As the CEO of MAINGEAR, a custom PC manufacturer, I hear a lot of feedback from our clientele about both our own products, and those of our peers and competitors. Lately, that discussion has largely been focused around Apple and the launch of their long-awaiting new pro desktop.
Before diving in, I see it important to preface things with a bit of a disclaimer. This editorial is in no way intended to be a shot at our friends in Cupertino. When it comes to Apple, I’ve always respected the impact they’ve had on our industry. There is no denying the pure brilliance in Apple’s innovations over the years, be it the introduction of the click mouse in 1982, the pocket friendly portable music player that changed the entire landscape of the recording industry in 2001, or the iPhone in 2006 that set the tone for every smartphone to follow to this day.
You’ll notice there’s a gap between 2006 and today. With the exception of the iPad release in 2010, Apple has been more reactive than proactive in the last decade. There was a time when Apple set the tone for the industry, and everyone else played catch-up, but it seems that as of late they are struggling to balance their novice, casual userbase with their more demanding enthusiast and pro users. Trying to serve both userbases is an admirable goal, but the needs of each are typically at odds, and Apple has all but abandoned their pro users.
Aperture was discontinued, Final Cut Pro became “iMovie Pro”, and Logic became “GarageBand Pro”. In all of these situations, the demands of their Pro users were ignored in order to pursue “prosumer” users rather than serve their true working professional user base. Apple’s Pro software used to be the hook that drew many pro users into their walled garden, leveraging their hardware’s ability to play well within that ecosystem.
Apple has said for years that their software is designed to work flawless on their hardware. But with a dwindling library of viable pro software, how strong could the “Apple Ecosystem” really be? Only as strong as the hardware itself, which is, as of late, more likely to be running industry standard third party software than Apple’s own first party titles.
So how strong is that hardware, then? Well, that depends. Are we talking about their flagship “Pro” desktop, which didn’t see an update for over 5 years? Or their “Pro” laptop that forces you into their larger, more expensive, superfluous “touch bar”-equipped model in order to simply kit it out with 32GB of RAM? Or the thermal engineering issues of the Mac Pro that led to severe throttling and component failure, as detailed by The Verge: Apple admits the Mac Pro was a mess.
So where does that leave the Apple Pro user base? If the announcement of the new-for-2019 Mac Pro is anything to go by, it means paying nearly 3 times the price of an equivalently equipped, custom, built-to-order PC, and getting less flexibility, less software compatibility, and inferior support. If, at the end of the day, the Pro user is going to be installing industry standard, cross platform titles from the likes of Adobe, Avid, Black Magic, and Autodesk, why shouldn’t that user opt for the hardware that offers the best value, performance, and upgrade path? The argument that the Mac offers a better Pro user environment hasn’t held water since Apple was using Justin Long in their commercials.
So, with Apple’s mishandling and misunderstanding of the “Professional” market, we have to ask ourselves, what really makes a Pro user? My understanding of a Pro user is someone competent and skilled in their craft, who demands the best of their tools and expects uptime, stability, and reliability on par with the price they’re paying for their hardware.
Everything in our industry stems from professional users. They create the content, the platforms, and the games and entertainment that everyone else enjoys. Without the professionals and their driving the industry forward, none of us would be here building the world’s best PCs. Our mission at MAINGEAR is to empower the next generation of creators, and continue to innovate on new, customizable solutions.
We will never abandon the pro user.
Thanks for reading.
Wallace Santos / MAINGEAR CEO