many other products, like zune for one example. took new management to get them back on course, relatively speaking.

          apple is already diversifying into cloud services, which is a positive step, and partnering with ibm to make headway in the enterprise zone – which is all to the good – but perhaps they should re-diversify back to the future and reenergize their full product line – they know, or used to know, how to build a better mouse trap. there is plenty of additional revenue left in desktop macs to be gained – more than any over-priced coffee table books are ever bound to yield

          or earphones, or watches, or the chimerical apple-mobile for that matter.

          they have a vision that mobile is the future and yes it will be, but not yet, it ain’t.

          and it makes not a lot of sense to be abandoning older product lines – like desk tops- UNTIL mobile products are fully cooked and the products they envision are the products they can produce. they are just not there yet.

          big mistake i think

    2. “deep technical knowledge” DEEP TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE? Can’t believe I actually read someone seriously write those words. Steve Jobs was many things. “Deeply technical” was not any of those. 🙂

      1. Jobs was more technically gifted than any current Apple executive. He did sit shoulder to shoulder with Woz getting the company’s first several products built.

  4. Accountants make terrible CEOs. Apple needs a sales guy in the top role. A sales guy talks to the users and tells his guys to build what the market needs (which is not always what they ask for).

    Steve was a salesman. He was lots of things but he was a damn good sales guy.

    It’s time Apple found another one.

    1. Hey Sunbeam,

      I totally agree. I have been in industrial sales for 30+ years. I avoid, like the plague, companies run by beancounters. Their way of existing is a horrible model. They always say….”we gotta make our numbers”. when they know neither the company’s technology nor their own customers!! If the company would totally focus on making their products the best they could be…the numbers will take care of themselves!

      All they know is an Excel Spreadsheet!! It’s pretty obvious that Tim has not a fraction of the vision Steve had!

      1. For large public companies, such as Apple, there is no getting away from the bean counters. There is too much scrutiny at the investor level to be content with a “touchy/feely” sales guy as the CEO. Steve Jobs was an anomaly. Even he knew it took a different kind of person to be a CEO when forming Apple, hence his hiring of John Scully. His many years with Apple, NeXT and Pixar eventually prepared him to take the role at Apple. But like I said, he was a rarity: a product guy that learned finally, through well documented failures, how to be a CEO.

    2. “A sales guy talks to the users and tells his guys to build”
      A sales guy would see what’s selling the most and make a whole lot more of those…. which would put us where we are now. There is NO way a sales guy si going to talk to 15 or 20 “professionals” then spend 10 or 20 million to make a device that will at MOST sell 5 million. He’d focus on the thing that’s selling over 100 million easy even without much advertising.

      1. Typical….

        What’s really wrong with this kind of argument is exactly what other people here are trying to prove. No beancounter as a CEO if he had little ability to look down the road they are currently treading on. That’s what people are worried about. The complexion of Apple is apparently changing, or had already changed.
        Tim cook is simply benefiting from the seeds planted by his predecessor. Current number, however big it might be, is essentially coming largely from one product that was introduced 10 years ago.
        Apple need someone who would be looking next 10 years down the road and plants his own seeds now. Depending on a single product is too risky as you saw in Samsung case, and their dependency on phone was minimal compared to Apple’s. Apple have many excellent things but the management should nurture them. Do they realize that Apple have been losing once dominating markets one by one? Did not it matter? Come on..

      2. Maybe someone that thinks like a SciFi writer, has the salesman’s knack of selling the ideas and the hard nose to push for perfection in products and the people that work for him/her.

  5. What does it mean to be a Pro machine in 2017?

    Apple’s answer is: expensive and thin.

    The customer’s answer is: highest performance in terms of computing power, graphics power, battery life, durability, and flexible configuration.

    In the prior decade, Apple knew what “Pro” meant, and for the most part it delivered what pro customers needed and wanted. Those days appear to be gone as Apple sells fashion over function.

    Oh, and one more thing: Apple used to delight customers with product releases that were unexpected and refreshingly new, often giving the consumer a capability that no competitive product offered at all. Under Cook, we see iOS is all that matters, and what passes for Mac improvements are belated inclusions of stuff like touchbar gimmicks that add cost but not productivity or fundamental value. Meanwhile Ive hacks a few millimeters off the case, cripples battery life, and calls it innovation.

    There is a reason formerly happy Mac users are pissed, and it is all on Apple. You’d think that competent management would listen and make course corrections.

    1. Here’s another embarrassing little MacBook Pro comparison, also from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brookecrothers/2016/12/10/holiday-hot-deal-dell-xps-15-2016-vs-macbook-pro-15-2016-price-is-a-big-factor/

      It compares Dell’s old 15″ XPS laptop to Apple’s shiny new 2016 15″ MBP.

      Advantages to Dell: price (by huge margin), display size, display resolution, battery capacity (not necessarily life, it depends on whether you are running that 4K screen hard), GPU, legacy ports (XPS includes integrated SD slot, HDMI, USB 3.0, and Thunderbolt 3 versus only TB3 on the Mac)

      The Mac has a touch bar, the XPS has the option (still vastly chearper) for a full touchscreen, which doesn’t interest me in the slightest.

      As noted at PC Mac http://www.pcmag.com/review/349093/apple-macbook-pro-15-inch-2016 , Apple’s latest MBP is indeed very good with simple tasks and fast I/O, but remember that you can’t upgrade the drives or memory on the Mac and the Dell outperformed the MBP on any task that involved graphics. Interesting that PC Mag concluded by downgrading the base XPS by saying that the base model battery life is too short, when Dell also offers users a larger capacity battery option as well. So with the Dell you have models that are lighter (base XPS = 3.9 vs MBP = 4.0 #) or longer lasting (XPS extended battery = 4.4 #). That is nice USER CHOICE.

      So there you go — Apple chose thinner and less user configurable for what they call a Pro machine. Dumb move, Cupertino. That’s not thinking different, that’s just not even thinking. When are you going to learn that to a Pro, thinner is not better.

  6. In my opinion they need a macbook pro that is expandable beyond 16 GB of ram and not sealed – additionally, if it is a “pro” access to a beefy GPU, preferably NVidia, to do some GPU development. I love apple but for the first time in a long time I picked a PC (alienware) because of RAM and GPU limitations on the mac…

    Apple needs to get back to performance based machines – they have the OS – but they are going to loose the high end developers – if it has the pro moniker then make it a pro –

    1. Exactly right, t.

      It would have been fine if Apple had released its current MacBook Pro lineup without the Pro moniker and followed up with real MBPs when Kaby Lake was available in quantity. Instead road warriors with connectivity needs beyond bluetooth and wifi are stuck buying the old 2015 model, overpaying for a disposable dongle hell gimmick bar machine, or waiting as usual for Apple to deliver something worthy of the Pro name.

      And where is the 17″ MBP? You can’t tell me there isn’t a market for this. Price it right and sales would take off.

      Apple’s problem is that it thinks margins on Macs should be higher than margins on everything else, to subsidize freebie software. That is a tragic. Hardware and software should both be reasonably priced. Stop raping hardware buyers with outrageous prices. If macOS and iWork were as well made as they were in 2009, people would happily pay for it.

      1. “And where is the 17″ MBP?”

        Exactly!

        Apple released the world first 17″ laptop in May 2003. Bought it fully loaded on day one over $3,000. I still use it and holding up well after all the tech years passed. Running Panther OS and IMHO the most beautiful OS has ever produced.

        The skinny sh@

        1. Sorry, hit the wrong button. The skinny sh@t leaves out battery life and ports I need for my work.

          By all means — bring back a 17-inch Godzilla desktop portable! I’ll be ordering on day one … 😎

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