It Wouldn’t Hurt Apple to Give Us a Clue

Posted on by Larry

Tim Cook was in the news recently. At last week’s shareholder meeting in Cupertino, Cook responded to questions about Apple’s commitment to professional users by saying: “You will see us do more in the pro area,” Cook said. “The pro area is very important to us. The creative area is very important to us in particular.”

Then, he got to the crux of it: “Don’t think something we’ve done or something that we’re doing that isn’t visible yet is a signal that our priorities are elsewhere.” In other words, just because you don’t see anything happening, doesn’t mean that nothing is, in fact, happening.

Sigh… This is becoming an increasingly big leap of faith.

With significant updates to iMacs stretching past 500 days, and updates to the Mac Pro closing in on 1,200 days, it is easy to be skeptical. Since Tim’s comments, news articles appeared with quotes from users who no longer believe Apple knows how to live up to Tim’s promises. (For example: CIO)

I have zero doubt that Apple has the necessary technical skills to create world-class gear. What I am concerned about is whether Apple has the interest and the will to create them; along with recognizing that pros need more than thin; they need power, expandability, and upgradability over time. I also suspect that Apple is wrestling with significant internal struggles over allocation of resources, return-on-investment, and office politics; any one of which can derail any project – no matter how worthy.

I can understand the need for surprise in the consumer market. We all like birthday presents. But, for pro’s who are forced to make “bet-the-business” decisions on hardware purchases, it would be really helpful if Apple were more forthcoming on what we are betting the business on. Not for everything, perhaps, just the high-end professional gear we need to run a creative business in a highly-challenging economic environment. (Oh, and not every creative professional can afford a $10,000 computer; the margins on most projects today are just not there to support it.)

Focusing on professionals implies that we are on the same side, listening to each other. Talk is cheap. A roadmap is better. And the best is actually shipping products.

As always, let me know what you think… and feel free to share this with your friends.

26 Responses to It Wouldn’t Hurt Apple to Give Us a Clue

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  1. Clayton Moore says:

    I was really glad to see you put this one out there. Your voice is an important one and this subject has to be tailer made for one of your up and coming NAB conversations as one of the industries elephant in the room subjects.

    What does Apples version of the pro user look like ?? Thats the question. Is it what users say they actually want and need, or what Apple in their typical navel–gazing fashion feel the market should or may in the future look like? Apple has had great success (in the past) with bringing people kicking and screaming into new areas and in the end people being so happy that new markets were born. The Steve Jobs vision worked. BUT that was primarily consumer. Never the less here we are, that arrogance (deserved or not) may now be a problem for apple as they run smack dab into what your blog post represents. Tim Cook could mean what he said, but Apple’s version of pro juxtaposed against what professionals say they want could still be a net zero. Is Apples “version” of pro, a version so habitually tied to the Jonny Ive design vibe that its doomed to be rejected by the professional market no matter what?

    I wrote a blog on REDSHARK last year about Apples secrecy. Secrecy has become habitual for Apple. The fact is, the professional market (compared to Apple’s consumer market) is not large enough to warrant secrecy. My analogy was, it was a bit like putting triple locks on a house that no one wants to gain entry to, and on balance being open has a huge upside for the pro market!. Your point about that is right on. Here is what’s significant about your point. It’s not rocket science and the fact that Apple has very smart people including creative professionals in its ranks means they know this. Adobe, AVID, Autodesk, they show up at NAB and make no secret to the general public, what they are working on and where their priorities are.

    Because Apple is first and foremost a consumer company now, the professional space at Apple has to have a champion or it will not survive. Apurture had Randy Ubillos until he lost interest and when that happened, the software lost its champion, and it died, its that simple, then of course Randy retired and left. I don’t know who is championing FCP at Apple now but so far so good.

    Hardware though, is a whole other story. How can we not judge Apple by their actions? We can’t. They have more money than god, If they really wanted to, they could move R&D for professional hardware to Ireland where they have access to over 100 billion in overseas cash and just do it. Again the fact that the professional space is small, the risk to a possible leak of a professional computer design from Ireland has actually a greater potential benefit (in the professional world) then a detriment. There is no reason or excuse it cannot be done. Only one. The will to do it.

    Apple built a brand on leading edge design and evolved a very sexy consumer design vibe. We professionals are asking Apple to essentially give us tools, products that compared to the leading edge consumer vibe must feel very pedestrian in comparison I’m sure. Then looking at the size of the market, as you said ROI is a consideration.

    Finally here is the bottom line. Serving just as an example, one of my very experienced video pro friends told me a few months ago that if the Mac OS stayed on it current design trajectory (he is not happy with it now) and we did not see the move in the hardware space your blog is talking about, that in a couple of years he plans on switching platforms. I cite him as just one of scores of examples you and I already know about. Adobe Premiere CC and Resolve being cross platform and the fact I can get a gaming laptop (just one example) with significantly more powerful GPU and USBC Thunderbolt 3 IO’s for about $1,900….

    If what Tim Cook is talking about are just iMac and Mac Pro speed bumps and and all new powerful iPad Pro, — AND your important point on price is not addressed in the process, then I think in the next 18-24 months we see more people start to leave. In the end Apple business model both in design and profit margins may not allow them to do what we really want.

    If Apple acquired Adobe or someone else, kept it branded separately, and just developed a new line of hardware in that direction, then who knows.

  2. Donal says:

    Give Apple a break. They are in the midst of their move to the new campus, with all the stress and angst that entails. Imagine the kinds of conversations going on “We are the Consumer Response Team and we are not going to sit beside a lot of bean counters!”
    The move has diverted most of Apple’s best minds from their day job for a couple of years now. Forward product planning is unlikely to improve until everybody settles into their new space, around the end of 2017. Be patient. Great stuff returns in 2018.
    (Hopefully ?!)

  3. This will mark my umpteenth time commenting on this subject. I am a veteran pro Mac user from 1985. I have bought scores of these machines. I use them for Video, Music, Writing, Financials, etc. I’m what they used to call a “Power User”. I stuck with this platform through MANY downturns and consistent sneers from the PC crowd for DECADES.
    So, there are my bona fides.
    Apple has never rewarded its loyal professional base with as much as a tip of the hat. It seems that Apple is populated with pampered, overpaid, over-weened, pajama boys and girls who believe the world owes them a living.
    Personally, I believe this attitude rolled downhill from Steve Jobs who was an arrogant person.
    But, HEY! Steve is gone. Maybe somebody with BUSINESS SENSE will come in and give this end of their massive business the attention it deserves. (I don’t think it is this latest guy…)
    I am TIRED of hearing that the make all their money on the iPhone and that the Mac Pro is just a small percentage, blah, blah, blah.
    How stupid is that?
    You mean you cast off a profitable enterprise because it is not AS profitable as another part of your company??? Where is the logic in that? It is mystifyingly stupid.
    I can tell I’m getting fired up again and can continue like this for another hour if I’m not careful SO…
    I think you get my drift.
    I have put THOUSANDS of $$$$ into this company and I think I deserve some respect. I’m writing this using a “tubular” Mac Pro with 3 x 24″ monitors, got 2 other older Mac Pros in the office and a MacBook upstairs.
    Since Apple loves lawsuits so much, maybe somebody needs to pitch a Class Action at them!
    The Sky Surfer

    • Al Bergstein says:

      Thanks Brian…very much. As someone with extensive experience with Microsoft and Apple products, let me state that it’s worth noting that while the Windows franchise paid much of MSFT’s bills, the division with server, databases and other *professional* software actually outperformed it. It is now very much in the drivers seat in the company, and Apple should look at it’s business division development and take heed. The OS is increasingly becoming irrelevant, and the *ecosystem* matters. The more that Adobe drives the ecosystem the less I care about Apple. There are many reasons I still use Apple, but I’m very close to not caring about them anymore. They have very little time left before, as a business “partner” company, they become irrelevant. Their silence looks more and more like inability to communicate, rather than waiting to deliver some spectacular new technical achievement that they needed to hide from their competitors.

  4. Jim Connor says:

    Do you have the ear of Apple to convey the level of dissatisfaction among Video professionals? While the MIcrosoft OS remains problematic, they are making progress, driven by their new CEO, and in an era where many apps ( email, QuickBooks, CRM, etc) are cloud services, I can see where the migration would be possible, but is something that would require some resources, time and money.

    • Al B. says:

      Yes, Jim, we hope that Apple heeds Larry’s words. While Windows is still “problematic” it’s very much less so than it was. I recently bought a Windows laptop (to replace my ancient Macbook Air) and about the only reason I didn’t stick with it was an overly delicate trackpad that no matter what I did I couldn’t tune to the degree that the Apple trackpad can be. This was more Lenovo’s fault than MSFTs. Anyway, I think that many Mac users would be surprised at how much better Windows is these days. It’s still not the integrated beauty of Apple’s OS, but at some point, being told that my choices from Apple for laptops are 16 GBs of RAM or less with no upgrade path because they solder the chips on the board, is going to make me leave.

      • Clayton Moore says:

        The very idea of 16 GBs of RAM “soldered” on the board for a computer thats targeted for professional use reeks of a kind of presumptuousness thats hard to look beyond. The even thinner design has made the NEW MBPs impossible to repair outside of an Apple service center. You had better get the “Hard drive” flash storage you want at purchase, because storage is also now part of the logic board. The iFixit team to gave the new laptop ( 2016 MacBook Pro ) a one out of 10 repairability score, the lowest possible score.

  5. Constance Beutel says:

    Apple made its reputation with its computer and yes virtually every technical gadget these days is a computer, but Apple has always been the leader in the digital arts, I hope that doesn’t change as the digital arts are preeminent today’s!

  6. Mike Janowski says:

    I am reminded of Ronald Dumsfeld: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absense.”

    Yeah. Sure. Maybe Tim Cook needs a couple dozen of us to shout into his ear “WE’LL BELIEVE IT WHEN WE SEE IT!”

  7. […] It Wouldn’t Hurt Apple to Give Us a Clue “Since Tim’s comments, news articles appeared with quotes from users who no longer believe Apple knows how to live up to Tim’s promises.” […]

  8. Jim McQuaid says:

    I don’t have much hope for Apple and the “professional / creative” user at this point, despite being an Apple user since 1982. The bungled FCPX intro pretty much said to (video) business users: don’t count on us, don’t bet your business on what we may do tomorrow.”

    In my high tech travels, the thing business customers wanted was a roadmap. Apple has a culture that prevents that from happening. I’m happy with FCPX now and cylinder Mac Pro is a fine, if dated, machine. But my business needs are very small and simple compared to the bulk of this marketplace.

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