Did it need to be? Back in March, I wrote:
This theoretical minitower wouldn't satisfy all pro users—particularly the ones who need the absolute best performance and the most expandability (and, it should be said, who were once Apple's bread and butter). Maybe Apple simply abandons these people, letting them go to specialized workstations from other vendors.
Now that we've seen the new Mac Pro, that second sentence appears to have come to pass—at least for the most-demanding users.
But those saying that this isn't a "real" professional Mac have got it wrong. It's just a different professional Mac. As former Apple ad exec Ken Segall put it, "pro users have not been forgotten at Apple—they're just being redefined."
Does that mean Apple is redefining what the company thinks is a professional user? Or is Apple trying to get professional users to take a good, hard look at what they really need in a workstation? I say both. And as with any new Mac model, some people will love it, while it won't be the right fit for others.
And there's something else to consider here: Apple wants to sell as many Mac Pros as possible, and by not including every feature needed by the highest-end users, the company has expanded the market for the computer.
What do I mean by that? It wouldn't have been difficult for Apple to stick with a huge, super-expandable enclosure; add the latest processors, GPUs, and expansion ports; and trot that computer onstage, touting its best-in-class performance. Such a computer, despite being aesthetically similar to the Mac Pro we've had for years, would have sold like hotcakes to the high-end market...which means it probably wouldn't have sold exceptionally well, because these days, fewer and fewer people want a massive tower with four drive bays, a bunch of PCI and RAM slots, lots of CPUs and GPUs, and the fans and heatsinks to keep it all cool.
Apple instead wanted its "halo car"—and its most expensive computer—to appeal to a wider audience. That includes some high-end pros, of course, many of whom might be better served by a more-traditional design but will make do with this one. But the new model is also for pros who've been using iMacs and MacBook Pros—sacrificing some amount of performance—because the current Mac Pro is overkill. And it's for power users like myself who will (grudgingly) pay more for better performance and expandability than an iMac.
Which is why the new Mac Pro, despite its limitations, is on my wish list. And, I suspect, on many more wish lists than it would have been had it simply been a new version of the traditional megatower.
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