Jun 282019

Some of the reaction to Apple’s recent product announcements has been amusing to say the least.

First of all, let’s get the monitor out of the way first. If you think that monitor is ridiculously expensive, you’ve not looked at the specifications closely enough. Mid-range content creation monitors do cost that much – a quick look on B&H shows two monitors in the same price ballpark as the new Apple monitor, and the Apple monitor has higher specifications.

Not including the stand may seem a bit cheap, but frankly if you’ve already paid for a VESA stand that suits your working environment why pay for a stand that you will just throw away?

But yes, $1,000 for a metal stand is a little pricey. Given the negative reaction of the Apple fans at the show, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple drop that price (I also wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t).

Now onto the Mac Pro.

First of all, I should say that I’m not buying one – I don’t have the money, and whilst I run a somewhat underpowered workstation at work and a somewhat overpowered workstation at home, the strong points of the Mac Pro aren’t what I’m interested in and its weak points are where I’m interested in strength.

Is this expensive? Of course it is, but so is any high-end workstation – this isn’t your standard desktop PC! You can get a very roughly equivalently specced out Dell Precision 5820 for very roughly 2/3 the cost. But that comes with slower ECC memory and is much less expandable. You can also configure a Dell 7920 to a point that a Mac Pro looks cheap (it goes well above $100,000).

And you don’t buy such a system without expanding it beyond the base configuration.

This kind of machine is bought by professionals where the cost is less important than the return on investment. If it makes a professional just a little bit more productive, it can pay for itself within a year. Of the photographic (and video) professionals I watch on the tube, at least one is planning on buying three as soon as he can.

  1. Could you get a better specification ‘DIY’ machine with a budget of say $15,000? Probably although it may not be as expandable.
  2. Could you run macOS on it? Probably but it wouldn’t be supported by Apple (and that sort of thing is important in a corporate environment).
  3. Could you get next day fix or replace support for your ‘DIY’ machine? Almost certainly not; and again, when any downtime costs you money, that sort of thing is important.

There are however two criticisms I would make of Apple :-

  1. Storage. The new Mac Pro is severely limited in terms of storage expansion. In some ways that it is understandable; the sort of customer this is aimed for is likely to have a big fast NAS box somewhere. But I think they missed a trick by not offering a disk expansion chassis; perhaps an accessory tower that clips to the main tower doubling the width.
  2. No “Mac Pro Mini”. There is still an empty spot in Apple’s product line-up covering the mid-range tower territory – in fact exactly what those who criticise the Mac Pro are effectively asking for.
Cube On The Lines
Jun 122013

Apple’s teaser of their replacement for the venerable Mac Pro has raised quite a few hackles “out there” amongst a certain kind of Mac Pro prospective customer. They’re wrong.

It is quite possible that Apple has done some extensive research on whether internal expansion with storage and PCIe cards is necessary or not. And it is quite possible that most of the old Mac Pros had not been expanded in this way.

But Apple are wrong too (and of course I’m right whilst everyone else is wrong  :-P): Internal expansion is important for some people, and they are quite possibly the sort of people that you don’t want to antagonise. Specifically the enthusiasts who would rather keep their storage internal, who want to add accelerator cards of one kind or another, etc.

Whilst the enthusiasts may not be the majority of Apple’s customers, they do have a certain amount of influence. People asking the enthusiasts at the moment may well get told to get an old Mac Pro right now so they are not limited by the expansion capabilities of the new Mac Pro.

And there’s a way that Apple could have done both; kept the neat design of the new Mac Pro, and allow the enthusiasts to have “internal” expansion. And it could be done by simply allowing the new form factor to expand the case through the base – allow it to “click” onto a PCIe expansion cage, or a two-drive enclosure.

Sure that would require some sort of special bus in the base, and a sensible way of attaching cases to the base in a secure enough manner. But it would also mean that the new Mac Pro was as expandable as the old without the use of the cable tangle that most external devices require.

Take a look behind most large tower PC’s and you’ll find a tangle of cables attaching screens, keyboards, mice, external drives, and odder devices. Apple’s new Mac Pro will just make this worse when they could have done something even more radical and showed the industry how to improve the situation.

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