Apple Neglecting the Mac?
Remember Macworld and all the disappointment that followed? No new mini, no new Mac Pro no new Apple TV. All you really got from on the hardware side was the 17" MacBook Pro getting caught up to the rest of the MacBook line. That's right, while the fans were screaming for a stunning surprise new Apple gave them something everyone knew was coming and pretended it was a big deal. Turns out that even the 17" MacBook Pro was introduced too soon. The only new bit of hardware that showed up at Macworld, hardware Apple knew it had to do for months, has been delayed. Again.
No big deal right? Delays happen all the time, maybe there is something about the 17" MacBook Pro that makes it extra difficult to move from concept to production. It could be hard to cram everything into the chassis of a 17"... wait that's not it. The difficulty could be that the dual video... Wait, no. Again, there's extra room. Maybe it is the $50 matte finish screen option? That can't be it, the matte screen is just a part swap, something for the assemblers to deal with. So what could be the holdup? Oh, of course. The 17" MacBook Pro just doesn't matter.
That makes a lot of sense. You have a notebook that really isn't, priced at a point most people won't pay. How important can it be to Apple to get that thing out? The worst case scenario is that Apple will piss off every ultra high end 17" MacBook Pro user and, in all truthfulness, those three people will probably stick with the Mac anyway.
That the MacBook with glandular issues is delayed is no big deal if that is the only Mac being shorted when it comes to updates. But the latest delay and that the 17" wasn't updated when the other MacBooks were carved out of a solid billet of aluminum might not just be about problems with 17" MacBook, the whole mess could be a sign of a new attitude at Apple towards the Mac. Has Apple become blasé about the Mac? There's one way to tell and that is to look at the numbers (data from Macrumors)
Apple's most unloved computer was last updated August of 2007. That's only a year and a half to you or me but to a dog that is high school and college. The mini isn't being held back by lack of possible updates, Apple could certainly bump the processor speed or get rid of FireWire but the company has just let the mini molder like a leftover in the fridge that is too old eat and too disgusting to throw away. The mini is probably the worst indicator of how Apple feels about the Mac. After all the mini is Apple's cheapest computer and every mini sold is likely viewed as an iMac that didn't sell by the company. When you look at it that way mini buyers are lucky the thing doesn't have razor sharp edges and a case made of stinging nettles.
Is Apple's mainstream desktop due for an update? You bet it is. While most companies like to keep the most popular machines updated the iMac hasn't been on the cutting edge for a while. The last significant upgrade? The tail end of April in 2008. No traditional back to school bump, no mottled case, nothing. If you've been expecting a new iMac for six months, you have had every reason to. Apple's reasons for not updating the iMac aren't nearly as clear as your reason for expecting one.
If you have a Mac Pro you're on the frontier of Apple computing. Unfortunately, the cutting edge of Apple computing is not the cutting edge of computing. Intel has had new chips ready since November of 2008 but the Mac Pro hasn't been updated since January 2008. If you pay attention to this stuff you know Apple will, eventually, get the new chips into a Mac Pro and you know that buying one before that happens is setting yourself up for a bad case of buyers remorse.
Word is that an Xserve upgrade is coming the next time someone buys one. Apple doesn't advertise this but Steve builds every Xserve personally as a hobby. He finds it relaxing. So maybe if you order an Xserve today it will get shipped to you with the i7 Core processor from Intel. Just kidding, the Xserve and the Mac Pro have been updated together in the past so that is probably the case this time.
That does it for the stationary Macs. What about the portables?
MacBook, MacBook Pro:
These aren't a big deal, they just got updated right? In terms of life cycle the MacBooks are about halfway through the cycle and these are the only machines that have been updated with the expected frequency. The one outlier is the supreme low end. The white plastic MacBook did get a nice bump recently.
All that adds up to company somewhat disinterested in one of its product lines. But why would Apple not be interested in the Mac side of things? The Mac still brings in a lot of dough, accounting for 35% of the companies revenue. Why not pay more attention to such an integral part of the business? Well, when the other parts of business are doing even better it kind of makes sense:
When illustrated graphically the case to forget about the Mac becomes more persuasive. Apple loves making the Mac and Apple loves the profits generated by selling the Mac. However, it is hard to justify putting resources into what is a flat lined market. If Apple has a great engineer, would it behoove Apple to have the person working on the iPhone or the Mac? You know the answer and it isn't the Mac.
There are people out there with kids who are very picky eaters. They'll only ingest chicken nuggets and fish sticks and view all vegetables as the most sublime form of evil ever put on a plate. This causes the parents much frustration and consternation. But in the end they end up feeding the kid what they want if only because they want to see the kid eat and don't want to put up with the epic battles that they lose every time. In Apple's case things are a bit different. The company can skip the part about worrying about nutrition and just focus on making what people already desire more desirable.
From Apple's perspective it is an easy decision. Every man-hour of a top designer, programmer or designer spent on the Mac is an hour they don't have to spend on what really matters at Apple. This doesn't mean that Macs are getting worse, that argument would be difficult to make, but Macs aren't improving at the rate Mac users have come to expect. Don't expect that trend to change. While you're wishing for a new mini or a "true" Mac netbook Apple is working on the tricky question of resource allocation. For Mac fans, the truth is the best allocation of Apple's resources isn't the Mac.