The full transcript of the meeting that took place at Apple HQ has been mad available ( link ) and numerous podcasts, such as Accidental Tech Podcast (atp) giving their five cents worth on the subject. On the accidental tech podcast one of the commentators speculated that due to products being cycled that normally what happens is that as a new product is released the next product is already in development. When one considers that factor I’m not convinced by the argument that some have put forward that Apple had given up and then suddenly started to develop a new Mac Pro only after much complaining by the unwashed masses.
The workstation market one has to keep in mind is a slow moving market – yes, workstation users want the fastest but at the same time they want their workflow to continue flowing without things breaking so that means hardware that is certified by big name software vendors, drivers for the graphics card are tested to ensure there aren’t compatibility issues between the big name software that workstation customers will use and the underlying graphics card drive and the OpenGL stack that is provided by the video card vendor. In other words when there are refreshes of a workstation they don’t occur at the same speed as the consumer class – just check out Dell and HP regarding how frequently they update their workstation line up for example, it isn’t something they do at rapid speed like they do with the consumer class products. Stability, security and support are the keys – the premium paid for a workstation isn’t just for the fact that you’re getting a metric shit ton of power but you’re also getting a massive multinational to provide you with long term support.
Keeping that in mind it isn’t surprising that Apple didn’t start it straight after the release of the ‘trash can’ Mac Pro because given the long refresh cycles why would they need to? Personally for me I saw the mess coming from a mile away and could never quite work out what they were trying to achieve – yes, have the razzle-dazzle for the consumer but for the pro-market the only thing a workstation buyer cares about is the most amount of people at a reasonable price and is well supported by the company who sold it to them – whether it looks ‘cool’ or ‘sleek’ or ‘innovative’ doesn’t enter into the equation when the focus is using it as a vehicle to earn a living.
Getting back on track again, I wouldn’t be surprised if they put the Mac Pro on the back burner for a while in the belief that when there was the die shrink coming with the new AMD GPU’s along with more efficient CPU’s from Intel that it would be just a matter of updating the components then everything works as it should. I know it might come to a shock to many but companies are nothing more than a collection of people so it shouldn’t be surprising that Apple cocked it up by leaving it to the last minute based a set of assumptions that never materialised and now they’re having to back peddle to deliver something that is more conventional which caters for the needs of the professional market. In my not so humble opinion they should have stuck with the ‘cheese grater’ design and just upgraded the internals with a more efficient power supply along with updating the Thunderbolt Display with a 5K panel then call It a day.
Whilst all this is going on we had Microsoft announce the arrival of the Surface Studio to New Zealand which s available on pre-order with a rumour that it’ll be arriving 27 April which makes for interesting and much needed competition for Apple given their stagnation over the last few months. There is also the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and it is interesting to see the positive feedback even from seemingly die hard Apple fans recognising the great work that Samsung has done by bringing what they learned from their experience with the Samsung Edge and delivering something that’ll make both the masses happy particularly with how, as one commentator noted regarding the curved screen, that the screen seems to melt in your hands as the borders/bezels disappear thus a full continuous display is seen. It appears that the competition has caught up and in some cases passed Apple in a lot of areas – that tends to happen when you focus disproportionately on iPad at the expense of all the other products as it has been demonstrated by Tim’s obsession with the iPad Pro – no Tim, you conducting a scorched earth policy to the rest of Apple isn’t going to halt the iPad decline in shipment numbers as people keep their iPad for longer.
Getting back on track again – hopefully we’ll see that with the focus on harmonising the ‘under the hood aspects’ of macOS and iOS that features found in iOS will make their way to macOS in the same time frame but more importantly the feedback given to Apple the focus is once again on getting back to the basics. What I talk about the basics; don’t re-invent the wheel, if it isn’t broken then why fix it and more importantly is the fact that it is the software that maketh the hardware rather than just hardware standing alone which means more focus on optimisation and getting developers to utilise Metal particularly in the areas of games and professional applications along with supporting industry standards such as HEVC, AV1, making use of WebRTC with iMessage etc. Oh, and a side note before I go, why isn’t Compressor 64bit yet – built on a supposed ‘modern’ code base and yet it is still 32bit; Apple really need to get their act together when it comes to their first party applications that they themselves create because it is a sad joke when their own software is behind the 8th ball when adopting technology.