Rethinking Apple

After the shock of John Gruber’s early-morning tweet and post wore off,1 I took to Twitter to poke fun at Phil Schiller and his ass:

Completely rethinking, my ass.
Dr. Drang (@drdrang) Apr 4 2017 7:14 AM

Cheap jokes are the soul of Twitter.

Like most Apple enthusiasts, I was happy to see that it was “completely rethinking” the Mac Pro design, essentially admitting that the trash can was a mistake that didn’t address the needs of most Mac Pro customers. And it was good to hear there’s a new iMac coming out this year and that Craig Federighi thinks automation is important. But…

Apple is making money hand over fist. By market share, it’s the biggest company in the world. Why is it continually putting itself in positions where it’s either apologizing, like today, or should be apologizing, as with the once long-overdue MacBook Pro update and the currently long-overdue iMac, Mac Mini, and iPad Pro updates.

The links in the previous paragraph will take you to the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide, which is telling you it’s a bad time to buy most of Apple’s stuff. It is, however, taking a very optimistic view of the Mac Pro:

MacRumors advice

This isn’t a new release, it’s a price drop, lowering the cost of Mac Pro from rapacious to merely unconscionable.

Back to Apple. That the trash can Mac Pro design was a mistake was widely accepted in the Mac community from pretty early on. I suspect it sold well in the early days because there was a lot of pent-up demand for a new Pro, but Apple must have known long ago that it was a kind of a dud. There’s no shame in that; innovations are sometimes misdirected. It’s Apple’s slow response that’s disturbing.

And it’s slow in two ways. First, accepting the mistake and moving to fix it has taken about two years (I’m giving them a pass on the Pro’s first year). Second, it’ll be at least a year until the new design is ready for sale. This is a very long lead time for a mature product, especially when you’ve just admitted that your current version sucks.2

I’m sure many people think the Mac Pro is too small a seller to be worth a concerted effort to get it updated, but I disagree (even though I am not a Mac Pro customer myself). As I said in this post a couple of years ago, there are certain customers who are more valuable to Apple than their aggregate purchases alone would indicate. These are the users whose expertise with and enthusiasm for Apple products inspire their friends and coworkers to buy Macs and iPhones and iPads. I called them Apple’s best customers because of this leverage.

Mac Pro users, if they’re happy, are the best of the best. They consist almost exclusively of very highly skilled users, and they demonstrate their love of Apple’s work by buying its most expensive offering. They have an influence that goes way beyond their numbers.

Apple is already late in treating its best customers right and should rethink its timeline for the redesign. Some extra effort on the Mac Pro this year would repay itself many times over.

  1. Which was more shocking, Apple’s Mac Pro announcement or that Gruber was posting in the morning? 

  2. If you think Apple has been redesigning the Mac Pro for a while—not an unreasonable belief—that reduces the time it took them to accept the mistake but increases the time they’re taking to fix it.