Among the several announcements made at the 2012 WWDC today, only one was related to the professional Mac user. The release of the new MacBook Pro and it’s Retina Display varient.
What actually spoke volumes was the silence about the other changes to the Pro Mac line-up that happened.
The End of the 17″ MacBook Pro
Apple quietly removed the 17″ MacBook Pro from it’s web site today. The last remnant of a once proud portable workstation class of computers is no more. Evidently Apple believes that professionals no longer need either 1) portability, or 2) a workstation class computer.
I was one of the dwindling few who routinely purchased the 17″ models as my own personal system, to interface nicely with the Mac Pros I used for work. I was the guy who actually needed all those ports and connectors. The PCMCIA and Express Card slots were filled in their day with P2 and SxS cards, the USB ports were taken up by edit controllers and tablets, the video connectors were connected to external displays, and the firewire ports had daisy chains of drives attached.
The number of connectors however continued to dwindle as the 17″ evolved. The apparent design decision mandating that “thinner” was more important than “useful”. My old 2005, 17″ PowerBook G4 sits on my desk, still fully functional with an astounding amount of connectors and slots, and it is 1 inch thick. The newest super-thin 15″ MacBook Pro is .71 inches thick. For that .29 inches of space you’ve lost Ethernet and Firewire and a DVD drive, but “Hey! It’s thinner! Did you see how thin it is?”. I sometimes wonder if the Apple design team is made of teenage girls with body image problems.
Still the 17″ used to be the top of the line. No matter what happened to the lesser laptop models, the 17″ always had a bonus thrown in for pros. Whether it be an enhanced screen, or a legacy port, or just a bit faster cpu and graphics card, you always felt it was worth that little extra money. It was a serious machine, that serious people whipped out to be taken seriously. It will be missed.
The big news that every professional user was waiting for was a Mac Pro update. I mean this machine is the bread and butter, day in and out workhorse of most of the entertainment industry, and it had gone for two years without an update. People were vocal and bombastic, a thousand blog and forum posts were written about the languishing Mac Pro, petitions were signed, Facebook pages were employed, Apple employees were stalked on show floors: and Apple was listening. Unfortunately their answer ran along the lines of “What is the least amount, and I mean absolutely least amount of work we could do to the Mac Pro and still call it an update?”
Then they did that.
Seriously, there is no significant difference between the Mac Pro of 2010, and the “new” Mac Pro of 2012, other than a slight increase of clock speeds of the same processor chips, and a slight decrease in cost. They didn’t even bother to update the 2009 era entry level graphics card that came with it. This is what the bare minimum looks like. I suppose it’s promising that they didn’t kill the Mac Pro altogether like the 17″ MacBook, but that’s the bare minimum of a compliment I’m willing to give them.
So what does the future look like for a professional on the Mac? Honestly it looks bleak. Between the end of the 17″ MacBook Pro, and the recent non-updates of the Mac Pro it’s not promising. There are those that hold out hope that Apple will come out with an amazing re-invention of the workstation that blows everything out of the water: just wait ’till next year! Of course the last time that Apple did an amazing re-invention of something we got FCPX. The one thing I do know that I’ll be focusing on for the remainder of this year is formulating a migration strategy to Windows, and it’s no longer “just in case.”