At one time, I considered myself smack in the middle of Apple's target market for the Macintosh Pro systems. I used Photoshop and an Epson 4000 printer with raster image processing software. That was in December of 2004. It was five months after my exit at Apple when I purchased my last Mac Pro. Before that system and since the original Macintosh II which was introduced in 1987, I always had a top end Macintosh desktop system on my desk.
At the time I paid $1,795 for my Dual G5 Mac Pro. It is a credit to the design of the system that it still runs well almost nine years later and that I did not even think about replacing it for four years. I have done a number of hard drive transplants over the years, but if Apple had not abandoned doing new operating system releases for the G5, I might still be using it regularly. I think it started out with one 80 GB hard drive and now has two 1 TB drives. A lot has changed in my life since the Mac Pro arrived on my doorstep.
When I did start thinking about replacing my Dual G5, Apple had moved the entry level price point well beyond what I wanted to spend on a new desktop system so I kept using the G5 and eventually tried to replace it with an iMac which actually cost more than my Dual G5. My iMac hard drive and the SD slot both died eighteen months after I purchased the iMac. I was so disappointed that I ended giving my iMac the nickname of iLemon. I do have a very nice 27" monitor that happens to be the screen for my dead iMac.
While I bought a MacMini to have a Mac on my desk, the system which has taken the place of my Mac Pro is a Lenovo I5 desktop. It came with an I5 processor, 8 GB of ram, an optical drive, SD card reader and a 1 TB hard drive. I paid $479 for the system which turns out to be a lot less than I paid for the Mac Mini which I bought a month later in January of 2013.
The Mini came with only a 500 GB hard drive, no optical drive, no keyboard, and only 4 GB of ram. The price was $599. It also required a special adapter for my second monitor. The MacMini was a less than positive experience until Apple released 10.8.3 and even now it is a jungle of cables and external bits and pieces that I have added to make it functional for my particular needs.
Even with a history of good experiences with Apple's high end systems, my experience with the iMac and MacMini leaves me a little skeptical of the new Mac Pro.
The announcement of the new Mac Pro is surprising but given the way Apple introduced the product perhaps months before it ships, I suspect there will be a lot of debate on the utility of the new Mac Pro. The good folks at ars technica have already produced an excellent article, A critical look at the new Mac. Pro. It explains the pros and cons of the new Mac Pro as well as you can without having an actual device to test. John Martellaro from MacObserver adds his thoughts on why there was an early announcement in this post, Why Apple Announced the New Mac Pro Early & Likely Ship Date.
Somehow I also cannot get excited about another strange shaped Apple product that is likely to require a whole bunch of expensive Thunderbolt devices to work. I say this as someone who enjoyed having one of Apple's G4 Cubes in one of my remote offices.
At this point in my digital life, Apple would have to come out with an incredibly aggressive price on the new Mac Pro for me to be interested. I have gotten to the point that it is far too much trouble to be an Apple consumer. The only service that I can get is driving three hours to the closest Apple Store. Unfortunately I am the Mac expert in the county where I live so if I have a problem there is no one to turn to for help.
When I worked for Apple, I had system engineers working for me so no problem was too big to solve, and if we couldn't solve the problem, we replaced the system.
Apple's obsession with making computers that look different even if they are only thinner and lighter might serve some customers well, but I am going to get off the train. Thinner, lighter, or just smaller is not what I need for my desktop. Right now I have my Lenovo I5 stacked on top of my Dual G5 Mac so I have plenty of room.
The thought of spending $750 for a couple of external 1 TB drives in a G-Technology G-Dock and another $400 for an optical drive like Sonnet's Thunderbolt docking station which includes interfaces to hook up existing peripherals leaves me scratching my head and wondering if my desktop would be even more cable cluttered than it is with the MacMini.
Certainly the cost of the new Mac Pro and required peripherals would cause sticker shock to those of us who just need something more than a Mac Mini but do not want to be stuck with a consumer grade iMac.
Last summer I hauled away a truckload of expensive at the time Apple cables, keyboards, and drives that I had collected over the years. I'm not sure being on the Apple technology band wagon improved anything but Apple's bottom line. I ended up selling my Epson 4000 printer and it has been a long time since I used Final Cut Pro so perhaps I am no longer a Macintosh Professional user. If I can get my work done with a less expensive solution, I am quite happy not having the most stylish computer or the smallest one.
There are other issues that also keep me from being excited about Apple's new Mac Pro and they are related to software and Apple's support of markets beyond the consumer one.
One of the few Apple pro-programs that I used, iDVD, has been dropped by Apple. I have tried Aperture and I just don't think it holds up well in a comparison with Lightroom. Lightroom works just fine on much cheaper Windows systems. With Apple's dismal record on the iWork suite, you have to wonder how committed the company is to anything other than the consumer market. Actually the fact that it has taken Apple years to come up with the design for a new Mac Pro that might ship sometime in the future is one of the biggest worries.
Finally, I do not like Mac OS X Mountain Lion and I am not alone. I have not been happy with OS X and and its default world of iCloud for a while. I have given up on Apple's mail client except for my iCloud account.
And then there is iPhoto which has become very unreliable. I took three pictures of my cable clutter and tried twice to import them into iPhoto. This is what I got. I plugged a card reader into my Mac keyboard and imported them into gThumb running on Xubuntu Linux on a virtual machine on my Mac without any problems. What this finally boils down to is that I would rather depend on other companies instead of Apple for my computing experience.
Problems with Apple and their premium pricing have pushed me to other solutions. What I need to do on a Mac no longer requires an expensive Mac Pro system. I do not see innovation slowing down in the computer world, but I do see Apple's innovation at least in desktop computers slowing.
Still it sure would be nice if Apple had a product between the Mac Mini and the iMac. All we need is a decent processor, an optical drive, and a couple of hard drive bays. Surely Apple's engineering genius could produce something interesting like that for $999. That I might buy.
Still I am not holding my breath for one of those from Apple, but I would be very happy if Apple's new Msc Pro design prompts some Windows vendors to get a little more aggressive with systems that might serve me well.