iOS-ification of Mac Hardware

For a long time there was concern that Mac OS X was going to get iOS-ified

But it seems a lot more like the tea leaves are indicating instead that the hardware has been iOS-ified right underneath our noses:

  1. No official Mac monitor.
  2. No new Mac mini in many years.
  3. No new Mac pro in years.
  4. In other words, all mac hardware designed in the last 3 years is a form of screen cpu in a single housing.
  5. No Keyboard with touch bar.1
  6. No more Wifi products.
  7. Many now-necessary peripheral cords were handed off to Belkin.
  8. The ability to officially modify the HD or Ram has been steadily diminished, and has now reached iOS levels of non-interchangeability.
  9. All Mac laptop designs from last two years now only have two (kinds) of ports – usb-c headphones.

At this point, there seems to be a very clear pattern regarding hardware designed in the last year or so:

An iOS device == screen cpu/hard + drive/memory + touch input + single charging/data port headphone jack. The desired interface between an iOS device and the rest of the world is bluetooth or Wifi

A Mac == screen cpu/hard + drive/memory + keyboard input mouse input + a unified type of charging/data port+  headphone jack. The desired interface between a mac device and the rest of the world is bluetooth, Wifi or possibly USB-C

The only significant difference is the kind of input that each type of device relies on.

Clearly, Apple has decided that peripherals and facilitating the wireless connection to the world is not worthy of its time and attention perhaps because those have become irredeemably commoditized.

However, I keep thinking of John Siracusa’s recent reaction to the idea of having any screen other than an Apple screen?2 I think that many/most Apple fans understand this visceral reaction, and I am sure that this applies to much of Apple and its leadership.

In some ways this is the strongest indication that CPU “boxes” that require visible Apple peripherals will no longer be produced. I cannot see a world in which the official monitor for an ongoing Apple computer is some black plastic (nice) piece of garbage, from an industrial design point of view. No. Way. But it is almost as unfathomable to me that Apple would risk the entirety of a Pro market that is so broadly defined that it would include the John Siracusas of the world by not producing anything for them.

What is the pro market? I really don’t have a clear standing to make any assertions, but I think that it can be divided into at least a few segments based on computational needs. It seems to me that strategy exists that could approach the broad Pro market as an 80/20 proposition. They might try to figure out how to get a respectable 8-core Xeon-like chip3 into an iMac-Pro without melting its screen or having a wind-tunnel class fan blowing constantly. Sacrificing the top ~20% of the Pro market would be a lot less damaging to the “Halo effect” of high-end users than giving every graphic designer a reason to bolt by offering nothing but an underpowered iMac and trying to convince them that it is good enough for their needs.4

Such an approach would get the Mac back to a simple 2×2 grid of products

Consumer Pro
mobile MacBook MacBook Pro
desktop iMac iMac Pro

Huh, all of a sudden I wonder if the mac mini was not simply discontinued by Apple, but was explicitly, though silently, replaced by the iMac. If so, then the Mac Pro might be following an identical pattern. This would match a strategy that eliminates commoditized hardware that does not advance their core competence of producing integrated computer devices.

I wonder if there is a chip out there right now that would fit the bill for an iMac-Pro. And I literally would have no way of assessing this. Efficiency, per se, would not be the issue as it would for a laptop. Basically it would be near the maximum end of performance, but with some specifically thermal kind of trade-off.

I wonder…

  1. At least for now. This one deserves a little bit of time to play out. ↩︎
  2. He is as indicative of a true, old school Apple fan as anyone I can think of. ↩︎
  3. Or whatever the current SkyLake or better Intel equivalent is. This sentence is the one most likely to be embarrassingly bad on my part. ↩︎
  4. A major hole left by this strategy is gaming/VR applications. I am not going to try to theorize about this. I don’t know much about either of these topics. Apple has never been bleeding edge on gaming. I wonder if they still think that VR is too far off and want to approach it differently. ↩︎

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