Is Apple ignoring its professional users for the same of the average consumer?

Mon, Sep 27, 2010


Is Apple ignoring its loyal cadre of professional users? Brook Willard seems to think so. In a long write up from this past July, Willard writes in part:

For the sake of argument, there are two types of users of Apple’s professional lineup.

First, there are the users that I will shamelessly lump into “Group A”.  These users – call them prosumers, high-end consumers, casual professionals or rich people – demand more from their machines than they can get out of the consumer models.  The reasons are plentiful.  Maybe they wanted a bigger screen on their laptop than they could get in the consumer lineup.  Maybe they needed some expandability.  Maybe they knock around in Photoshop every now and again and needed better I/O and storage options.  Hell, maybe they just like aluminum.  Whatever the reason, this group of users fit into the slot directly above the iMac [and iBook/MacBook] perfectly.  Jumping from a $1,500 iMac to a $2,000+ PowerMac was attainable and justifiable.

Then, there are the rest of us.  We demand the most from our machines.  We make a living off of our machines and the work that they help us accomplish.  We stuff our Macs to the brim with PCI cards, RAM and storage.  We move hundreds of terabytes of data, render for hours and know what it really means to push a machine to the limit.  Maybe it’s video, maybe it’s photography, maybe it’s server administration… hell, maybe it’s something i’ve never heard of.  Either way, it’s about the performance and there is no second place.  Group B.

The thing that frightens me about Apple’s professional lineup is that over the past few years, they’ve seemingly abandoned Group B.  Just take a look at Apple’s current offerings.

The MacBook Pro briefly glimmered as an awesome professional laptop when it peaked in 2008.  It had a user-replaceable battery, user-replaceable hard drive, an ExpressCard slot and a matte screen.  Apple had finally answered our calls that they’d seemingly been ignoring since the ’90s.

Take a look at the same lineup today.  Apple dropped the replaceable battery, dropped the user-upgradeable hard drive, started charging for matte screens and replaced the immensely useful ExpressCard slot with a consumer-oriented SD card slot.  Hell, the entry-level MacBook Pro dropped below $2,000 to make it appeal to consumers more.

The reasons for Apple’s decision are obvious – many consumers want a bigger screen and don’t need all of the performance.  I’m sure that most of the MacBook Pros Apple was selling were going directly to owners who don’t even understand what an ExpressCard slot is or why they’d need it.  But their point-and-shoot camera [and their entry-level DSLR] has an SD card and boy it’d be convenient to just stick it in the computer.  Since most people don’t take their laptops beyond the kitchen table or the local Starbucks, saving weight on an internal battery makes sense.  Replaceable hard drives?  It’s not even on their radar.

To save the professional users, Apple kept the ExpressCard slot in the 17″ model.  Unfortunately, the 17″ model has the same graphics performance as the 15″ model, but it’s driving more pixels resulting in lower per-pixel performance.  The system architecture is still based around one USB 2.0 bus and one FireWire bus, resulting in limited I/O performance.  One hopes that Apple will upgrade the ExpressCard slot to the 2.0 specification later this year, but with only one machine sporting the slot, I’m not holding my breath.

With these decisions, Apple has turned the MacBook Pro lineup into a high-end consumer line… the perfect computer for Group A users.

Whether you agree or not, the entire article is worth a read. Check it out over here.


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