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The Macintosh is at a new crossroads

Galen Gruman | June 30, 2016
The death of the Thunderbolt Display is one more sign of a major change coming to the Mac's peripheral support

But maybe Apple doesn't want you to use wired peripherals at all. The MacBook only has USB-C and an audio jack, and the now-Retina-only MacBook Pros come only with SSD drives, limiting their onboard storage capacity to 512GB, a real drop from the 1TB previously available via mechanical drives.

The forthcoming MacOS Sierra urges you to store your documents and images all in iCloud, and Apple has long offered its Time Capsule network backup drive.

I see a pattern here: Store your documents in iCloud or other cloud service (and pay a monthly fee for that capacity), back up and print over Wi-Fi, use Bluetooth input peripherals such as mouse and keyboard, and don't bother with a large monitor if you have a Mac laptop and its high-res Retina screen.

That might work for some users, but it won't work for power users, especially those in Apple's areas of strength: video editing, graphics arts, and application development. They need big screens and big, fast storage. Can you imagine a Wi-Fi network handling the bandwidth needs for such a group of users? I can't.

So, Apple may end up splitting the Mac lineup as it somewhat began to do with the Mac Pro, which also hasn't been updated in three years: Have a pricey, high-end Mac line that has the fastest buses, fastest processors, and highest storage capacity, as well as a cloud- and wireless-centered line of lightweight Macs that don't.

The Mac Pro, if it ever gets updated, and the MacBook would represent the two poles of that new Mac lineup. Presumably, the 27-inch iMac and the 15-inch MacBook Pros would join that power-user pole. The MacBook Airs, MacBook, and Mac Mini would join the lightweight pole.

The question would be where the 21-inch iMac and 13-inch MacBook Pro align -- to one of those poles or in some intermediate space where they get at least a couple USB-C ports so they can connect through dongles and/or a dock, to a mix of local and network/cloud resources?

Or maybe Apple blows up those existing categories and does something even more radical to it lineup. Until Apple says, we won't know for sure.

But it's clear -- based on the combination of limited changes to recent Macs, the death of the Thunderbolt Display, the radical simplification in the MacBook, and the bias to cloud connectivity in MacOS Sierra -- that something major is in the works for the Mac.

What's unclear is whether Apple is preparing the Mac for a slow, PC-like decline in favor of iOS devices (not that iPad are doing that great) or seeking to reinvent the Mac once again to reinvent and revitalize the PC platform.

Soure: Infoworld


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