I spend a fair chunk of time listening to podcasts, and one of the more interesting personalities out there is a fellow named John Siracusa. He’s a computer programmer and one of the most knowledgeable Apple nerds on the planet. His encyclopedic understanding of Macintosh computers is just a bonus, though. What makes him compelling is his quirky outlook and his reliably sharp wit.
I first became aware of him in November 2011 when I listened to an episode of his Hypercritical podcast titled The Wrong Guy. It was about the Water Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs, and Siracusa made a strong case as to why Isaacson was a bad choice to author the book. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people who care deeply about Apple learn about the true inner-workings of both the company and its charismatic CEO, and Isaacson had blown it.
I’ve followed Siracusa ever since.
He is currently on a podcast called ATP (Accidental Tech Podcast), and the hosts often talk about the Mac Pro computer (not to be confused with MacBook Pro laptops). Apple is completely redesigning this model, moving away from its curious “trash can” silhouette, and hopefully coming up with something that will be easier to update and modular — so the user can change it to suit their needs as their needs evolve.
The hosts of this show are hotly anticipating the next Mac Pro. Siracusa often humorously rhapsodizes about it, but there’s one thing he keeps repeating that bothers me a bit. He says something along the lines of “…and of course it will be the most expensive and best Apple computer you can get.”
I don’t disagree that the new Mac Pro should be the most powerful and expensive Macintosh you that you can configure and purchase from Apple, but I don’t like the idea that this computer should be completely unattainable for people who have a maximum budget of $2500.
I’m aware that the current “cheapest” new Mac Pro you can buy is $2999, and it doesn’t include a monitor, a mouse, or even a keyboard. It seems brazen to suggest that Apple should make the entry-level of the next Mac Pro $500 cheaper, but, in my opinion, that’s where it should start. This line should serve the creative dreamer who yearns to grow.
This is who I was in 2004 when I bought my first modern Mac. It was a refurbished dual 1.8 GHz G5 with a whopping 256MB of RAM, and it wasn’t even the cheapest one you could get (there was a single core version, too). I spent $2000. I didn’t consider buying a higher-specced iMac. I wanted power and expandability, and Apple made it within reach.
Yes… I know iMacs are vastly more powerful today, and that they suit the needs of the creative dreamer. But they don’t suit the needs of the creative dreamer who yearns to grow. You know the kind, John. The person who keeps the same dumb tower as their main machine for nearly a decade because it’s just that damn good.
…the next Mac Pro should be aspirational, but not unattainable.
I don’t think this experience should be exclusive to those with a $3000+ starting budget. The purpose of this computer isn’t to milk the most cash out of companies who need to buy fancy computers for their star designers and developers. That should be a role this computer plays in the high end, but what about scrappy bottom feeders who aspire to upgrade a PCIe card or two someday? Should their only option be Windows boxes? I sure hope not.
Marco Arment, who also happens to be one of the hosts on the Accidental Tech Podcast (and an interesting dude in his own right) long ago wrote a good blog post about the price hike in Mac Pro computers. According to Marco, Intel started shoving more cores into their Xeon processors which drove up the price dramatically. This makes perfect sense, and also passes the blame on from Apple.
But I still don’t want every entry-level buyer to turn to Windows.
As much as I love Apple, one of their main concerns these days seems to be extracting more money from customers to make up for the saturated and sagging smartphone market. I don’t want greed to overtake every SKU in the company. I was a huge cheerleader for Apple when they made the plastic MacBooks. I convinced several members of my family to switch to them from Windows PCs, and they did so largely because the computers were affordable.
I loved the iPhone 5C for the same reasons (but I didn’t buy one, I got a Nexus 5 instead and spent two years suffering).
I don’t think the next Mac Pro should be a green or pink plastic box (even though that sounds cool now that I think about it). I’m just saying that the next Mac Pro should be aspirational, but not unattainable. People like John Siracusa are highly influential, and repeatedly declaring that the next Mac Pro should be ultra-expensive just helps to cement that path forward.
Don’t send all of the people with a max budget of $2500 who want to upgrade their RAM and internal hard drives someday to Windows. There’s a better way, but only if an attainable Mac Pro option exists.
P.S. It feels wrong to make an entire blog post about the Accidental Tech Podcast and not mention the third host, Casey Liss. Casey is a sweet guy who likes fast cars and finds pleasure in chain restaurants. I’m jealous of his new Apple Watch Series 3 with Cellular. You should get the new Electric Pink Sport Loop band for it, Casey. I tried it on in the Apple Store the other day and it was, as you would say, friggin’ awesome.
UPDATE: John responded to my blog post with a tweet:
Sounds like you want an xMac…
— John Siracusa (@siracusa) September 26, 2017