excerpts, quips, and musings on the production and post-production industry, and other stuff of interest

R.I.P. Mac Pro or On the Death of the Mac Pro

I’ve fought against this for months now. I’ve consistently refused to acknowledge that my beloved workhorse of choice could be headed for euthanization. No way. Never. This machine, in all it’s iterations, has been a solider. After all, the Mac Pro, in some sense, has been the backbone of Apple since the 90’s. All those creative professional - designers, sound engineers, editors, graphic artist - relied on the G3, G4, and G5 to create their content. It dominated Apple’s sales.

No longer.

It seems all but inevitable that the Mac Pro will be killed. Here are my reasons for thinking so:

  1. Apple’s core is now consumer products - iOS devices
  2. Apple’s most recent earnings report (Jan 24, 2012) shows they sold 5.3 million Macs during Q1. Compare that to 37.04 million iPhones, 15.43 million iPads, and 15.4 million iPods.
  3. Apple’s history of moving away from professional tools - Shake, Final Cut Server, XServe, XRaid, Final Cut Studio

The way I’m interpreting that above list is that Apple has moved to a core business of consumer electronic devices. While some of those devices may service the professional market, Apple no longer cares what us whiny professionals want/need. I would be extremely interested to see how the 5.3 million Macs actually breaks down. I would expect the order to run something like: iMac, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, Mac Pro.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect Apple to kill the Mac Pro in 2012. It is still making money for them. Albeit an inconsequential amount of money, but still making money. And Steve Jobs even articulated that you’ll always need trucks to do heavy lifting. However, given Apple’s shift towards consumer products their definition of a “truck” may well vary drastically from what I consider a truck to be.

To Apple, a “truck” to is increasingly defined as a MacBook Pro or iMac. I consider a truck to be a well equipped Mac Pro with a powerful graphics card, fibre channel card, RED Rocket card, etc. I need a truck to encode, decode, and transcode 24fps as quickly as possible. A consumer doesn’t. I need a truck to give me 24fps while color grading RED footage. A consumer doesn’t. I need a truck to playback multiple streams of HD in real time in my NLE of choice. A consumer doesn’t. I define truck differently than a consumer does. A consumer may think of a Nissan Frontier as a truck. I think of a Ford F-350 as a truck.

While the Mac Pro may not die in 2012(?), I do expect it to be dead by 2015. At best the Mac Pro has one more life-cycle upgrade in it, likely when the new Intel Ivy Bridge chips drop in April of 2012. The Mac Pro can get a slight bump in specs, slap on a Thunderbolt port or two, and let it ride off into the sunset. Given that the life-cylce of a Mac Pro runs about 18-24 months, I expect the next generation to be the last.

As a tangental discussion to the R.I.P. Mac Pro topic, one should look towards FCP X. If you maximize FCP X to run on small screens (i.e. laptops, iMacs), be portable, and more consumer-centric ($299 price point, and “Would you like to open an iMovie project ...” as the apps first question upon launch) then you really don’t need the Mac Pro around. If, as I believe, FCP X is not aimed at the high-end professional market (i.e. broadcast TV, film, corporate video), but is aimed at the one-man-band professional (i.e. wedding photo/videographer, photo journalist, some non-profits, churches, etc.) then Apple doesn’t need to sell a high-end machine for it to run on. If, as many have said, Apple is a hardware company that sells software then it follows that because the requirements for FCP X revolve around a laptop design that Apple is likely aiming to push more portable editing solutions, not the big work-horse edit suite design that has dominated the industry for the last 10-20 years. If Apple has designed it’s software to push hardware then their FCP X software design says, “Buy an iMac or MacBook Pro to edit your video.”

R.I.P. Mac Pro.