I try to avoid writing opinion pieces, but with the rumours this week that Apple is reportedly updating the Mac Mini this fall, I needed to get my thoughts on the subject off my chest.
I think it is has been clear for a while that Apple has not been paying close attention to the Mac lineup. For example, in the recent Apple quarterly earnings report, Mac sales showed a 13% year-over-year decline. Although there may be other reasons for this drop, it’s not the sign of a healthy product portfolio. Don’t forget that last year Apple executives openly admitted the current Mac Pro is a failure and they plan for a revamped version in 2019.
That is great news for many, but why is it taking so long to replace the Mac Pro? Firstly, it is clear that Apple leadership gives Product design priority, and all their products must be Objet d’art irregardless of the use case. As someone who uses Apple products on a daily basis, I appreciate this attention to detail. That said, perhaps a little more focus could be spent on delivering a product which meets the needs of the intended customer. Who has not heard the phrase “Perfection is the enemy of done”? I think this could explain some of the reasons behind Apple’s current Mac line follies.
In the case of the Mac Mini and Pro, I believe by and large both these products now cater to same customers. How many of us have an iMac, MacBook Pro or Mac Pro on our desks, and also a Mac Mini on the workbench, in the living room, or in a closet somewhere? In past, the Mac Mini was developed by Apple as a gateway product which helped bring new customers into their ecosystem. In the current market, that is no longer the case, as many people now primarily use laptops or tablets and will likely never own a desktop PC in their lifetimes.
So, if the Mini and Pro cater to the same or similar markets, why have two distinct products at all? This is the question I have been asking myself recently. For years I owned a 2012 Mac Mini, which I also upgraded several times during its life. I could do this because Apple DESIGNED the product to be easily opened and upgraded (although the hard drive was a little persnickety to swap). Knowing this, why couldn’t a new Mac Mini with easily upgradeable memory and storage also be the “core” of a new modular Mac Pro product line?
Looking at the current Mac Pro (the “Trashcan” Mac), the most significant issue was the GPUs, which were dated within months of release, and no upgrade path was available. This problem could be resolved by including expansion slots in a new Mac Pro, but somehow I think this flies in the face of current Apple ethos. Following my previous logic, this could be handled by a Mac Pro (aka Mini) “core” system using an external eGPU enclosure (or RAID for additional storage) connected using Thunderbolt or USB 3.1. Apple is already going down this path with the MacBook Pro line, so a desktop system using the same ecosystem of expansion products would make a lot of sense. Yes, this is likely the fantasy of a long-time Mac fan, but it’s sure fun to think about.
Thanks for reading.