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Screw the ROI: Apple should make a new MacBook Pro workstation

MacBook Pro setup
MacBook Pro setup (Image credit: iMore)

That's the hed and lede that flashed through my mind after I read Daniel Rubino's review of the Dell Precision 5520 for Windows Central:

Dell's powerful 15-inch Precision 5520 now has the latest Intel Xeon processor and NVIDIA Quadro graphics. This bulldozer of a PC with a 4K display may be your best bet if you're a graphics professional.

Now, current Rene loves the 2016 MacBook Pro. I've been using the 13-inch Touchbar model since October and it's the best MacBook I've ever owned. I used to go back and forth between the 13-inch MacBook Air and old 13-inch MacBook Pro every couple of years, never able to find the right trade-off between portability and performance. Now I truly have the best of both. But that's just me.

Past Rene worked in video and webdev and graphic design and wouldn't have been such a fan. He bought 17-inch, later 15-inch, and maxed them out.

Current Rene spends most of his time in browsers, with some light Photoshop and Final Cut Pro thrown in for events and special projects. And all of that is fine on the new MacBook Pro. More than fine, considering I've been using the 8 GB Core i5 model and keep forgetting that's what it is. (I'm used to maxing out every Mac — this is new and weird for me.)

I represent the growing, more mainstream "pro" market Apple's been targeting lately, rather than the traditional, higher-end market that historically supported the Mac. Some label it "pro-sumer" but it's more a reflection that value has come to derive not from speeds and feeds but from multiple vectors, including social. It's a market of millions, not thousands.

MacBook Pro with a cup of coffee and iPhone

MacBook Pro with a cup of coffee and iPhone (Image credit: iMore)

That's hurt the traditional, higher-end pro, though. At least those who prefer Macs. They currently feel abandoned, like they stuck with Apple when Apple was doomed and, now that Apple is successful, they're being dumped for a younger, hotter new market.

It's a sentiment that's been building each and every year the Mac Pro hasn't been updated. It surged late last year, though, when Apple introduced a bare-bones new MacBook Pro without a Touch Bar at the low-end for people who wanted a Retina MacBook Air, but didn't introduce an equal and opposite souped-up model on the high-end for people who wanted a workstation, only mobile.

Now, tech graveyards are littered with the shattered relevance of analysts who claimed Apple simply had to ship netbooks or servers or mini-towers or licensed OS. Ignoring just exactly those kinds of myopic ravings has led to Apple being phenomenally successful. Far more than companies that netbooked their margins and themselves almost out of business.

So, I'm not going to stand here and say Apple has to ship a higher-end MacBook Pro. Clearly, they don't, not any more than they have to ship Xserve or Aperture.

For Apple, I imagine most of the "pro" market is more like me now. Perhaps even closer to the MacBook Pro "escape" and further from the Dell Precision 5520.

If you listen to Twitter, the hardcore Apple community wants desktop-class Kaby Lake and Nvidia 1080 in their MacBooks, with 64 GB of RAM, hold the floppy. If you look at how Apple's customers vote with their wallets, though, the answer is profoundly different.

Likewise, influencers. If I had to guess, people who buy Mac Pro have far less impact on growing the market these days than people who sit in coffee shops working on MacBooks. Apple is chasing that puck where it's going to be as well.

It's why I think Apple's just isn't as worried about the horn effect as some others might be, including me.

The new MacBook Pro: Specs compared

The new MacBook Pro: Specs compared (Image credit: iMore)

Apple can get it wrong and misread the market, of course. They walked back the buttonless iPod shuffle, fatty nano, and even G4 Cube. Mac Pro also taught Apple not to innovate what they can't rapidly iterate. That's what happens when you're audacious, though. Change comes with risk.

So, while every instinct in my lower writer's brain wanted to pound away on the hed and lede above, wanted to say Apple should "screw the ROI" and make a higher-end MacBook Pro anyway, the more I wrote the less likely that possibility started to seem.

Current Rene is fine with that because it doesn't really impact him. Everyone thinks Apple should do less and focus more — as long as it's someone else's favorite products and product lines that pay the price. That's why past Rene wants to tell current Rene to stuff it, and is still hoping to see a great MacBook Pro workstation... at least one more time.

Rene Ritchie

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.

  • You will probably be in the market whatever Apple targets no surprise. Tomorrow if they don't target the "pro" you and Apple calls, you will be writing articles defending why they ditched the semi pro market. No surprise here.
  • Hate to break it to you, but you're no longer a "Pro"
  • Pros need to Hackintosh en mase while they complain. I'm pretty happy with my base model 2013 MacBook Air, except for the storage (what I really need is a NAS). That said, I really feel for pros that don't want an iMac. When the 2013 Pro came out, articles actually defended the price, but there's no defending them three years later.
  • No real ‘Pro’ would ever consider running mission critical software on a Hackintosh. Basing your business and income on an unsupported platform and a hacked operating system is about as stupid as it gets.
  • Mission critical, I can see your point. Grinding renders and workhorse tasks, it's worth considering.
  • Listen to the latest ATP podcast, they say what's wrong with Apple. Those guys discuss this stuff freely without having fear of retaliation of Apple if you say anything bad because they aren't bloggers.
  • Sorry Rene, you’ve got a typo in the title. It should read, “Screw the ROI: Apple should make a new Mac Pro workstation”.
  • This entire sentence makes my head hurt : "Past Rene to worked in video and webdev and graphic design, and wouldn't have been such a fan."
  • I think every company like Apple needs their racecar product. One that appeals to their core VOCAL users. They may not line up in the coffee shops but they get online and post all day long. The other important group is developers/creatives. Without these guys, gone are the days of unique mac programs, compelling mac programs, ones that make you want to switch and even more importantly, iOS apps. Of course, a separate issue is if anyone outside a very few can make a viable living selling software. I guarantee you Rene, if Apple put together the very best 17" MBP they could think of and even if the price made your nose bleed, you'd be interested. I would. Be honest This is all interesting stuff of course. I do feel like Macs are the heart of Apple. Certainly not the bread winner but they're what make bringing in the bread possible. For me, MacOS (previously windows) is what drives everything, while mobile is an extension or compliment of it. Without that Mac, I wouldn't find iOS as compelling. Along that line, I wouldn't mind seeing Apple make more hardware. Airpods made me smile as I do each time i use them. But do more of this. They made USB-C standard, so make stuff for it. I gave Sony thousands for their mirrorless camera system. It's UI kinda sucks though. I got a logitech harmony (this is input 1 i have argued) I paid nearly 300 for. Too bad it's not based on iOS. Someone make me a printer without a crappy UI. How is Apple not selling wireless speakers with W1 chip? You got to sell monitors Apple. Just some examples but all of which enrich an ecosystem. PS..cheers for the article. These are the kind I like on iMore.
  • "Someone make me a printer without a crappy UI." God, yes! Couldn't agree more! I bought a laser printer rated #1 by Consumer Reports. It prints fast and efficiently, but the UI absolutely sucks--like something you'd see on a computer in the 90s.
  • Just a thought.. Given Apple are obviously not going to give the segment of users who are clamouring for super high end hardware what they want, wouldn't it make sense to allow macOS to be licensed and capable of running on non Apple sanctioned hardware? This gives users the best of both worlds (stability of staying with 'official' hardware, as well as the flexibilty of hardware that power users want) and stops the grumbling from the 'Pro' users who feel disenfranchised. I know this was tried in the dark days of the 90s and was an epic fail, but the landscape is different now. I'll be looking at upgrading when they ship a 2017 iMac, but if it ships with a mid-range GPU as a top end option, I'm going back to Windows.
  • I can't see Apple doing this though, one of Apple's main selling points for their computers is the fact that it runs macOS
  • Most consumer equipment that is labeled "pro" or "professional" isn't. ;)
    I have a Dell XPS 9550 fully maxed out as well as a 2016 MBP fully maxed out as well.
    They're both similar. I do like the display on the Dell better. The keyboard and trackpad on the MBP (of course) are far superior. The Dell was still cheaper even when upgraded to 32GB DDR4-2400 and a Samsung 960 Pro 2TB PCI-E SSD. Battery life on both is similar. The 9560 with Kaby Lake was released in Jan. I really hope it doesn't have the issues that plagued the 9500 in its early stages. I think it's hilarious how many people are making a big deal about pro or non pro users. I deal with professional musicians, engineers, CEOs, scientists, professionals in politics and law (yes I said it!) and there are quite a few of those folks running sub par hardware and just refuse to spend serious money on a computer. I'm the type if I have to wait for my computer to do anything (aside from rendering or other projects that take time) I'm huffing and wanting to throw it out the window. Regardless of what you have, the SSD is truly the best thing since sliced bread.
  • I see Apple making monitors and really high-end laptops and desktops as halo products more than products they want to make money with. It's a common tactic to get people interested with your super high end product, and almost all of them end up purchasing one of your high end or mid-range products instead because they really don't NEED (and probably can't afford) the super high end. Without those halo products the brand starts to lose its luster.
  • "Screw the ROI" Not a very nice thing to say to the Republic of Ireland, and on St Patrick's day as well!
  • +1 Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I agree with Rene. There is a subset of users who cannot do what they need on Apple’s current laptop range purely because the available hardware is not powerful enough (mainly due to RAM or graphics considerations). Even if there aren’t enough such users for Apple to bother with a high-spec laptop for purely financial reasons, there are plenty of other reasons why it is worth their while. When people are reluctantly leaving Apple’s ecosystem because their products aren’t powerful enough then that sort of bad PR must affect sales on the rest of the range.
  • The prices of their current 'mainstream' pro (weasel term for pseudo-pro, me thinks) models like the 15" TouchBar MBP are already insane enough. Can't imagine how much a real pro machine from them would cost, and that's before adding a couple of hundred quid for the bloody dongles.
  • totally agree. The new MBP with touchbar same spec as my 2014 RMBP is $NZ4600 (plus all the dongles i'll need) - thats a ton of money given i paid $NZ3200 for the same spec'd model in January 2015 sans touchbar.
    I cant justify a new MBP at those prices. I'm hoping they release an i7 Mac Mini soon as thats the only new Mac that i'd potentially look at right now.
  • The main reason Apple will no longer build REAL Pro devices: Jony Ive values form and discounts function. As long as the chief design officer (or whatever) holds sway over the process, Apple will be building consumer-centric devices but labeling them "Pro."
  • You finally admit the MacBook Pro isn't really pro. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • lol @ everyone trying to prove how pro they are...hilarious.
  • Nah, it just means Profit, for Apple.