This week I read a great article on how Apple has gone all in on ‘good enough.’ For a company that wants to build the best products possible, too many products are becoming toaster-like appliances.
Appliances? Well, don’t professionals use appliances, too? After all, even the most geeky Mac user with a fully tricked out Mac Pro probably eats toast, right? Besides, I’m a professional and I use professional level apps in my profession, so is my professional level iMac not good enough for me?
It’s Hard To Argue
If Apple dropped the Mac Pro line entirely and decided that the name MacBook ‘Pro’ was a lie and simply changed the name to MacBook Faster, would anyone complain? Yes. Big time. Over the course of the past few years Apple has decided that professional level customers are more interested in appliance design than flexibility and enhanced capability.
Yet, it’s hard to argue with Apple’s approach to dumb down the MacBook Pro and produce a decidedly non-pro-like Mac Pro. After all, Mac sales continue to hit sales records. I guess ‘pro’ or professional just doesn’t mean what it used to mean. For example, I use Adobe’s Creative Cloud and Microsoft Office on an iMac. It’s a fast iMac. There’s no more room left for RAM. It does the job.
What I sense is that Apple is paying lip service to the term ‘professional.’ We have the MacBook Pro, publicly derided by so-called Mac professionals for the device’s inability to be upgraded beyond storage and RAM– build to order, of course. But that’s it. There’s also the iPad Pro, a perfect example of a professional level device aimed squarely at those with discriminating tastes and needs, but not far removed from its predecessor. It has a Smart Connector for a Smart Keyboard and it can use a smart Pencil and it features the latest screen design and it’s powerful and has a few features you won’t find in base models.
Base models? Yes, the iPad Air 3, also known to Apple as the plain old vanilla iPad, is decidedly non-pro, and definitely not the best iPad Apple could build. But it might be the least expensive iPad Apple could build. $329 for a 32GB 9.7-inch iPad. You want an iPad Pro with aforementioned accoutrements? $270 more. That’s not quite double the price for so-called ‘professional’ features. Being a pro is not a bargain.
Let’s look at the MacBook Pro. Like the iPad and iPad Pro, a MacBook Pro remains mostly an appliance so other than build-to-order, you can’t upgrade it beyond what you buy. The 13-inch model, sans Touch Bar, starts at $1,499 which puts it a few hundreds dollars higher than the much slower but just as upgradeable MacBook line, but it has higher RAM options, more storage options, and more USB-C ports. But a truly professional level MacBook Pro with faster CPU, more RAM, more SSD storage and top of the line GPUs can hit $4,299, which makes it almost triple the price tag of the entry-level MacBook Pro. Triple.
That doesn’t sound like lip service. Does it?
Microsoft’s highly touted Surface Book is loved by the technology media as a MacBook killer, and a professionals dream come true. It runs Windows 10. It’s small and light. It has a touchscreen. And a Surface Pen (what Microsoft calls their Pencil). Included. Fully loaded it’s $3,199. How is that professional when a fully loaded MacBook Pro is more than $1,000 more expensive?
Well, a somewhat comparable build-to-order MacBook Pro is the exact same price, $3,199.
That leads me to believe that whatever it is that is professional level these days is somewhat like beauty. It’s in the eye of the beholder. I know far too many truly professional Mac users– with iMacs and MacBook Pros– who make money with their Macs and do not have an aluminum cheese grater Mac Pro or a canister Mac Pro. But I also think that Apple is paying lip service to those customers who appreciate a modular design Mac– one which can be expanded by the customer and not by Apple before the device is shipped.
I don’t feel a need for a modular Mac Pro. I don’t feel a need for an iPad Pro, either. But there are customers who need more flexibility, more functionality, and more capability than comes inside the box, and to those customers Apple has been paying lip service for years.