Way back when, back in time to the latter part of the last century, Steve Jobs– on his way to cleaning Apple’s house, and turning it into a lean, clean profit machine– divided the Mac into four quadrants.
There was pro and consumer. Desktop and notebook. With a few variations, that was it. That was the entire Mac lineup for a few years. Jobs called it ‘focus.’ Does that mean today’s Apple is not focused because it has hundreds of products?
Actually, those products are mostly variations on a theme. Mac, iPhone, iPad, Watch, accessories; but each one has many versions, hence the ‘hundreds’ of products in the lineup. The Mac is a good example of the dynamics of evolution. From the 1990s and four Macs, from when Apple and the Mac were synonymous, Apple today has an odd mix of five Macs lineup.
There’s the Mac mini. The iMac with Retina 5k (or 4k) display. The MacBook Pro. The new MacBook. And the aging MacBook Air. That three of the Mac categories are notebooks shouldn’t be a surprise as nearly 70-percent of all Macs sold are notebooks.
One of those Macs is about to die.
Unbeknownst to most Apple watchers, you could still buy a 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro, the model that hadn’t been upgraded in four years, it still has a hard disk (vs. a flash-based SSD), still has an array of connectors, but as best I can tell, still has the built-in SuperDrive. It’s the only Mac with a built-in SuperDrive standard (no longer available on any Mac).
This is the end of an era. Non-Retina display. SuperDrive. Hard disk drive.
Why is this aging relic still around? For the same reason the MacBook Air is still around. It’s an entry level, low price Mac that still gets bought by people who don’t want what’s new, and don’t have the money to pay for it anyway.
This is what Apple does to Macs. Older Mac models die of neglect. They don’t get updated as frequently, yes, but they’re priced as low as you can get a new Mac. Judging from how Apple has been neglecting other Macs, which ones would you say are on the chopping block, and due to be replaced or discontinued soon?
Here’s my list (in order):
- MacBook Air
- Mac Pro
- Mac mini
The MacBook Air is a no brainer. It’s totally an entry-level device for the budget conscious and visually impaired (can’t tell the difference between a standard display and a Retina display). The new MacBook is priced higher but doesn’t necessarily perform better. Until the Retina display MacBook gets a price cut, the MacBook Air will stick around. Why? Because people buy it.
The Mac Pro hasn’t been updated with anything in more than two years. Maybe Intel just doesn’t have faster CPUs so it doesn’t matter. Maybe Apple realizes it made a mistake. The design is cool but the price tag is too high and the device is underpowered. Maybe Apple’s experiment at making Macs in the U.S. hasn’t worked well enough to expand the line. Or, maybe nobody is buying a device that hasn’t been upgraded in a few years. That’s always a warning sign.
The Mac mini falls into a similar trap, but may have a special attraction of its own. Price. Every few years Apple upgrades the Mac mini and the Build To Order options can make it a formidable and capable Mac, if somewhat expensive. I just priced a high end Mac mini, fully tricked out with faster i7 CPU, 1TB PCIe-based flash storage, and maxed out RAM. $2,199. For a Mac mini (entry level is $499).
There’s no question Apple is readying new MacBook Pros. Thinner, lighter, faster, and with some extra visual iCandy to justify the increasingly outlier price tag for the Mac.
For now, say goodby to the entry-level MacBook Pro. Then get ready to say goodbye to the MacBook Air and Mac Pro (to be replaced with something better). The mini will stick around.