Apple’s big annual September event is tomorrow (September 12). Most of the hype is about the iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad Pro. However, I’m most eagerly waiting to see what Apple announces about their Macs. I have heard rumors of getting a more pro focused Mac Mini. That gets me excited. But, the “pro” word in the Apple ecosystem has usually meant extreme price discrimination. And, that worries me.
I need an upgrade
Over the past 7 years, I have been using a mid 2011 Mac Mini at work. Over all those years, I’ve swapped the HDD to SSD, increased RAM to 16GB, and used SwitchResX to force dual monitor 2560x1600. So, the Mini has served me well, but its performance has certainly been feeling underwhelming for many years now. Its mobile processor gets a 3299 CPU Mark when i7 8700k gets 15969. Learning anything about machine learning, exporting design assets, Chrome, occasional encoding of videos, running builds, etc remind me multiple times in the day that I need an upgrade. But, Minis haven’t been really upgraded in all that time.
What I want
My needs are simple. And I don’t think they are very uncommon. All I want is a normal desktop that runs Mac OS. I want it to run a desktop processor. I want it to serve me for a long time (just like the Mac Mini did) through upgrade or addition of RAM, SSD, and better displays. The smallness or thinness of the machine is absolutely irrelevant for me because it’ll sit under the desk. I will happily take a much thicker machine if that allows it to use a real desktop processor. I’ll also take a thicker machine if it allows the components to be upgradable.
I know I am going to pay an Apple premium for their products. If I can get a good Windows desktop for $600, I can maybe justify paying $800 for the same specs for an Apple product. I can maybe angrily even pay $1000. But, I can’t justify paying $3000 for it. I am looking at you, Mac Pro. Yes, if I divide those thousands of dollars by all the hours I will use the machine, the difference will start to look small. But, that doesn’t change the fact that I would be paying $3000 for a machine that, from my point of view, is essentially the same as the $600 machine. Just because I’m a “pro” user doesn’t mean I am price insensitive.
What are my alternatives?
In my desperation, I recently bought a Windows desktop for $600 which had an i7 8700k, 16GB RAM, SSD, etc. It was dramatically more powerful than the Mini. But, I just couldn’t get myself to let go of all the tools and workflow that I’ve gotten used to in the Mac OS world. Learning to achieve same level of productivity on Windows would take me weeks. So, I reluctantly returned the Windows desktop.
Switching to Linux isn’t an option due to all the design, legal, and other such documents I need to work with frequently for my startup. I can’t risk using alternative open source tools to edit such important documents because the professionals in those areas, are set in their ways and are not going change just for me.
Macbook Pro or iMac
All of them are significantly more expensive than a Mac Mini or a desktop PC. In case of Macbook Pro, they are significantly less powerful. In case of iMac, I’m paying for a screen that I don’t need (I have good screens already).
Why should Apple care?
I’ve heard the argument that Apple doesn’t care about Mac Minis or Macs in general because those minuscule sales don’t move the needle for them. Well, someone at Apple clearly doesn’t think so. That’s why we still have Mac Pro, iMac, and upcoming Mac Mini upgrade. And, because these sales don’t move the needle for them, their primary goal with these products can’t be to extract as much profit from the user as possible. Their primary goal has to be something else. They seem to want the Mac ecosystem to continue to thrive. The reason may be goodwill, indirect benefits in iOS app development, keeping the user completely in Apple ecosystem, or something else. Whatever that reason is, I think we can argue that an affordable and upgradable Mac allows Apple to achieve that primary goal better.
So, Apple, please pleasantly surprise us tomorrow. Otherwise I (and many others like me) will slowly and reluctantly move away to Windows or Linux for our primary work machines.