Apple’s audacity is on display with new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR

Ben Thompson for Stratechery:

It is the nature of hardware that a computer the vast majority of Apple’s customers will never own was the headline from the company’s keynote at its annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC). The Mac Pro starts at $6,000, and will be configurable to a number many times that. If you think that is absurd, or would simply rather buy a new car, well, you’re not the target customer…

It was fun seeing what Apple came up with in its attempt to build the most powerful Mac ever, in the same way it is fun to read about supercars. More importantly, I thought that sense of “going for it” that characterized the Mac Pro permeated the entire keynote: Apple seemed more sure of itself and, consequentially, more audacious than it has in several years…

In retrospect, the previous malaise around Apple should have been expected… [but, late last year] CEO Tim Cook had to issue a revenue warning thanks to slumping iPhone sales; after four years of accounting for between 68-70% of Apple’s revenue in the company’s fiscal first quarter, the iPhone suddenly only accounted for 62%. It might have been the best thing that could have happened to Apple.

MacDailyNews Take: Thompson writes of “three announcements” yesterday that “when taken together, spoke to a company moving forward.”

  1. iTunes being split into separate Music, Podcast, and TV apps
  2. iPadOS of which Thompson writes, “it is a statement from Apple that the non-iPhone parts of its business still matter. While the company was on the iPhone plateau it wasn’t so clear that management cared about either — both the iPad and Mac languished, the former in terms of software, and the latter in terms of hardware — but now there is real evidence the company is fully back in. That management no longer had a choice is besides the point.”
  3. App Store on Apple Watch because now the Watch can live on it’s own, without iPhone, becoming much more interesting to the 70+% of the world who only have pretend iPhones constantly leaking their personal data onto the internet.

The most important announcements were the tandem of Mac Pro and the Pro Display XDR because their existence is tangible proof that Apple’s management has finally woken up from the stupor of gorging on easy iPhone earnings for years and gotten back to work!

As we wrote earlier, to once again be able to confidently state that Apple makes the world’s most advanced personal computer has us brimming with joy! Regardless of how relatively few will be purchasing Mac Pro units, the knowledge that Apple has this flagship Mac now percolates throughout the entire family of Mac models, elevating them in the process. The same goes for the Pro Display XDR.

There’s a reason why quality carmakers make esoteric high-performance models – because they can and because they cast a halo of quality on all of their other more salable models. They don’t make money on the supercars themselves, but supercars make them money.

This is why we were so disappointed with Apple letting Mac Pro rot for over half a decade and for killing off Apple-made high quality displays. Both were poor decisions, now rectified. All Apple needs to do now is demonstrate their commitment to these products over an extended period of time and they’ll be right back on track!

34 Comments

    1. There’s not a LOT of choice by any means, but if you look hard, you’ll find several non-Apple companies that make the kind of systems you’re looking for.

        1. Oh great you can buy one of your own then. How exciting. However for real people while the pros love to play ‘Lego’ with their machines and understandably so, Very few consumers or even the less power hungry pros like myself do more than upgrade memory or more rarely the odd hard drive both of which I have been able to do on my 27 inch IMac even when the latter was supposedly seriously problematical. For those like you there will always be another target no matter what is achieved, doubt you could live without the craic of it so yes you are a sort of fanboy too like it or not. Lucky you.

  1. Tim Bajarin on Forbes:

    “Apple’s New Mac Pro Is The Mac Of Steve Jobs’ Dreams”

    “The new Mac Pro emphasizes that the Mac is still an essential product for Apple, and they can still innovate at the highest levels. It also helps fulfill a key goal of Apple Co-Founder, Steve Jobs. A day after Jobs came back to Apple in 1997, I met with him to try and get a sense of how he was going to help turn Apple around. I asked him directly what his top priority would be. He said that while he was away, Apple forgot about their core customers. These were the folks that helped put the Mac on the map and included engineers, graphic designers, desktop publishers, and those who needed more powerful tools to do their specific type of technically driven jobs.”

  2. Pfffft. Everyone knows even a child can build a Windows PC with twice the processing power for half the cost of anything Apple can build. After all, with a Windows PC and the right components, you can overclock every component until it crashes and burns. Isn’t that what Windows PC users love? So what if it only runs ten minutes between reboots. Just look at those awesome benchmarks. That’s what real computing is all about. Those Windows PC benchmarks leave any Apple computer in the dust. When most movie/sound studios can buy five Windows PCs for the price of one 2019 Mac Pro, why does Apple even bother to try?
    /s

    1. That sounded a bit like irony to me, I remember a once top 10 design company finally going broke because it could only do 10 minutes of work between reboots and constantly missed deadlines as a result, the cost and reputation overheads were killing. But I will answer it as if it’s a serious appraisal.

      Because consistent and reliable workflow is vital to pros and having worked in in all sorts of studios with all sorts of computers I fully understand why so many will crave these machines and the abilities they provide to meet deadlines as creative pros love and loyalty to Macs has long demonstrated. PC bods just hate that many take it childishly as a personal affront it seems.

      On a more amusing note can only laugh at reading about why do Apple bother to support Pros when we have had years of them bemoaning that it neglected them for so long. So which is it? Equally the thought that all but a small minority of pros (as distinct from geeks who have no interest in Apple r to Apple) actually build their own machines is laughable and delusional and the importance of those tech fiddlers massively over blown by their perpensity to visit tech forums to expel (mostly) hot air as a break from their obsessive machinations inside their overheating boxes while real pros actually do real work rather than boast endlessly about what they could do if only their machines were working at any given moment. That’s not how workflow operates in the real world and true pros know it, as I suspect do Quark for example who effectively destroyed their business by silly comments like yours to those very same pros.

      1. Pros are not only movie editors and graphic artists.
        A meteorologist or any other kind of scientific researcher is not at all served by a $1000 monitor stand. And 28 cores are nothing to them.

        Both niche situations.
        Where’s the Apple PC?

    1. That would be about $21,600 in today’s dollars.

      It used to be that the computer you wanted always cost about $5,000.

      Companies spend lots of money for salaries, buildings, landscaping, airline travel, etc. A business class seat from San Francisco to Frankfurt costs about $5k or $6k. That is the cost just for airfare, doesn’t include hotels, meals, rental cars, etc. Companies spend this kind of money to send people to meetings for a week or two. Why not spend $10k on a tricked out machine that will be highly productive for a few years?

      1. Largely because the world has changed.

        Sure, the Corporate high-fliers are still riding in Business Class .. but they’re not the types that need digital horsepower: when the latter travels (if ever) its stuck back in sardine-class Coach, because the high-fliers say that their department needs to tighten their belt if they’re even thinking about ever paying for Business Class.

    2. Different era. Much of the standards and higher volume manufacturing didn’t exist in the 80’s and 90’s. Apple literally invented it’s own manufacturing, and it built its Macs in California.

      Today prices for commodities have come down and Apple sources many parts from China like every other computer maker. But Apple prices RAM like it was solid gold. Apple could and should have been able to hit a $5k starting price with this new Mac Pro. I hope that means a mini tower is in the works, because Apple is totally missing out there.

      Bottom line, entry level prices for Apple workstations have always been on the high side and this is no exception. The real question is whether the user gets a long term investment or a dead end trashcan. Thank goodness Apple finally pulled their collective heads out of their asses on that matter. A tool value isn’t primarily dictated by initial purchase price, but how much work you get out of it over time.

      I was surprised that Apple revealed so little about the Mac Pro. Nothing about where it is made, complete pricing, actual availability dates, etc. After all this wait why don’t they have that nailed down???? I would have appreciated a much more thorough discussion on Macs and skip the Watch fluff in the keynote altogether. There was nothing about the Watch that a developer needed to hear from SJW Timmy.

      1. “Apple could and should have been able to hit a $5k starting price with this new Mac Pro.”
        Apple’s been very clear about providing an almost linear line of power/pricepoints over the last few years. Everyone watching knew that this system was going to start priced near the top end of the iMac Pro prices and go up into the stratosphere from there.
        These are not mass market volume leaders, they’re not for “folks that like slots” or “folks that want a Mini with a little more oomph” or “folks looking for an affordable tower”. They’re specifically for “folks that need more power than the iMac Pro” and, really, there’s not a lot of people that need that much power. Low volume = high cost, higher volume = lower cost.

        Apple doesn’t report on specific Mac sales, but I’m willing to bet that in any given quarter, the sales of this Mac Pro will never go over the single digit percentage of total Mac sales.

      2. Gawd… enough with the shrivel-hearted whining! “It shouldv’e been $5,000 instead of $6,000″… Gimme a break!!! And if it had been 5, you’d have said it should be 4.

        1. Stuff it Sean.

          This appears on the Apple iMac Pro tech specs page:

          3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor
          Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz
          32GB 2666MHz ECC memory, configurable up to 256GB
          1TB SSD storage1
          Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB HBM2 memory
          10Gb Ethernet
          Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
          27-inch Retina 5K 5120-by-2880 P3 display

          $4,999.00

          For only $1000 more, Apple takes away the display, degrades the video card, drops the SDD capacity by 75% — that is a lot to take away in exchange for a few more PCI slots.

          Apple’s entry pricing for the Mac Pro should definitely match the iMac Pro’s capabilities or drop the price.

          Is there any price gouging Apple does that you don’t heartily endorse?

    3. @Think. But when Apple was selling the IIfx for $10k, it was also selling a more affordable option in the IIci (and IIcx) that had expansion slots, and for which the memory, drives, and video card could be upgraded by the user.

      1. Yes. I wish they would release a half version of this tower. Three slots, half the ram slots, just scale it down so the Pros that only need that could afford it.

  3. I believe that Apple hit a set spot with the Mac Pro pricing. It’s made for Pros and they are going to pay the price. A starting price of $5K will work for them as that will be a tax deduction. Same with the new display, which was compared to a $45K Sony display. A fully mixed out Pro kit will cost around $50K and companies that want the results that a $50K Mac Pro kit can deliver will pay that price. (remember that the CEO is probably driving a company car that cost more)

      1. It will pay off its self in a matter on months if you’re a real pro!

        And if you’re “just” a Prosumer, its ROI is “never”, so Apple has utterly lost that segment.

        Similarly, a small “one-man” entrepreneur type of enterprise just won’t be able to rationalize paying this much, when a gamer-esque PC will do the trick.

        Now that this Mac Pro announcement has been made, I’ve gone back and done a preliminary update to replace my Mac Pros and the shoot-off is basically between an HP/Dell/etc that runs around $5K and a maxed-out (~$3.5K) Mac mini with another $3K in ye old “pile-o-externals” (same lack-of-appeal that the 2013 trash can suffered from), because priorities vary by workflows. Granted, I could go with an iMac Pro, but that would run roughly ($5.5K + $3K =) $8.5K and give me a monitor that I don’t currently need.

  4. All that is truly fantastic and the new pro is truly a beast !…… But in all honesty shame on Apple for not including at least a basic stand on a 5k$ monitor .. a stand is an essential part of a display….if someone wants a fancy one, then let them up-sell the option… but to pay 5k and have no way of using the display beyond leaning it against a wall …. well that is truly a cheap statement…. It mar’s the picture.

    I Hope your are Listening Tim.. ( it’s not too late)

    1. Totally agree, Cooks meaness still has to creep in doesn’t it despite those pros who buy this machine indirectly (even directly) make millions for Apple through brand awareness, product placement and direct influence. Apple just loves a shot in the foot it seems.

    2. Remember, Apple’s been meeting with the small group of folks this is for, for the last few years. I’m not even in the market for this particular system and I have a VESA mounted monitor. The only people that will buy this and lean it against the wall… are the imaginary people in folks’ mind as they’re trying to come up with a reason to join in the hate 🙂

      Many will buy the monitor and the VESA mount, mount it and forget it. And, for those that need what the stand does, they’ll buy the stand

  5. Well said. I dont plan on buying the new Pro beast but kniwing it’s there gives me confidence in Apple’s other products. They really seemed to hit all the new tools and software out of the park.

  6. Apple has not abandoned simi-pro, prosumer, whatever the work-flow is called. iMac Pro, and even iPad pro now serve that. Also, one can get mac mini’s and go crazy and not spend close to 5,000 dollars. The feelings-hurt creators (not all, but some) on YT made up that what was coming was a class of product that Apple decided to blow past in power and especially price, designed for companies more than individuals.. Oh, well.

    1. The slow Mac Mini is Sh-t, the only thing worth buying is the Mac OS always has been….Apple needs to make a desktop in between the iMac Pro and the larger Mac Pro desktop, the monitor is very very good except for the price of the stand and way it was introduced.

      1. I guess until they do, you could hackintosh out an old Pro Cheese Grater from 2011/12. And can’t one use any vesa mount for the new HD pro monitor? One isn’t required to buy the stand. Most probably won’t, since pre-existing work areas have mounts already.

      2. Then build a hackintosh if you need the 20+ core horsepower but don’t want to spend new Pro $$. Apple’s gonna do Apple. And sometimes that sucks. For years humanity has screamed for them to go modular, stay top of the line. Okay, they did. But with something more Red Weapon than Cannon DSLR. I personally think they should make an intermediary desktop option, but they probably won’t. The push for ‘everybody else’ who is not rendering out the next Marvel movie is iOS based. Maybe it’ll blow up in Apple’s face. Maybe not.

    2. Don’t want an all-in-one or a mini brick. For graphics work, the Mac Pro is about the right configuration, perhaps overkill for many, but local storage is still hugely important to many of us. Apple definitely has a huge hole in its Mac lineup that a small tower could fulfil. Knowing how much Timmy loves to reuse old chassis, maybe he could re-label the Trashcan as the Mac Pro Wannabe, offer current ports and Core i7 & i9 chips, totally upgradeable internal components, and price it at ~ $1500 to start. Then the price sensitive high power users would be modestly happy.

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