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Slimming Down the Mac Lineup

April 30, 2012 - Dave Hecei
Any day now we should start to see new Macs hitting store shelves. Of course no one but Apple knows the who, what, where, and whys. With the new Intel Ivy Bridge processors starting to make their way into manufacturer's hands, new desktop and laptops are not far behind.

There has been quite a few rumors wafting about on whether Apple is cutting out the 'Pro' level Macs. First there was the rumor that the Mac Pro tower was about to be end-of-life. Now there is a rampant rumor about Apple killing off the 17-inch MacBook Pro. This is 'the' laptop for the media pro - photographer, video editor, 3D and 2D artist, etc.

This is not good, for any of us. Apple may see these products as low-volume sellers, but if Apple starts down this slope they run the risk of abandonment. Yes, this has already happened when Apple updated their pro-level video production software, Final Cut Studio 3 (FCS 3). They went from a fairly complete suite of programs (Final Cut Pro 7, Motion 4, DVD Studio Pro 4, Soundtrack Pro 3, Color 1.5, and Compressor 3.5) to separating them into Final Cut Pro x, Motion 5, and Compressor 4. While Apple has added some of the features lost in the update, FCP X was not received well by the professional editors who were making their living using FCS 3.

Over the last several months, sales of 17-inch laptops and Mac Pros have dropped. This is very likely the effect of Pros waiting for the next model to appear. No one wants to drop $5000 on a tower system or $3000 on a laptop when the next-gen is about to be released. When, or if, the next Mac Pro tower appears, it will sell out very fast - there is that much pent up demand waiting.

It is possible to use a high-end iMac to do many Pro-level tasks. Some might argue that with the addition of Thunderbolt, a tower is no longer a necessity. This might be true for some, but there are still little in the way of Thunderbolt peripherals, which what is available is very pricy. A tower allows up to four internal hard drives, more than one video card, more than 16GB or RAM, and many choices of expansion cards - I/O, audio capture, video capture, etc.

The problem is if Apple waits too long. No one wants to abandon ship, but if Apple drops too many balls I can see the high-end pros going to Dell for computers and going to Avid and Adobe for software. While Apple may not sell as many 17-MBP or Mac Pro towers as they do iPads and iPhones, they are an important line and they have a much higher profit margin.

Here's hoping that a new Mac Pro tower and 17-inch MacBook Pro are coming soon. I know some pros who are holding their breath, but they are starting to turn a little blue.


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