Apple Finds Itself With Its Back Against The Wall

Posted on April 4, 2017 by Brad Sams in Hardware with 48 Comments

Apple has found itself in a precarious position, the company is on its heels doing damage control over slow Mac updates. This is an unusual position for the company and they are asking for more time to update their high-end hardware and for the Apple faithful, this may be a hard pill to swallow.

For professional users of the Cupertino hardware, it has been a rough road for the past few years. The Mac Pro, which up until today was hilariously antiquated and overpriced (it was not updated for more than 1000 days and still retained its original release price point), is getting a minor refresh today but more importantly, it is being completely overhauled and that new machine won’t arrive until next year at the earliest.

The spec-bumped older iteration of the Mac Pro that is being released today costs $2,999 and this will get you a 6-core Intel Xeon processor, dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs and 16GB of memory, and for $3,999, you will now get an 8-core processor and dual D700 GPUs.

During a private press event this week, guessing my invite was lost in the mail, company executives explained what went wrong with the Mac Pro; the short story is that their cylinder-based design is a flop. The current Mac Pro is designed for a two-GPU setup and the market has primarily moved to a one-GPU based hardware arrangement. Because of this, the internal cooling of the Mac Pro does not work well in this arrangement and long story short, they have to scrap the design.

A truly new Mac Pro will arrive next year at the earliest with an Apple branded displays and a modular design; so for the Pro user, you can buy a slightly updated Mac Pro today or wait 12 months or more for an all new Mac Pro. Also, later this year the company will be releasing new iMacs as well; no further details about the iMac were announced.

Apple did provide a few new statistics, which you can find in an in-depth post by TechCrunch, that Apple has nearly 100 million Mac users. We know that Windows 10 has at least 400 million active users, likely much higher as that figure is from September, which means Windows 10 is 4-5x the install base of MacOS.

What’s odd about the event that Apple held is that this session was used to push back against the negative press they have received after moving too slowly to update their desktop hardware. After the launch of the Surface Studio, which catered heavily to Apple’s creative base, the feeling that Apple had given up on its desktop hardware had amplified and possibly played a part in the decision to host the out-of-band press event.

Apple has clearly found itself back on its heels and it’s trying to control the damage done to its image by its lack of updates and slow revision process for desktop hardware. If any good did come out of this, it’s that they did provide a small roadmap for what to expect for the months ahead; new iMacs this year and a completely redesigned Mac Pro sometime next year at the earliest.

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Comments (48)

48 responses to “Apple Finds Itself With Its Back Against The Wall”

  1. gregalto

    Who is eating this up? They basically just said we wont have anything for a few years....damage control with apple spin

  2. matsan

    *crickets chirping*

  3. skane2600

    I don't understand Apple's fixation on the "box". Perhaps they should stop making computers and sell exotic art pieces.

  4. GotCobol

    the "New" Mac Pro will be described as innovative, daring, all-new, and courageous.


    It will be the same basic modular PC design most WinTel machines have been for 30 years with a fancy side panel and front bezel and proprietary power plug

  5. hrlngrv

    Netmarketshare shows Mac usage for 2016Q4 at 6.41%. IDC shows Apple 'PC' shipments at 7.5% of the overall market in 2016Q4. New machine shipments higher than overall usage implies Apple may be selling more Macs per existing Mac user than MSFT and its OEMs are selling new Windows PCs per existing Windows PC user. IOW, Apple may not be hurting much.

    There's also an outside chance that most Mac buyers simply don't read the tech press, and/or readers of negative articles about Apple or Macs could be disporportionately Windows and Linux users.

    • Ugur

      In reply to hrlngrv: bought all of the previous few macbook pro iterations and i'm totally not buying this new crappified downgrade they released this time and will never again buy a macbook pro again until they add in way better (competitive for the time) gpu, improve the keyboard and trackpad again and add the ports back in they removed which i use daily and will continue to use for several more years.

  6. Narg

    Didn't HP come out with a "Trash can" computer too? I wonder how well it sold?

    • MikeGalos

      In reply to Narg:

      HP's was meant as a low-end system for casual users wanting a good looking system. Not the same market as the flagship of the line designed for professionals who need to remain state-of-the-art.

  7. SDreamer

    At least they communicated and admitted it. Microsoft just sweeps it up and acts like it never happened, (ahem promises that the reboot from WP7 and WP8 would never happen again, and look 1st gen WP8 users got smitten by that). The numbers don't really matter, because they have at least a billion iOS users. But saying that 100 million number does say they know they have users who want that platform still, and they haven't been forgotten. They really should leave the design focus on consumers, while a more balanced platform for pros (modular and design). They should have made the Mac Mini with an awesome design, maybe make it a coaster to put your coffee on or something. Let that heat keep the coffee warm, but still have it IP68 so spills won't kill it, lol. All Apple really had to do is keep with CPU refreshes, and GPU refresh here and there to keep it's populace happy, but it admitted it's mistakes at least and announced something to look forward to.

  8. gvan

    Did any of the bloggers at this meeting ask about 4K? Has anyone from Apple even said "no comment" to a question about 4K?

  9. donkey

    And yet, whatever they come out with next year, PC makers will be falling over themselves to copy it..

    • Ugur

      In reply to donkey: one ever copied the mac pro design or like evryone in the industry makes jokes about what a bad idea the touchbar is =)
      For a few years during max hype iPhone and iPad days, and yeah, also early on in Macbook (Air) days, Apple design was copied by some.
      But since then? Apple is meanwhile playing catch up in phone land (will be one of the last to get the almost bezel free look for example and also copying left and right to catch up on software side) and regarding macs the entire lineup is meanwhile sadly abysmal, nothing to copy there.

      These new statements now are them finally acknowledging it because the uproar got so loud when they finally crapped up the macbook pro this year and with that have zero recommendable macs left right now.

  10. Ugur

    It took em way longer than long enough but hey, at least they finally got the memo.

    In hope they actually release good macs again now.

  11. Winner

    And it's not like their latest laptop updates were anything special, either.

    • Ugur

      In reply to Winner: yeah, the latest downgrades to the macbook pro was really what kicked this whole thing off.
      Because the mac mini, macbook air and macbook pro had been neglected for many years already (and the trashcan mac pro was a complete fail design from the get go), so (sadly), no news there for many years.
      It was when the macbook (no pro or air monicker) was crappified where the moaning first started becoming louder, but many still calmed themselves, because, you know, it was "just" the macbook crappified, it was not like they would do the same stupid thing of putting in a weaksauce chip and making the keyboard and trackpad worse and cutting away mag safe and all commonly used peripheral ports on the pro line, right?..
      Well, then they did exactly that with the macbook pro downgrades this year, and that was the point where it finally boiled over even for many of the most hardcore mac fans, because that was the tipping point where siddenly there were 0 recommendable macs left.

      Right now the only mac sorta still ok is the iMac, which has the saving grace of a super high res screen and sorta ok specs, but even that is wildly uninspired feeling in 2017 when one looks at something like a surface studio in comparison which has pen support and a screen which one can nicely use at many angles.And yeah, it just barely has ok specs to drive that high resolution, if one compares it with something which has actually really good specs, well, then it has really bad specs. Like for example the graphics cards had a huge upgrade this cycle with the nvidia 10x series cards and compared to something like that the iMac has really bad specs.

      Overall the whole mac lineup has gone way too much form over function to the degree where the function is severely cut down to fi a a few mm thinner bill, which makes little to zero sense for desktops and in an extend that one crappifies the best in class keyboard and trackpad also no sense for pro priced laptops.

  12. truerock

    I've been stuck in a desktop PC non-upgrade mode similar to Apple's situation with Mac Pro. I built my last PC in 2012 and cannot find a reason to upgrade. I keep designing new PCs on paper - but, I can't justify upgrading. Every time I design a new PC on paper I keep coming to the conclusion that various technologies will become available in 2018 that will make an upgrade worthwhile.

    Irrespective of what Apple has said recently about the Mac Pro, my belief is that the real reason Apple has not upgraded the Mac Pro is that there have not been technologies available to make an upgrade worthwhile.


    Desktop PC's are dead...dead...dead. I have built my last desktop Windows PC.

    • truerock

      In reply to TEAMSWITCHER:

      Well, I can't agree that PCs are dead for everyone. But, I think what you are getting at is that the majority of the people are using smart phones and/or tablets and/or notebook PCs.

      My family owns 7 iPhones, 3 iPads, 4 Windows 10 notebook PCs and 2 Windows 10 desktop PCs. Only 2 out of 7 people use a desktop regularly and 2 use a desktop occasionally to play competitive online games. Somewhere around 90% to 99% of my families computing is not done on a desktop PC.

      Nevertheless, all 7 people in my family like having a desktop PC when they have some serious computer interface tasks to do.

      In the past I would help my sister with her computer selection. This Christmas I told her I had finally found a notebook PC worth upgrading to and was buying 3 of them. Did she want me to buy one for her? My sister consulted her 28 year old daughter (career: Physician Assistant) for advice. The daughter said that notebook PCs are dead, dead, dead. Her advice was to get a Microsoft Surface Book.

  14. MikeGalos

    Or, put simply:

    "Can't innovate, my ass." - Phil Schiller on the Mac Pro release

    "Yep, you can't innovate." - The pro segment of the market ever since

    "I guess we can't innovate. But we'll bring back our old, modular design in a year so stop switching to Windows." - Apple today

  15. Patrick3D

    When I think of the MacBook Pro, I can't help but think of someone hunched over with a single finger out hunt-and-peck style trying to use touch. Something like the Surface Studio would be too much for them to handle. It seems the Mac platform has a history of not using more than one finger at a time (1-button mouse.)

  16. mjw149

    They got greedy and distracted. The Mac Pro was DOA and they couldn't admit it because of their legendary profitability. They still act like they're penniless.

  17. wshwe

    The Surface Studio, for all its accolades, is still underpowered for the price. I would gladly love to be in Apple's overall condition. Lately Intel hasn't exactly set the world on fire with its new processors.

    • will

      In reply to wshwe:

      Agreed. Brad said it best that the Studio is a V6 when it should have the option for a V8.

    • mebby

      In reply to wshwe:

      Right! Will HP or Dell or Lenovo come out with a Surface Studio clone for reasonable (or at least better) price? Since Surface products are only for creating a new product line...

  18. javajunkee

    "Can't innovate anymore, my ass!" Sorry, Someone had to say it. :-)

    But seriously . . . next year? What are all those people doing in Cupertino? Walking around in circles with their iPhone in hand, patting themselves on the back?

  19. rameshthanikodi

    Phil schiller also has come out to say that Pro users don't care about touch...too bad they've already shipped those MacBook Pros with touch bars.

  20. jimchamplin

    I'm really hoping that this is the start of a glorious PC war that makes things exciting again. ?

  21. MikeGalos

    Re Mac vs Windows 10...

    Latest Netmarketshare numbers

    macOS (all versions) - 6.27%

    Windows 10 - 25.36%

    Windows (all versions) - 91.95%

    So Windows 10 has 4.0 times the users as all Macs combined and Windows has 14.7 times as much as Macintosh.

    (Linux makes up the other 2.14%)

  22. nbplopes

    I think is interesting that one can see the company this way and looking for total control platform.

    Apple / Cook ist not looking for total platform control has Samsung is and Microsoft (just look at the breath of MS software and followup moves shooting at anything that moves, if that is not looking for total control ). Apple / Cook is looking to maximize profit while not in total control ... and its working.

    Simply put they have stoped seeing profit on the Mac Pro considering its "problems". The best way to tell people not to buy a piece of hardware is by not updating it. No company will ever tell you not to buy one of its products, but can give you hints. Have you ever went to a restaurant and asked for something and the waiter politely ..... But no, the American technologist would press to buy it, eat it and call the restaurant names, oh and even if customer service was great ... would be because people are fools.

    • skane2600

      In reply to nbplopes:

      The most logical place for Mac users to go if they take Apple's "hints" is to Windows, not iPads. The ecosystems of Windows and MacOS are the most similar.

      • nbplopes

        In reply to skane2600:

        People that need a PC will never go for a tablet whatever. Mac user or Windows user. I think SJ mentioned that.

        I understand that some Windows users for reasons that I cannot really figured out, its almost psychotic I may sa,y would like the tiny 7% if Mac users to Surender to Microsoft charms hence really giving them total control. I understand that Paul would like just that with Windows Phone but he is a realistic.. Of course now he wants to entice fear on your Windows minds that both Apple and now Samsung are looking for full control ... of course as part of MS expansionist doctrine,

        The bummer is that people that use Macbook Pro's and iMacs actually prefer it giving you a bunch of sounds reasons. They aren't just insane ....

        As him. Does he have Mac Pro? Ok he has some kind of macbook that he uses occasionally of testing purposes and hates to love the iPhone But all he does it give you some vague emotional reason why he dislikes the OS X and loves users. When we go down to specifics the thing starts crumbling down.

        Why this article form people that don't use Macs and dislike Apple? How is all this credible?

        Its does not really matter. Its all Entertainment!!!!

        • skane2600

          In reply to nbplopes:

          If Apple is losing money on Macs than I could understand why they'd want to discourage customers from buying it although that seems unlikely. My point is that if they were doing it to boost iPads, it's a losing strategy. That's a similar error to the one MS made with Windows 8 - trying to push customers into a mobile ecosystem they didn't want. Unfortunately in MS's case they've doubled-down on their dubious strategy with Windows 10 (despite throwing a few bones to Win 7 fans, they still have live tiles littering the start menu).

          • nbplopes

            In reply to skane2600:

            I don't think they are loosing money on the Macbook's or iMac's, but Mac Pro was not a scaleable product. That is why they stopped updating it.

            I don't think they are pushing Mac users to the iPads. Honestly I don't.

            Competition is good. Apple is finally getting some competition on high end all in ones that is all. Windows fans seam to be hysterical because of it that all. Couple that with American consumerism .... "gotta have the latest spec" regardless of the actually benefits and ... Its insanity to think that this year spec is much much better than last year, totally insanity, this feeling its a byproduct of technological marketing not scientific reasoning. In fact sometimes in practice this year spec can be worst than last year spec for awhile, as builder mature to take the most out f the new design. I think Apple manages this quite well considering that performance increments year by year has been falling drastically.

  23. Jorge Garcia

    OK well, in the meantime, to keep fans amused, here's an easy one for Apple to spit iBook. IMO, Apple is missing a "laptop for normal people/millennials". I think they should make a (fairly ho-hum) clam-shell laptop that runs a version of iOS that is customized to allow for windowed iOS apps and is also mouse + right-click friendly. If they started it at $699 or so, I think would appeal to A LOT of people who aren't really interested in learning all the ins-and-outs of MacOS. I'd call it the iBook, and it would sell like crazy.