Tag Archives: Mac Pro

Tuesday Talk ~ Where to for the Mac? Still …


This discussion is still unresolved. As Daniel Iran Dilger points out on Apple Insider, Apple’s mix of products, and therefore revenues, has changed a lot over the last two decades. In 1997, it was a mix of Macs that Apple sold; nowadays Macs form less than a fifth of Apple’s products with iPhone responsible for well over a half.
It’s easy to think Apple doesn’t care too much about the Mac, and yet it’s the Mac that made Apple what it is, and it’s the Mac users who form Apple’s most loyal, and longest standing, customer base. But some of Apple’s Mac hardware hasn’t been updated for years. It’s easy to see why, going by the sales mix, but this has created uncertainty about whether Apple still values some of its smaller niche businesses. As Dilger points out, these were once considered strategically important to Apple and included audio, video, graphics and publishing professionals.
On Apple’s current Compare Mac Models page, which lists a dozen Mac products, seven are notebooks, three are iMacs and two haven’t been materially updated in years: Mac mini and Mac Pro. It’s clear the Mac Pro was designed for professional users, and really made waves when it appeared in 2013 but that’s a very long time ago in computing terms, but the little mini has done sterling duty in many pro environments as a file server. Sure, the MacBook Pro had a refresh last year, and this was significant, although not significant enough for some, but even that seemed tardy.

Meanwhile we have the uncertainty about the little Air line, which now seems like an iPad with a keyboard and ports, and the confusing MacBook, an overpriced machine (over NZ$2000!) with limited options aimed at … who, exactly? And why?
John Martellero reckons Apple has it’s eye on the ball, but it’s not the same ball everyone else has their eye on. This is Jobsian, anyway.

Where does all this leave pro users? Tim Cook has made vague promises that Apple is not forgetting its pro users but … it’s been forgetting them for a while, starting with the thoroughly mishandled launch of Final Cut Pro X that turned so many pro users against Apple. And that situation still exists, despite major efforts to redress those issues with what is now superb video editing software.
The proof is in the pudding. And we want that pudding this year, please. Because ordinary Mac users are starting to be affected by all this, too.

Tuesday Talk ~ Post PC and iPad toast


macpro-inside

Steve Jobs would have turned 62 last week, and among many of the quite revolutionary things he said, in this case near the end of his time, was that the PC era was over. He imagined iPad would embody its replacement. However, Macs are still selling in large numbers, although sales aren’t growing, while iPad plateaued a couple of years back and has been sitting at the same level. In fact, all device sales have plateaued; the point is Mac sales took a whole lot longer to level out. So today, it looks like iPads haven’t replaced Macs, and although some people use them as their primary devices, they tend to accompany rather than to replace, at least for users with needs beyond the superficial.

For those who only browse, email/message and read, iPads are ideal tablets. For those wanting to do serious work, it really depends on the work. Apple’s beefy, powerful iPad Pro is really just an untethered Cintiq-style drawing device. Sure, you can also browse, email/message and read, and you can conceivably rough-out a sound or film project, but serious users will soon end up on a PC of some sort because the manipulation, although direct (via fingertips and maybe a stylus) on a tablet, still lags behind what’s possible with a keyboard and mouse/trackpad/etc.
As soon as you start adding physical input devices (apart from the Pencil) to iPads, well hell, you may as well have a Mac and be done with it.

It’s the portable Macs that have really worked for Apple. As Apple Insider points out, If you’re still wondering why Apple hasn’t updated its desktop Macs (the mini and Pro), their relative importance to Apple’s revenues certainly plays a factor. Apple sells truckloads of portable Macs, and comparatively few iMacs and even less of the overpriced, underperforming Mac Pros.
Many think the Mac Pro will soon disappear altogether, especially since it needs a monitor as a separate purchase, and Apple’s nomination for that vaunted position, in place of its own overpriced but excellent monitor, is the very troubled LD UltraFine.
This sounds doom and gloom, but the fact remains the large iMac is all-round wonderful: beautiful, powerful and with a truly excellent display. Most videographers and audio engineers are more than happy to work on these, and they’re saving money. Apple could do a lot to make these even better, if the Pro gets the heave-ho. 

Gloom and doom? I don’t think so. It’s easy for me to sound sour in these columns, but around the time Apple releases a great new iPhone, we could also be getting Kaby Lake MacBook Pros, awesome new iMacs and an iPad revision. To me, that’s good times and lots to look forward to. I won’t be missing the Mac Pro, and most  pro users have abandoned these long ago anyway, for cheaper faster PCs. They might be pleased to come back to Mac just for the superior operating system.

Tuesday Talk ~ What happened at Apple in 2016?


original-mac-ad-hello-1200x800

What happened at Apple in 2016? New products were released, and they were good, but they seemed slow in coming. Some ship dates slipped considerably: the Pencil in 2015 and then AirPods (which have only just started arriving) last year. There have been supply misjudgements which is odd for a company run by the supply-chain expert (Tim Cook), once heavily leaned-upon by Steve Jobs.
The much-anticipated late-2016 MacBook Pro certainly arrived late in the year, and although it debuted a truly useful new technology (the Touch Bar), it seemed like Apple was waiting for new processors and eventually couldn’t wait any longer. This was in the face of criticism that the MacBook Pro hadn’t been updated significantly for four years (four years!), quite a hiccup in this most stellar line of Macs. Meanwhile, iMac has started to noticeably lag, the mini looks like a very stagnated platform – and don’t even mention the overpriced, underpowered Mac Pro.
iPhone SE clearly surprised Apple with a much higher demand than expected. Forecast models seem out of sync with buyer demands, and you have to think Apple can afford great depth of talent here.
iPad (and, to be fair, all other tablets) have been languishing in sales, seemingly failing to reach the potential once promised. It’s a closed platform (of course). As the Mac Observer has observed, “Like the original Mac, Steve Jobs conceived of the iPad as a closed, friendly, appliance” but now its arc has hit the same limits the original Mac hit.
AirPort has been languishing and then, unannounced, Apple seems to have dropped its entire AirPort team, making people wonder just what is in store for their easy-to-set-up and almost flawless, not to mention attractive, Apple wifi network devices AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule. Perhaps the Apple display partnership that sees the Apple Thunderbolt Display gone and the company touting products by LG in its stead (the 4K and 5K UltraFine displays) will become the new business model across wifi too. But does that mean Apple is losing its grip, or simply concentrating where it should be?
Apple has always shifted  its focus around product groups, but it’s hard to believe resources are so  constrained at the tech giant it can’t actually cope with long-standing product lines any more. Former Apple employee Chuq Von Raspach thinks Apple’s view of its users doesn’t match its actual users, which is quite an indictment of a company that has always excelled at using data to sell data platforms.
Apple’s approach has been super successful over the decades, and some companies like Pearl Automation have taken aspects of the Apple process and ditched others. But this poses another concern – this is yet another company created by former Apple employees.

Let’s hope that Apple has been putting its house in order for 2017.

Tuesday Talk ~ The Cult of Mac is getting anxious


(Image from Pinterest)
(Image from Pinterest)

Here we are, all hanging on for new Macs. I know at least ten people in the same boat as me. We’ve been clinging on to our Macs, keeping them running, afraid to upgrade because we know, or at least think we know (while definitely fervently hoping) that a new model is imminent. This goes specifically for the MacBook Pro, which hasn’t had a full update (just some some minor refreshes) since 2012.

It’s worse for Mac Pro users …if there are any left. When that first round Pro tower came out in 2013, it was expensive but hey, it was the fastest and best. However, that didn’t last long and even a year later you could get a higher-specced PC for considerably less. This has been very difficult for Pro users to swallow, and some have even jumped ship to powerful Unix boxes while others must be thinking enviously along the same lines.
It’s not as if other manufacturers failed to notice Pro-user unhappiness, making more easily expandable, higher-specced and cheaper PCs available. The Pro hasn’t been updated in three years. Meanwhile, the excellent, but overpriced (going by the competition’s prices) Apple Thunderbolt display has been cancelled entirely, with no replacement. Luckily there are excellent high-quality displays you can plug in, in their stead, but the Thunderbolt offered some handy extra ports. But there are no rumours that Apple is even looking at a Pro update. Pro users who wanted to stay with Apple have been buying very well-specced 27-inch iMacs instead.
Apple has almost limitless resources, yet seems to have chosen to all but abandon its strongest, and most powerful, supporters.

Leaving Mac lines to languish is starting to affect sales. According to both Gartner and IDC, during the third quarter (3Q) of 2016, Apple shipped five million Macs – down from 5.4 million in the year-ago quarter, according to Gartner or from 5.8, according to IDC: a 13.4% decline. You can’t blame this on sales lost to iPad, since tablet sales aren’t picking up the slack. And there is no way on Earth that a powerful iPad even begins to be able to do what a good MacBook Pro can do, even if the latest iPad Pro outperforms the overpriced, virtually port-free MacBook. The problem, everyone agrees, is the stale Mac line-up.

Of course, the MacBook Pro is strongly rumoured to be undergoing work and everyone has been hoping it will arrive by the end of this October, although that date is getting uncomfortably close. For a professional user, an Air or worse, MacBook just can’t even begin to cut it. With a good MacBook Pro, you really can produce an entire movie, soundtrack and plenty more. It’s a really strong machine. And it has a good array of ports – if Apple cuts these, there will be a lot of disappointment.
The tragedy of all this is that if Apple doesn’t produce something spectacular, the professional crisis will depend and maybe even become a tipping point.

Older versions of Office, accurate battle, Manhattan Store, ConnectEd


You can enter the Beta program for the Totally Accurate Battle Simulator
You can enter the Beta program for the Totally Accurate Battle Simulator

Installing the Older Version of Microsoft Office — On September 22, Microsoft will stop offering the 2011 version of its Office software to Office 365 customers. If you have any reason that you might need that older version of the suite, now’s the time to snap it up! Here’s how.

The Totally Accurate Battle Simulator — The Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, or TABS, is just starting alpha development. You set up units (the red and blue rag dolls in the video), arm them with weapons, and let TABS show you what would happen.
Being developed by Landfall, the game has been greenlit by Steam, according to The Next Web. Landfall is accepting signups for the alpha for Mac, Windows, Linux, Xbox, and PS4, though the company is specific about not promising which platforms will be supported on release. If it does hit Steam, there’s a good chance it will have Mac support.

New Manhattan Apple Store at World Trade Center to open — Apple has announced an August 16th grand opening date for its new retail store located within the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan.

Apple’s ConnectED efforts reach more than 32,000 students — As the 2016-2017 school year kicks off, there are now 32,145 students at underserved public schools across the country who are learning, creating and exploring on iPad through Apple’s ConnectED commitment, the company says.

Tuesday Talk ~ numbers


7?

Apple’s Mac has finally joined the slowdown in desktop computer sales. While PC sales declined over the last few years, Mac sales – bizarrely – kept rising, but that’s no longer true. Apple needs to release some very good new models of Macs to gain back some ground, but even if it does, the worldwide decline in desktop sales may mitigate against Apple ever regaining the market share it developed over the last five years.

Model-wise, the MacBook Pro could do with a refresh. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the little MacBook is overpriced and underpowered, but it did debut great new tech that should be put into the MacBook Pro.

A new MacBook Pro I am happy to speculate on. Partly as I need one: my 2012 MacBook Pro is still a speed demon but its battery has dropped to 85% capacity over the years (it’s a hard worker) and, if Apple follows form, a new model with be lighter, slimmer, more powerful and better all round. I’m not sure it will have an OLED touch-bar, as some hope, partly as every rendering I’ve seen of this idea looks butt-ugly to me, and doesn’t seem to fit in with Apple’s aesthetic, but I’m happy to be swayed to the contrary. Filed Apple patents have outlined illuminated touch controls embedded within a MacBook’s chassis, while others protect rights to switchless keyboards and illuminated trackpads. We’ll see.

As for other models, it has been widely speculated that Apple may even drop the little-loved Mac mini completely (I have no opinion on this) and maybe even the Mac Pro. And that idea concerns me.

The real professional users in the Apple world are the people everyone else looks up to. If a really heavy-hitting Mac user advises you on which Mac to buy, you listen. But pros are disenchanted with the round Mac Pro as it’s hard to expand and could do with much better video cards (the PC world is way ahead of Apple here: you can get much better video cards in much cheaper PCs, and that’s actually been tempting pro users to switch to PC).The Mac Pro was a grand machine in its own right – or at least, it was on release in 2014 – but now it needs some love, sure. But deletion? The idea fills me with disquiet.

As for actual Mac sales numbers, Apple Insider has pointed out that Apple’s share of the global PC market took a hit during the challenging second quarter of this year. Apple went down to fifth place among the world’s top computer manufacturers. Analyst firm Gartner put Apple’s worldwide marketshare at 7.1% (this is a lot higher in some markets – here, Australia, the US, Germany …) during the second quarter. That means year-over-year shipments dropped by 200,000 units, down from 4.8 million in 2015. This 4.9% sales contraction may have been the worst performance put in by a top-five vendor, but it’s in line with the 5.2% decline in overall PC shipments. Some of these drops have come from price hikes against the stronger US dollar; that’s certainly the case in New Zealand.

Apple’s iPhone numbers seem solid, still, though, and an iPhone 7 will give sales a boost. I’ve mentioned before that we have a confusion of models these days, and that presents a muddy picture to consumers. Apple could wave a Jobsian clarification wand here to its benefit. I imagine the 5SE will remain in the lineup, and the 6 will disappear while the 6s drops in price, but that doesn’t help the confusion much, does it? Especially if, as one rumour claims, there will be three models of 7 …

We will know in September. Hopefully. It seems a long way away.

Cook declares, BookArc Mac Pro Stand, Photoshop mistakes, M-Tron synth


The Mac Pro on a BookArc Stand. It takes up only 19.05cm vertically space rather than 35.56cm upright.
The Mac Pro on a BookArc Stand. It takes up only 19.05cm vertically space rather than 35.56cm upright.

Apple CEO Tim Cook: ‘I’m proud to be gay’ — Apple CEO Tim Cook on Thursday published a moving essay in Bloomberg Businessweek in which he publicly announced for the first time that he is gay. Cook is the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company to publicly come out.
“If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy,” Cook wrote.
Former President Bill Clinton, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella & others have since praised Tim Cook for publicly announcing he is gay. [He also said he’s a sports and fitness fanatic. At WWDC this year he just wandered around in the crowd after his keynote. What an awesome bloke!]

Twelve South announces the BookArc Stand for Mac Pro — Mac Pro owners now have another choice of how to position their beautiful cylindrical powerhouse on a desktop (pictured above). Twelve South today announced the BookArc Stand for Mac Pro (US$59.99), a shiny little chrome-plated rack onto which you gently place your computer on its side.

9 mistakes in Photoshop — Each version of Photoshop comes with new features that let you work smarter instead of harder, but old editing habits are hard to break — especially if you’ve been using the program for a long time. Here you’ll find a roundup of some common editing mistakes and how to avoid them.

Making music on the Mac with GForce M-Tron Pro synth — The M-Tron Pro (approx. US$225) is a software-based Mellotron emulator synth, available for Mac as stand-alone or as a plug-in with Logic, GarageBand, Pro Tools, and a host of other music apps. It’s made by UK-based developer GForce Software.