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Apple is back in classic pro mode, and we're getting the new Macs to prove it

Flashback a couple of years ago and, for Apple's traditional pro users, things looked bleak. The Mac Pro had come out of the gates like a hyper car but hadn't really gone anywhere, and the then-brand new MacBooks Pro seemed to be designed for everyone but them.

The dynamics were twofold. Apple itself had become a different company. The success of the iPod and iPhone had taken it from niche computing fully into mainstream consumer electronics. From millions of customers, it was reaching over a billion. The definition of "pro" had also evolved. With the democratization of computing, people of all kinds were using technology to create and succeed in a wider range of endeavors than ever before.

We know now, because Apple has told us. With the 2013 Mac Pro, the company says it painted itself into a thermal corner: a design that made a huge bet on dual GPU and Open CL in a world that ultimately went a different way.

And that was no comfort to the generations of pro users who'd grown up on the incredibly flexible, resilient, and enduring cheesegrater Mac Pro.

We also know, because Apple also told us, that the 2016 MacBooks Pro were incredibly popular with a wide range of users, including developers and entrepreneurs. But, their focus on power efficiency rather than power made them just as ill-suited to the traditional creative pros who wanted more cores, more memory, more storage, and more ports, and more battery, efficiency be damned.

Combined with what had happened with everything from Final Cut Pro X to Aperture to iWork over the years, where the software traditional pro users knew and loved was atomized and rebuilt from the ground up, starting with empowering rather than power-user features, and it's easy to understand why they felt, in a word, abandoned.

They were using Apple before Apple was doomed, and literally have the t-shirt, and suddenly the company they supported felt like it was supporting a new generation of users who weren't them. And yeah, that's like putting someone through school only for them to graduate and rush off with someone younger and hotter.

There's no need to look back through social media or blogs to tell you how traditional pros felt about that. It was palpable.

Because Apple is told it's wrong so always, its learned to be patient. If it thinks it's right, it waits so the world can some around to its views. That happens a lot but, when it doesn't, it takes Apple a while to realize it. When Apple is doing the right thing rationally, logically, but maybe not emotionally, it takes longer.

Apple's also not a high bandwidth company. It focuses on a few things at a time, gets them done, and then moves on to the next few things. While the company's product lineup and success have grown exponentially, the organization and methods behind them simply don't scale anywhere nearly as fast.

That means it swings for home runs every time and expects to hit them, and when it has to change things up, the recovery is going to be incredibly apparent.

iMac Pro

iMac Pro (Image credit: iMore)

That's probably why Apple took the unprecedented step of announcing the new, modular Mac Pro and Pro Display a couple of years before they were going to ship. More important to the company and its executives than even its traditional secrecy was letting its core customers, its creative pros, know that it was listening and it was going to take care of them.

iMac Pro was almost certainly in the pipeline, and a nice set up for the upcoming Mac Pro. I'm not so certain about the new MacBook Pro with 32GB of DDR4 memory, which is less power-efficient than the 16GB of LPDDR3 memory Apple used in the previous two generations. It, like the Mac Pro, feels more like Apple thinking with its traditional heart again, not its mainstream head.

And that, I'd argue, is the best Apple. The one that bets big on bold moves and then watches how customers take to the, not just en masse but in specific markets. Then it iterates, and not just when it plans to but when it feels it needs to.

That's the key thing here. Apple seldom speaks but it does listen and, more importantly, traditional pro users are starting to feel listened to.

Apple can't ever make everyone happy. Just like there were people — myself included — complaining about the lack of a high-end MacBook Pro SKU to sit on top of the lineup, there are now people complaining about the price tag of that SKU. And that's fine. Apple already made the MacBook lineup for most people. The 32GB, 4TB 15-inch MacBook Pro is for a very specific niche. (The rumored "MacBook Air" reboot will almost certainly be for the opposite niche.)

It's tempting to say Apple is falling in love with traditional pros all over again, and the new MacBook Pro and upcoming Mac Pro are its love letters. But it's still too early to tell how far it will all go.

For now, it's simply a great time for the high-end, top-shelf Apple spec nerd and pro customer, and this fall and next year should be even more of the same.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

40 Comments
  • Rene, don’t be so quick to give Apple credit for a portable whose keyboard design flaw is STILL unacknowledged or for a desktop & display that STILL haven’t shipped.
  • From another article on this site:
    "Plus, the 2018 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar now has a True Tone display (including on the Touch Bar itself) and improved third-generation keyboard." So it has been acknowledged.
  • He's talking about the New Mac Pro and the new Display mentioned in the blog post not having shipped, yet. There are PC laptops with 100% RGB, Color Calibrated displays at 1440p and UHD resolutions. For cheaper prices. And I still want a physical row of Function Keys. They aren't a relic. We aren't talking about a FireWire port, here. Is Apple going to allow getting higher-end specs without giving up the function row?
  • There are always non-Apple computers for cheaper prices, where have you been the last 20 years or more? The function keys are pretty much a relic, even as a developer I don't use them. If you need them, they're still there as touch keys, I don't see any problem with that.
  • The function keys aren't a relic. And it's hard to find an IDE or development tool that doesn't use them. You're blatantly lying.
  • Hard to find an IDE or development tool that doesn't use them? What? I've used plenty of tools and I've never needed to use the function keys. Sure they probably provide some sort of shortcut, but just because you use them doesn't mean everyone else does
  • What are you smoking, accusing him of lying?. Not everybody uses F keys all that much. And when they do, they have to look. I certainly do. So having virtual F Keys is not a problem for me. I'm sure many people can touch type F keys, but I don't use them enough to get there. But I have been a touch typist since 1972. You can set the TouchBar to show them normally and the other view by pressing the Function key. I'm finding it better than just fixed keys for numerous reasons. Not the least because Macs don't have touch screens, and the TouchBar pretty much makes that irrelevant for those of us who prefer keyboard and trackpads over mice.
  • The inability to upgrade internals make it less pro and not THAT classic.
  • I agree with this, I hate the whole "soldered-in" thing
  • Disagree. Pros know exactly what they want before making the purchase and they can also justify paying for the crazy prices of high end RAM and solid state storage. What pro ever goes back and decides to add more RAM because they didn’t realize the scope of their own work? Any pro would sooner buy a new machine than add RAM.
  • You clearly are not a pro if you actually believe that. That has to be one of the most clueless comments I've ever read here. Pay $3,000 for a new machine to upgrade RAM, in lieu of paying $150-200 for more RAM they can easily slot in themselves? Not even a "Pro" is that utterly clueless.
  • Pros certainly don't talk like 13 year olds.
  • Pros buy what they need up front. They don't buy a lower-spec model and plan to upgrade later when they have more money.
  • Quote: "It's a great time to be an Apple creative pro customer." Perhaps, but I'd rather save the money. Windows is just fine; excellent, even ;-) Particularly as pertains to software choice for those of us who don't default to Adobe. Windows has... astronomically more choice, and the choices are often cheaper due to the much stiffer competition on that platform. They are late on this. I'm not sure why they thought it was a good idea to ship MBPs that were literally under-spec for many "Pro" Apps at the highest possible spec package; and ran them with worse performance than $1,500 Windows Laptops in the $2,400+ pricing bracket (No, that's not an exaggeration...). It seems odd that they'd focus so much on the "Power" of their Phones and Tablets, yet skimp so aggressively in their Laptops... for years. To me, the Brilliance of Apple's "Pro" Strategy wasn't really about the hardware alone. It was about the competitively priced Apple software, which had grown to undercut the competition, offering a full end-to-end experience. The lower software costs, over time, offset the higher costs of the hardware. With the move to iMovie Pro X and GarageBand Pro X... Oops, sorry... Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X; the killing of Aperture, the molasses development of Motion (and Logic, for that matter... FCP seems to get the majority of the attention at Apple)... They are not making a very attractive value proposition outside of "but, don't you like macOS better than Windows?". That may be, but I like money more. Operating Systems are nothing more than a shell, these days, with the majority of people running the same applications across them :-P And I am glad those people are finally getting MacBooks that actually are designed with Pros in mind, and aren't worse than a budget Windows gaming laptop in "Pro" App performance, while costing almost twice as much. I am just not seeing the value from an end-to-end, complete ecosystem standpoint. Adobe runs better on Windows. Avid runs better on Windows, and is certainly easier to manage, there.. There are still a lot of Pro Apps that aren't available on macOS, which allow you to escape the Creative Cloud; with 95% of the macOS-compatible alternatives (the few serious ones that actually exist) existing on Windows, as well. Higher competition on Windows also helps to drive and keep prices down, as well, which is good from a long-term economic standpoint. macOS-exclusive software titles routinely overcharge.
  • "Windows is just fine; excellent, even ;-) Particularly as pertains to software choice for those of us who don't default to Adobe. Windows has... astronomically more choice, and the choices are often cheaper due to the much stiffer competition on that platform." There's a lot of things that irk me with Windows, but I won't get into that, I prefer macOS and that's just my opinion. I don't like Adobe as a company these days, so I don't use their products, but I still find plenty of choice on the Mac. For example for image editing, there's Pixelmator Pro, Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer, not to mention all the open-source software that's out there, but even paid software there's still plenty more. There will always be cheaper and higher specification Windows computers, this has been the case since forever. Not really sure what your point is here, people are paying for Apple devices to get macOS, macOS-exclusive apps, great customer-support from Apple, and stylish-looking machines. If none of these points are important to you, then you'd simply buy a Windows computer (or even build one yourself). Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X both have great ratings on the App Store, so to me it sounds more like you're obstinate and don't like change. "Adobe runs better on Windows"
    Adobe's program quality/business practices have been shocking lately, this isn't a problem with macOS, it's just Adobe's shoddy programming which is why I don't use Adobe products anymore. The same is probably the case with Avid, considering I use plenty of applications that work just as well on macOS as they do on Windows. "There are still a lot of Pro Apps that aren't available on macOS"
    Which ones? "macOS-exclusive software titles routinely overcharge."
    The clue is in the start of this sentence. There are far more people on Windows than macOS, so if you're only developing for macOS, you'll have to charge a higher price to make up for lost sales. Maybe the correct solution is to develop your application on both platforms, but at the end of the day this is up to the developer, and whether they have sufficient resources in order to develop for Windows as well.
  • Quote: "Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X both have great ratings on the App Store, so to me it sounds more like you're obstinate and don't like change." App Store Ratings aren't exactly convincing. It's people like you that actually bother to rate apps on the store. I certainly don't... Quote: "Adobe's program quality/business practices have been shocking lately, this isn't a problem with macOS, it's just Adobe's shoddy programming which is why I don't use Adobe products anymore. The same is probably the case with Avid, considering I use plenty of applications that work just as well on macOS as they do on Windows." Oh... Blame literally everyone else because it certainly can't be an issue with Apple or macOS. Office runs better on Windows because Microsoft is just bad at developing software, too! Quote: "Which ones?" First of all "ones" is not a word; it's an oxymoron. Secondly, there are multiple: Dartfish, Edius Pro, Vegas, ACID, CorelDraw, Cakewalk Sonar, Sequoia, WordPerfect Office, etc. There are, literally, dozens of them. Some that do have macOS offerings are notably worse than the Windows versions, as well. DO you need examples of those, too? You probably spend all of your time in IDEs. You don't know what the **** you're talking about here... There is a plethora of choice on Windows for people who can do without Adobe, or Avid, or Microsoft, or other "de facto" choices you run to simply because they're "big" and available on macOS... Going to macOS robs you of those choices. And there are entire classes of application types that are largely represented on the platform. Why do you think Apple keeps Boot Camp around? Quote: "The clue is in the start of this sentence." It's easy to overcharge when you hvae no competition. That's why they overcharge. It has nothing to do with less people, as the Windows Market is severely fragmented in most niches yet the software still tends to be cheaper, largely because money is the best marketing strategy - as in, saving people money... Competition works better when you have a bevy of choices. This is also why you can get a Windows Notebook with better performance than a MBP while saving $1,000. Competition and pricing pressure in a competitive market.
  • "App Store Ratings aren't exactly convincing. It's people like you that actually bother to rate apps on the store. I certainly don't..." This alone describes what kind of person you are. Selfish, you won't help anyone out by telling them what you think of the product, nor do you listen to anyone's opinions. Plus you come out with things like "You probably spend all of your time in IDEs. You don't know what the **** you're talking about here", which is incredibly assumptive, vulgar and rude. "Blame literally everyone else because it certainly can't be an issue with Apple or macOS" Let's do the logic here. The majority of macOS software works perfectly fine, a small amount software works worse on macOS. The conclusion? It has to be the developers. It's probably a lazy port, the same kind of thing you get where a console video game gets badly ported to PC and suffers performance loss and bugs because of it. "There is a plethora of choice on Windows for people who can do without Adobe, or Avid, or Microsoft" And there's plenty on macOS, have you not looked around? There's almost the same amount of macOS-exclusive software as there is Windows exclusive software, you just haven't looked. "Why do you think Apple keeps Boot Camp around?" Because when Apple changed to Intel, it was incredibly easy to support Windows. And it still is. The Mac isn't really closed off like iOS devices are, so it makes sense for Apple to allow installing Windows/Linux or your preferred OS of choice whilst they still can. "That's why they overcharge. It has nothing to do with less people" Plenty of developers of macOS-only applications have said that they charge more because there's a smaller market. The same goes with macOS against iOS, iOS applications are cheaper because there's a bigger market. If you don't believe me, go ask some developers yourself. "This is also why you can get a Windows Notebook with better performance than a MBP "
    No it's just because Apple products are notoriously expensive, they've never really tried to compete on a price level. I can't recall a time Apple has said "buy our machines because they're cheaper", because they know they're more expensive. You will always be able to get a higher spec machine for less than the equivalent Apple machine, this has and will always be the way, it's just an Apple thing.
  • Ooooo, Word Perfect Office? You must be a lawyer? :)
  • Logic Pro X is an incredibly full featured product, and it's a steal at $199! Compare that with the cost of Pro-Tools ($2500 for a perpetual license, or $299 for a one year subscription). Logic is THE REASON, that I switched from custom built PC's running Pro-Tools, to Mac. And Logic has only gotten better in the 9 years since I made the switch! I'm not speaking as a hobbyist either, my work has been on major television networks etc. Now . . . I can't speak for Final Cut, but again, just the mere fact that you pay $299 once and you own the app outright is pretty compelling. Avid's Media Composer is $199 a year for the rest of your working life. Anyhow, don't insult Logic X by saying it's merely "GarageBand Pro X", lest you risk sounding like you don't know what you're talking about.
  • n8ter#AC sounds like someone who is used to a particular set of software and doesn't like anything different. Logic Pro X is fantastic, and the price certainly is a steal, you can't go wrong with a one-off purchase knowing that you properly own the product now.
  • This isn't Apple thinking with it's traditional heart again. This is them thinking with their accountants, because people like me were buying Windows Notebooks instead of MacBook Pros because the MacBook Pros were literally under-spec at the highest spec package for the Pro Apps we needed to run, while Windows Laptops accommodated these applications at significant cost savings over Apple's machines. Never mind those non/barely-upgradeable/self-serviceable iMacs that cost an arm and a leg, with decent displays really not costing that much, these days (and there are always really good sales on them, at Amazon, etc.). A lot of Pros have been complaining about the 16GB RAM Limit since the notebooks shipped, and the slower RAM. They also use weaker GPUs than virtually any Windows PC in the same price bracket as a MBP (and pretty much the same GPU). They suffered the same issue as Microsoft's Surface Studio. Sure, they had some nice gimmicks; but it simply was not worth the cost or the sacrifices to a lot of people.
  • The majority of professionals are happy with the new MacBooks Pros, you don't always need the highest hardware specifications in order to do your work, not to mention MacBook Pros can't be too powerful if it hurts the battery life too much. If cost-saving is a priority, then you wouldn't be buying Apple computers, this has always been the case with Apple. I agree with you on the non-upgradable non-self-serviceable computers, this one does frustrate me
  • Power > Battery in a pro machine. THey don't use low voltage components in mac pros for the same reason. Calling them MacBook Pros was a misnomer. They were nothing more like MacBook Plus.
  • Apple has a strict process as to how much battery life their portable machines have. There are plenty of Windows laptops that have terrible battery life, Apple avoids that
  • I compared the 15" HP Elitebook 1050 G1 to the standard config 15" MBP, and there's a difference of $350 between the two (with almost identical specs, 6 core i7, 4gb ddr5 video, 16gb ddr4 ram, 256gb ssd). The HP is .74 inches thick and weighs 4.54 lbs, the MBP is .61 inches thick and weighs 4.02 lbs. I'd gladly pay the extra $350 for a lighter weight machine that has 4 thunderbolt ports instead of just the 2 on the HP. You're also getting Mac OS which doesn't have advertisements built into the user interface.
  • I totally forgot about the Windows 10 advertisements, yuck… another reason to add to many as to why I don't use Windows
  • Everyone here compares the price of the MacBook Pro with the competition ... but they forget that this price is not exactly the same in other countries, especially in emerging markets. In my country, a MacBook can cost 50% or 60% more than in the US and technical support is not as good as there. This is the main reason why here we see Dell or Lenovo laptops in almost the majority of companies. Paying $ 4000 for a laptop with no official technical support is seen as a waste for a company.
  • Maybe if they built it on the AMD HEDT platform. Alas, they went with Intel.
  • Nothing wrong with Intel, it's working out well for Apple
  • AMD's CPUs, GPUs, and APUs had higher heat generation and worse power management than Intel/Nvidia's for years; along with worse performance. The code is optimized specifically for Intel/QSV and they only started adopting AMD GPUs - likely because of cost (cause they're still worse than Nvidia's) and OpenCL (but they're now shifting to Metal, obviously).
  • El oh el. No it's not Rene. If they were they wouldn't make a keyboard so seriously flawed. They wouldn't have stripped ports that pros rely on. They wouldn't keep making it's products so asininely thin. They wouldn't release crippled software intended for "prosumers" and not true professionals. They would replace the useless and gimmicky touchbar with traditional function keys. Apple is a pro-hostile as it's ever been under Timmy.
  • "If they were they wouldn't make a keyboard so seriously flawed"
    Which has now been fixed, however it being a problem in the first place shouldn't have happened. "They wouldn't have stripped ports that pros rely on."
    Huh? What ports? The ports on the new MacBook Pros cover everything that a pro needs. "They wouldn't keep making it's products so asininely thin"
    If this is really a problem for you, you would've stopped buying Apple products a very long time ago. "They wouldn't release crippled software intended for "prosumers" and not true professionals."
    Can you tell me which software you're referring to? Software like Final Cut Pro, and Logic Pro are both software for professionals. "They would replace the useless and gimmicky touchbar with traditional function keys."
    They could also replace the USB-C ports with USB-A ports, but we're in 2018, so stop being a dinosaur. Apple is not pro-hostile at all, many professionals like myself use Apple computers, and they're still great for professionals
  • Every single one of your arguments, just like Rene's, boil down to "I don't have this problem, therefore the problem does exist."
  • There are things that are factual, and things that are opinion. It's a fact that USB-C ports handle everything the antiquated previous ports did. It's a fact that the Touch Bar is not a gimmick as the majority of MacBook Pro users use it, and most applications support it. Although it's not been fully proven yet, Apple have said to have fixed the keyboard issues, so I imagine soon that it will be a fact that they have done, once it's proven out in the wild. As for the other points, yes Apple makes thin laptops, and for some people that's a problem, but at the same point, this is what Apple do. If you don't like what Apple do, then why are you buying Apple products? And I don't know what crippled software Narthalus is referring to.
  • Quote: "Can you tell me which software you're referring to? Software like Final Cut Pro, and Logic Pro are both software for professionals." Final Cut Pro shipped with one of the most crippled feature sets of a "Pro" NLE, ever. In 2011. It still has absolutely abysmal audio tooling. They just got color wheels in 2018... It has nothing to make collaborating with other editors useful. The entire design of the software is such that it is biased heavily towards use by Consumer/Prosumers who use it independently. Logic Pro X ships, basically, with the same instruments as GarageBand, and largely the same awful interface. It's barely marketed by Apple, and has an even worse development pace than Final Cut Pro X. Apple doesn't target FCPX and Logic at Professionals. They are aimed at Prosumers. Apple had pretty good marketshare among professionals with FC7. If they wanted to target Pros, they could have easily retained and widened that user base simply by issuing an update that didn't completely alienate them and drop key features for months-years (some still haven't been added back). It's pretty clear what these tools are targeted at. This is also why they got rid of Aperture, and why they butchered iWorks to cowtow to the iOS apps; among other things.
  • iWork works fine, Final Cut Pro X works fine, and Logic Pro X works fine, you just can't get used to change. Apple do market Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro because I've seen them advertised plenty of times throughout their website and the App Store. There's no such thing as "Prosumers", that's just your vocabulary word for "the product has changed in a way I don't like so no one else should like it either"
  • I hope that Rene and iMore get a significant amount of money for their promotion of apple. Because if they don't and this site is truly how they feel about these products, that's really quite terrifying. Why? Becuase of the broad influence it seems they have over readers who lap this vapor up. These types of articles touting unreleased rumour products are really disappointing - it seems like a desperate attempt to maintain interest in a product set that is in trouble, and needs to be propped up until something can be pushed out.
  • Macs aren't in trouble, that's FUD speak.
  • How much are the nay-sayers paying you to bash Apple? You have no clue. Apple is the biggest wealthiest company in the world. They know what they are doing. The Mac is the equivalent of a Fortune 500 company. It only looks smaller because iOS is so big. No to mention the Mac has been growing in numbers and profits faster than the PC world for the past 15 years. Windows machines are doing better recently. No doubt Surface Pro and some of the high-end Mac-like computers are getting a lot of sales.
  • Hey iMore, maybe disable comments like Macworld did. The temptation to keep scrolling to see what the trolls are saying is too tempting and ultimately not productive. I miss the good old days where not just anyone could say any **** thing they wanted, immediately after a well written article. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I visit multiple tech sites with varrying biases, and the comment section is often a mess with folks trying to engage with idiots / jerks who have nothing worthwhile to contribute.