My Mac Pro Wish List

Apple did something actually courageous last month when they invited five journalists to their headquarters in Cupertino and revealed the company's future plans regarding the long neglected Mac Pro. To any long-time Apple watcher, this was dramatically out of character of the company to reveal any future plans regarding a specific product and to openly discuss how a current product failed to meet customer needs. While they were a slightly coy in their apology, any apology at all is a huge admission on their part.

Much has already been written about this and by better writers than I, so I'll leave you to go read all about it. However, I am one of the professionals that so many bloggers and podcasters have been talking about who use and a Mac Pro. I own a 6-core version of the 'trashcan' Mac Pro I bought when Apple released it in late-2013, but didn't receive mine until late-March of 2014 despite having ordered it on New Years eve in 2013. Yes, they took that long to ship out to customers.

In my opinion, the current Mac Pro design is irresponsible. "Whoah, wait just a minute Joel, those are harsh words"! you may be saying. Yes, they are. Let me explain.


I want to say it again: the trashcan design was irresponsible. That may seem like an odd word to use to criticize the product with but the design pushed the responsibility of expanability onto the user and out of the hands of Apple's design team. Rather than make tough choices of how large to make the case to accomodate storage drives, or expansion cards, or the many options a 'cheese grater' Mac Pro offered its users, Apple's designers essentially said, "Trying to solve this problem is too hard. We want to make a symmetrical, beautiful design that looks nice sitting on a lightly stained maple table in one of our many stores around the world. Lets just take the easy way out and make a pretty, compact shape and lazily stick a bunch of ports on the back and push the responsibility of delivering a working, useful professional workstation back onto the customer."

What is the result of this design decision?

This photo:

Pardon the dust.

In the photo above, my Mac Pro is connected to the following:

  • Ethernet -> Wall Outlet (Internet & my home network [gigabit])
  • USB -> Lightning -> iPhone
  • USB -> Lightning -> iPad
  • USB -> KVM Switch
  • USB -> External Storage Drive 1
  • Thunderbolt -> Thunderbolt Dock (for more Thunderbolt & USB ports)
  • Thunderbolt -> Displayport Monitor
  • Thunderbolt -> External Storage Drive 2
  • Thunderbolt -> External Storage Drive 3
  • Thunderbolt -> KVM Switch
  • Thunderbolt -> (my only open port)
  • HDMI -> unused
  • 3.5mm Line In -> spare audio cable for old headphones I sometimes use.

So yes, while the 2013 Mac Pro was a beautiful visual design, in practice, the design falls flat on its face...hard. I would wager that almost no customers who bought one of these machines, don't also have a similar cable situation going on behind it.

Now, I can see how the old cheese grater design might have also had a few cables coming out of the back of the case....but the case design was meant to sit under a desk where those cables could be made to be out of sight. The 2013 Mac Pro design was meant to be put on your desk, as if on display. And while this may work great on a lightly stained maple table in an Apple Store, this ends up being horrible in customers' homes.

So What Do I Want Instead?

  • A big, rectangular, aluminum case

Just give me something I can put under my desk, and allows you to refresh every 6-12 months with new processors, graphics cards, RAM, and SSDs on your store. Something that I can have cables coming out of, under my desk, tucked away out of sight.

  • Minimum of four INTERNAL SSD slots

Hell, you can even go crazy and give me six. I wont complain. If I can buy SSDs off Amazon and plug them in via PCI-E or even SATA - I'm fine with that. The alternative is losing half my desk space to external storage enclosures and cables going everywhere - which is what I have now and I hate it.

  • An NVIDIA modern, gaming graphics card.

And I don't even want to play games on it. Gaming cards are what drives the industry. They're the best cards. New versions of them are released constantly. Just give us an internal PCI-E accelerated slot, like modern cards require and whatever the latest 1080 card NVIDIA is making right now. And 12 months from now, we can swap it out for a new card if we need be. If you're too slow to update your Mac Pro lineup, you wont hear us complaining constantly because we solved the issue ourselves freeing you up to continue squeezing every ounce of functionality and practicality out of the rest of your product line sacrificed on the altar of thiness in Jony Ive's white world.

"Worker Deaths Raise Questions at an Apple Contractor in China"

Another inflammatory headline from the New York Times:

"Apple supplier"? Really? Pegatron makes notebooks, netbooks, desktop PCs, tablets, other mobile devices, motherboards, graphic cards, cable modems, set-top boxes, phones, game consoles, mp3 players, e-readers, and a host of other devices for many companies - but all the New York Times can focus on is that Apple buys stuff from them so somehow this is an Apple problem? Apple is probably the only customer they have who holds them responsible in any way. Mentioning Apple in the headline is an easy way to get clicks. Android apologists will share it and then go on to explain that this is why they don't use Apple products, even though they use devices made in the same facility, for a company that does less to ensure safe working conditions than Apple does.

Apple Event Predictions

Update: Post event - I've striked out the things I predicted incorrectly.

First of all, I want to state that I do not write this post with insider tips of what is going to be released on Tuesday. I am also not arrogant enough to think that more than 5 people who read this post really care what i have to say on the subject. Instead, I write this mainly for my own amusement and enjoyment to publicly state what I think will be announced so as to see how right or wrong I was afterward. If any of this is interesting to you, then so much the better. A lot of what I'm to say you've probably read elsewhere already. By typing these words to pixel, I'm forcing myself to be honest and serious about what I want to commit to and not.

Getting that preamble out of the way, I am going to categorize my predictions into:

  1. What will be announced (Confident Yes)
  2. What won't be announced (Confident No)
  3. What might be announced (Unsure)

Confidently Yes

  • Two new phone models: iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C.
  • iPhone 5S in: White/Champagne, White/Silver, Black/Silver, Black/Black
  • iPhone 5C with plastic backs in assorted colors
  • iPhone 5C contains mostly or all iPhone 5 internals, with possible "weaker" components here and there.
  • iOS 7 GM demoed (and released to developers for download)
  • Sell and ship dates; pre-order Sept. 13 starting early in the morning, and delivered(FedEx/UPS) or on sale in store on Sept. 20.
  • iTunes 11.1 + iTunes Radio demoed; available for download late Sept 19/early Sept 20
  • AppleTV will receive some type of software update. Not sure on exact features as I haven't payed much attention to it in this beta period. AllThingsD said enchanced Home Sharing functionality to easily access your own content on foreign AppleTVs (as in ones at work or a friend's house). This plus whatever updates are being done to it to work with functionality being added in iOS 7.
  • iPhone 5S will be faster, have a better camera, support new AC Wifi get the picture. Almost all existing hardware components will improve in some way.

Confidently No

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks will not be released
  • No 'iWatch' or whatever it is to be called (and I'm still not convinced this will ever be a product)
  • No new Apple TV hardware
  • No Mac Pro or any updates to any Macs

Not So Sure About

  • 128GB option for iPhone 5S Leaning yes. Somewhat confident
  • I'm not sure if we'll see new iPads and iPad minis, but I'm leaning towards a no given that would be a lot to announce during a single event and we've seen very little to no rumors about these. I believe the iPad event will be in October along with the new Macs and Mavericks. Leaning no. Somewhat confident.
  • iPhone 5S (maybe 5C too???) finger print scanner on the Home Button. There has been a lot of smoke about this one. Code for it was event found in the iOS 7 SDK. Leaning yes but not confident.
  • Pricing shift with regards to storage due to the 5C being introduced:
  • iPhone 5C will come in 2 sizes - 16GB and 32GB
  • iPhone 5S will come in 3 sizes too - 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB at the existing pricepoints we're used to. Leaning yes but not confident. I can't help but feel that 16GB is much too small of a storage size on their premium model 6 years in. Adding the "cheaper" iPhone 5C for casual customers allows them to keep a 16GB option and to entice those same people to spring for the 5S due to 32GB size option on the low end. While everything I’ve listed above are a lot of things, something seems missing. Perhaps there is some sort of surprise related to any of these things - or something else entirely? Only Apple knows for sure. And they tell us one way or the other, tomorrow.

Photos Of Possible "Graphite" iPhone 5S Rear Shell Surface

Sonny Dockson, at his blog writes:

Up to this point, it has widely been thought that the iPhone 5S will only come in 3 colors: Gold, Slate, and white with silver trim. According to a new images we’ve obtained, however, it appears the iPhone 5S may also come in a 4th color – a grey or graphite color with a black trim. You can check out samples in the below gallery! Richard Padilla, at Macrumors writes: Sonny Dickson has posted new photos showing alleged parts from a "graphite" colored iPhone 5S, which could be a fourth color choice for the phone in addition to the expected black and white choices, as well as the all but confirmed "champagne" color option. The photos show the device from numerous angles with the back, front, and screen housing assembled, and also show it next to the champagne iPhone 5S and iPhone 5S screen assembly. These all seem quite plausible.

The Coming Public Freakout About iOS 7

After listening to this week's Accidental Tech Podcast episode, something the hosts talked about stuck with me.

Remember "Antennae-gate"? What a stupid name for a stupid non-scandal scandal. What about the mainstream tech press freakout over Apple's refusal to allow Flash on iOS? That even prompted a letter from Steve Jobs. Have you noticed how Consumer Reports finds a new straw-man "issue" with each new Apple product over the last few years as an excuse to generate page views?

Keeping all of the above in mind, what do you think is going to happen in October, when the iPhone 5S/6 comes out with iOS 7? The vast majority of iPhone users, who have iPhone 4S or iPhone 4 devices (and aren't even aware of which device they have) and have been holding out for "the new iPhone" are going to buy the new device which will have iOS 7 on it. These are the very same users who do not follow tech news. They discover features of iOS 3/4/5/6 months or years after it is released because they do not read all of the extensive reviews that are published when ever Apple lifts their press embargoes the night before the new iPhone goes on sale.

Now imagine what is going to happen when they see iOS 7 for the first time after having had iPhones for 2-4 years already. We all know that people hate change. But these people in particular, really hate change. They are not technically savvy and have a difficult time learning/getting used to the technology they do have. Remember the loud, public freakout every time Facebook does yet another massive UI overhaul. If like me, you rarely use Facebook and don't really remember it - trust me, it happens. Consumer Reports will probably write a mostly positive review, but wont miss the opportunity to concern troll somewhere in the middle about Apple's changes in iOS 7. CNN, MSNBC, Fox, NBC, ABC, and CBS's token mainstream "tech" reporters will write articles pretending to care about the new phone and iOS 7, citing "concerns" about Apple's new design. They write about it simply because that's what everyone else is writing about. They can't be left out of the sheep herd of intellectually dishonest articles that the majority of mainstream tech press will write because it is the flavor of the week. They will use their standard arsenal of vagueness, hearsay, false premises, citing irrelevant facts, changing the subject, or questioning the motives of Apple rather than writing about the design itself or having insight into the changes. They will write their articles as if what they write actually means something and wont be forgotten four weeks later when these users have all gotten used to the changes in iOS 7. Three or four years from now, we will look back on October of 2013 and remember how ridiculously everyone reacted and note how, just like every other fake scandal about Apple since 2007, that it had no impact on anything of substance.

Remember people do not like change. People are superficial and vain, and thus react more loudly to things they can't avoid seeing. The changes being made in OS 7 are easy to see, and thus the reaction will be loud.

Disclaimer: I am not saying that there isn't anything wrong with iOS 7. It has been hashed out by many reputable designers, developers and tech press what are some legitimate issues with the new design. There has also been signs from the betas of iOS 7 that Apple is listening and making changes to fix these issues. I'm not referring to any of this in the above rant.