Why Apple needed to come clean about the new, new Mac Pro

2013 Mac Pro
2013 Mac Pro (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

It happens to everyone. You decide on an ambitious new project, maybe turning the basement into an amazing movie room, joining a gym and getting into shape, or finally finishing the dream car you've been fixing up in your garage. But it doesn't go exactly as you planned. And so minor problems are procrastinated into major delays and you start finding, even making, excuses to spend your limited time and effort on things that are more important and provide more immediate gratification.

It shouldn't happen to companies like Apple, but it does. The need to get the supercomputer used by 1% of your customers updated gets continuously pushed aside by the need to ship the new pocket computer used by billions. And as time passes, pressure builds.

Case-in-the-news-point, the new Mac Pro which has just become the old Mac Pro with word that Apple's working on its replacement.

John Gruber, in a terrific piece at Daring Fireball that you should stop and read end-to-end before continuing:

Let's say you're Apple. You're faced with the following problem. Three years ago you launched a radical new lineup of Mac Pros. For multiple reasons, you haven't shipped an update to those machines since. At some point you came to the conclusion that the 2013 Mac Pro concept was fundamentally flawed. It was tightly integrated internally, which allowed for some very nice features: it was small and beautiful (a pro machine that demanded placement on your desk, not under your desk) and it could run whisper quietly. But that tight integration made it hard to update regularly. The idea that expansion could be handled almost entirely by external Thunderbolt peripherals sounded good on paper, but hasn't panned out in practice. And the GPU design was a bad prediction. Apple bet on a dual-GPU design (multiple smaller GPUs, with "pro"-level performance coming from parallel processing) but the industry has gone largely in the other direction (machines with one big GPU).And so you decided to completely redesign the Mac Pro. But that new design isn't going to ship this year. You're committed to your pro users, but a sizable chunk of them are growing ever more restless. They suspect — in some cases strongly — that you don't care about them anymore. They see the stalled Mac Pro lineup as a sign that Apple no longer cares about them, and they worry deeply that the Mac Pro isn't merely waiting for a major update but instead is waiting to be decommissioned.

Apple isn't a singular entity or hive mind. There are, unsurprisingly, many strong and varied opinions and discussions inside the company can be as vigorous and contentious as they are out in the community.

For example, when a decision is made to ship an LG display instead of an Apple-branded one, it isn't that "Apple" doesn't believe in making displays any more. It's that those who believe fiercely in Apple displays didn't win that argument — at least not at that particular point in time.

When that happens, and problems get drawn out long enough, the easiest thing to do is cut your losses and cancel them. Especially in this case, where supe computers make up about 1% of Apple's business and computing appliances, all the other percents.

It's an easy business justification to make, especially considering the growing mainstream and "prosumer" markets, and the ROI. But, as Tim Cook has said, it's not always about the ROI. And you don't bury problems, you stand up to them. Publicly. So that it becomes really hard not to deliver.

My understanding is that what we're hearing about today started a while ago — ironically, before reports of Apple "giving up on the Mac" reached a fever pitch late last year. Even a while ago is late when it comes to Mac Pro. Better than never, absolutely. But really, really late.

Still, I'm glad Apple not only knows where they're going with professional-grade Macs now, I'm ecstatic they chose to share that information with the public. It conflicts with the secrecy typically involved with their product development process but, if anything is a special case, it's this. No one is as invested in Apple and the Mac as the pro-market and no one deserves the respect more than them.

Fixing the product will take another year or so. Fixing the perception only took a couple days.

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.