More than the usual digital ink has been spilled on the interwebs thanks to Apple’s newly announced and not-really-professional level MacBook Pro notebooks. Are these really Macs for professionals? I don’t think so. But yes.
See the problem? What defines a professional user in the 21st century when most of us spend more time on mobile computing devices than we do on traditional desktops and notebooks? It isn’t so much that the Mac is changing than it is that professionals are changing and their requirements are different than we so-called professionals from decades past.
The Dying Breed
Let’s face it. The times are changing. We so-called professionals of yesteryear are a dying breed. What constituted a professional Mac user in years past is a different definition than high end Mac users of 2016. Allow me to use myself as a case in point. As a sometimes developer who has good knowledge of the Mac garnered from about 25 years of use, I can see the change in my own Mac habits through the years.
Less than a decade ago I kept a Lurch-like Mac Pro near my office desk, and I traveled around with a more than bulky 17-inch PowerBook G4. That was a lot of horsepower back in the day. Today, a quad-core i7 iMac with 27-inch Retina 5k display graces my desk, and I can get by on the road with last year’s MacBook Pro, and both models are substantially better, faster, smaller, lighter, and improved in every way than any Mac models I’ve ever owned.
Professional Mac users of the past make up a smaller percentage of the entire Mac market which has nearly tripled since my cheese grater and 17-inch Mac notebook days. Only Apple’s executives know for sure, but I’m willing to bet that those of us who were considered professional level just a decade ago are no longer professionals in the sense that we require upgradeable horsepower beyond that of mere mortal Mac users. My 2015 version MacBook Pro in the 13-inch form factor is the best Mac I’ve ever owned and yet I still perform the same tasks as years ago; but faster and easier than with Mac models of the past.
What is changing Apple these days is the definition of a professional and those Mac users of recent years– those of us who would have sprung for an even faster cheese grater Mac Pro, or even the newer trash can Mac Pro actually get by just fine on hyped up iMacs. If you need more than four cores these days, then you’re in a minority that gets smaller each day. If you need more than 16GB of RAM in a notebook, then you’re in a minority that gets smaller each day.
What constitutes todays professional Mac user has changed over the years, and that has changed how Apple responds to the market. Look at the old Power Macs of yesteryear; they were huge and heavy but packed a wallop; almost infinitely expandable, flexible in the days of CDs, DVDs, and SuperDrives. Today’s Mac Pro had promise, yes, but Apple decided flexibility and upgradeability were less important, and Mac professionals– those willing to fork over $3,000 just to get started on the so-called pro Mac– found themselves using maxed out iMacs instead because what they needed to do could be done for far less money in a more elegant solution.
So it is with the newly announced MacBook Pro models which– although thinner, lighter, faster now max out at 16GB. Sure, there are reasons for that limit, but making the adjustment in hardware to accommodate a modest difference in performance wasn’t worth it to Apple.
In simpler terms, I’m not the professional Mac user I used to be and that has changed Apple.