Wait. What? Macs come with all kinds of options, right? So, how can they be considered an appliance? For most of us, an appliance just sits there and does what it does without much tweaking, tinkering, or digging inside to see what’s under the hood. Those days are gone. You buy a toaster, it toasts. You buy a washer, it washes. You buy a car and drive it, and nothing more. Isn’t that the same as most Macs these days?
The 80-20 Rule
There’s a rule you may hear regarding business. 80-percent of your profits, revenue, whatever– comes from 20-percent of the customers. That’s not quite true with Apple where 70-percent of the company’s revenue and profits come from the iPhone. Does that mean Apple’s Mac and iPad businesses are waning? Yes. And no. The Mac is selling at record levels and bucking the downward trend among traditional PCs. The iPad still sells more than Dell sells PCs.
Here’s another fun fact. The Mac is an appliance. I say that because last year alone more than 80-percent of the Macs sold were hermetically sealed, so to speak; more appliances than traditional personal computers where you could swap out components the way mechanics could swap out car parts and create a custom hot rod of sorts.
80-percent? That’s nonsense, right? Nope. That’s Apple’s number. Rather, a number from Apple executives who announced plans to discontinue the canister-like, modestly customizable Mac Pro for something more modular but that won’t ship this year. That is a revealing statistic. 80-percent of all Macs sold last year were notebooks; specifically MacBook and MacBook Pro. Those are appliances.
1 a device or piece of equipment designed to perform a specific task, typically a domestic one: a MacBook or MacBook Pro, sometimes a Mac mini.
That’s a bit irreverent but you get the idea, right? An appliance usually isn’t a device that gets much attention from the owner other than to be used. You don’t tinker with the dishwasher unless you’re Tim ‘The Toolman‘ Taylor. Nobody does much to a toaster other than use it and clean it. We’re not likely to upgrade components in a refrigerator or microwave. They’re appliances. That’s not what you do to appliances.
That’s not what customers do to the new line of MacBooks or MacBook Pros, either, and for the most part, not even the Mac mini or iMac get many customization options, so, yeah, they’re appliance-like, too. This is not a new phenomenon. Steve Jobs liked the appliance metaphor. The original Mac was a closed device, far unlike the Apple II which had co-founder Steve Wozniak’s DNA all over it. Macs opened up a bit and a few models became more customizable once Jobs left Apple, but those days are gone.
Apple executives have admitted the Mac Pro from 2013 was a dud, not what the market wanted, and short of calling it a mistake, it was a mistake, so a new modular Mac is on the way. But modular how? Apple won’t say, probably won’t say this year, and it’s possible we may not know until next year, but the point should be obvious to Apple and everyone else. The 80-20 rule applies. There are Mac users who want a modular Mac devices, something more akin to the aluminum cheese grater Mac Pro of a few years ago; the device so popular with the less-than-20-percent crowd that a good one can still command more than $2,000 used on eBay, MacSales, and elsewhere.
My father changed the oil on his cars and trucks; adjusted brakes and carburetors, and even swapped out various components to extend the life of some. Those days are gone. We don’t tinker, tweak, and configure the way we did in years gone by. These days, most of our Macs are mere appliances. We buy ’em, use ’em, sell ’em or junk ’em, but we don’t lift up the hood anymore and tinker around inside.