“Skate to where the puck is going to be.”
That’s a classic line Apple fans like to quote when talking about the company. I’m sure it induces epic eye rolls from Apple detractors, but I think it is an accurate representation of what the company aspires to achieve. Looking at the critical response some have had to the new MacBook Pro (USB-C is coming, but it’s not everywhere yet…#DongleLife) and to the iPhone 7 (wireless is clearly the future, but we’re not there yet), you can see Apple is still thinking like this. Apple has been doing this forever, and it’s one of the reasons they continue to be seen largely as a forward-looking company.
But sometimes skating ahead is riskier, and sometimes you just misjudge where that pesky puck is going to be. The 2013 Mac Pro is a clear example of Apple seeing where they thought the puck would be, but completely missing the mark. They gambled on external Thunderbolt-connected GPUs and other hardware to be a bigger deal than it ended up being. They foresaw a future where software would talk more advantage of multiple GPUs, meanwhile the rest of the industry got really good at making extremely fast single GPUs.
Whether the puck was going somewhere else and Apple was blind, or the puck got deflected and changed course in 2014-2015 is irrelevant, and frankly stretches the metaphor a bit. Apple missed the mark on this one, and their professional users have felt the pain.
I do 4K video and graphics editing on a 2015 MacBook Pro, and it gets the job done admirably, although I wish Motion could render out video a lot faster. I do web development on it and I never feel like my computer is has any bottlenecks in the process. I edit 18MP images in Lightroom and while the app is a bit choppy, I can mostly get my work done without feeling like I’m being held back by my computer. I am a “pro user” who is not impacted by the frustrations we’re hearing from high end users.
But like I said on a previous episode of The BirchTree Podcast, there are absolutely people who are suffering from the lack of updates to the Mac Pro, and just because I’m generally fine with the power available today, that doesn’t mean everyone is.
The updates to the Mac Pro today seem to be aimed at lessening the pain for someone who needs to buy a new desktop computer now and can’t wait for next year’s update. This is not the update people have been waiting for, but it’s at least throwing a bone to those who need to upgrade today. I hope 2018’s Mac Pro is a wonderful machine that makes everyone happy, but we’re going to have to wait a bit longer to see if that is even possible.